“By embracing the “outcast,” Jesus underscored the “sinfulness” of the persons and systems that cast them out.”
― Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation
Remember Rwanda? Bosnia?
That could be America, someday, someday soon.
We as a culture already distrust each other and often express hate for the “other” the immigrant, the sojourner, the stranger. The very thing our culture has been built on, the diversity of people from all around the world is now by and large despised.
Secular America already knows what it will do, it will rob and pillage!
But Christians, what will we do?
The current massive interconnectedness of all things through the internet etc. leaves us as a nation open to cybercrime. Could China shut us down? If they did, what would we do? If all electric and internet etc. were down for days or longer our nation would be in great distress.
Would we all come to each other’s aid, or would we like in Rwanda and Bosnia begin killing our neighbor?
Miroslav Volf has lived through these perilous times.
In his book Exclusion & Embrace he stresses that Christ, salvation through Christ is the only way we can save ourselves in crisis.
Volf diagnoses a worldwide problem, the sin of excluding the other. The other is one who is different from us, who will never be like us, who is inferior to us. The other then must be dealt with accordingly: by elimination (Rwandan genocide), assimilation (Residential schools), domination (India’s caste system) or abandonment (the inner city). He grew up in former Yugoslavia, where ethnic and religious tensions turned into neighbor killing neighbor. Exclusion and Embrace grew out of his experiences in the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990’s.
The reality is once people start labeling each other as victims and perpetrators society breaks down even further. A person labeled a perpetrator becomes an inhuman demon, unworthy of embrace. If one is labeled a victim, the memory of the past can turn them into tomorrow’s perpetrators.
Exclusion takes place Volf explains, wherever insurmountable barriers are set up that prevent a creative or authentic encounter with the other persons. Our modern belief that “exclusion” is the problem or practice of “barbarians,” is wrong. Volf shows us that exclusion has become our practice in the “here and now.” Modern western societies, including American society, typically remember their histories as “narratives of inclusion,” Volf acknowledges the truth in these narratives. But he points out these narratives conveniently omit certain groups. Such narratives of inclusion invite “long and gruesome” counter-narratives of exclusion. For America there is the brutal histories of slavery and of the decimation of Native American populations to start, but more current examples could also be found.
Our tribal identification with Republicans or Democrats, Red or Blue, Conservative, or liberal has set us up to kill our neighbor. We are more than halfway there.
The Holy scriptures attest that God does not abandon the godless to their evil and sin but gives of Himself to bring them into communion with Him. We are called to do the same whoever our enemies may be.
Where does our desire to embrace come from, the crucified Messiah, hanging on the cross, with arms outstretched is an offer of embrace to the enemy. As disciples of Christ, we must imitate that embrace in our own way. For all of us the only option is either to reject the cross and the Christian faith in its entirety or to take up one’s own cross, follow the Crucified Christ.
Hanging on the cross, God in Christ forgives the enemy by naming and condemning the wrongdoing. His gift of not to allow the wrongdoing to count against the enemy’
This is forgiveness.
For further reading: Exclusion and Embrace, Revised and Updated: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (link)