"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Is Christianity Constitutionally Incapable of Forgetting?

I have noted on here several times previously my ongoing interest in the practices of remembering and forgetting, especially among Eastern Christians and Muslims with references to things like the Crusades, and the divisions between Orthodox and Catholics. I have found several recent books of use in thinking through some of these issues. None of these authors entertains any explicitly theological or "religious" interests or questions--apart from some mention of the Holocaust of course--but their works are nonetheless useful to those of us who try to grapple with theological problems such as long-standing "memories" of division and hurt at the hands of fellow Christians, or Muslims, or others.
As I continue to make my way through such books as Manuel Cruz's On the Difficulty of Living Together: Memory, Politics, and History as well as David Rieff's In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies (and several others I have mentioned previously) there emerges a central and properly theological question hinted at in my title: is Christianity capable, is it morally permitted, to forget when its central act, when the "source and summit of the Christian life" is precisely the act of grateful remembrance, of eucharistic anamnesis, of thankful memorialization? Given such powerful weight attached to "remembrance," have many of us derived therefrom some inchoate sense that forgetting is a morally reprehensible act?

I will explore more of the implications of both books once I have finished them. For those who are interested in such questions as remembering and forgetting, especially publicly and culturally, both Rieff and Cruz have written short but powerful essays very much worth your time, and I commend them to you.

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