The book begins as follows: "After I finished my lecture Professor Jürgen Moltmann stood up and asked one of his typical questions, both concrete and penetrating: 'But can you embrace a cetnik?' It was the winter of 1993. For months now the notorious Serbain fighters called 'cetnik' had been sowing desolation in my native country, herding people into concentration camps, raping women, burning down churches, and destroying cities. I had just argued that we ought to embrace our enemies as God has embraced us in Christ. Can I embrace a cetnik...? It took me a while to answer, though I immediately knew what I wnated to say. "No, I cannot--but as a follower of christ I think I should be able to.' In a sense this book is the product of the struggle between the truth of my argument and the force of Moltmann's objection" (9).
Volf concludes his introduction with a handy summary of the metaphor of embrace and, I suspect, the book as a whole: "the will to give ourselves to others and 'welcome' them, to readjust our identities to make space for them, is prior to any judgment about others, except that of identifying them in their humanity. The will to embrace precedes any 'truth' about others and any construction of their 'justice.'...I immediately continue to argue, however, that the embrace itself--full reconciliation--cannot take place until the truth has been said and justice done" (29).
- I like this: "Instead of reflecting on the kind of society we ought to create in order to accommodate individual or communal heterogeneity, I will explore what kind of selves we need to be in order to live in harmony with others" (20-21). Reminds me of this.
- And I like Volf's description of the theologian's task: "When not acting as helpmates of economists, political scientists, social philosophers, etc.--and it is part of their responsibility to act as [sic. in?] this way--theologians should concentrate less on social arrangements and more on fostering the kind of social agents capable of envisioning and creating just, truthful, and peaceful societies, and on shaping a cultural climate in which such agents will thrive" (21).
Hmm...Short, I fear, is relative.