Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Absolute Hospitality?

“'Absolute hospitality' seems generous and peaceful, until one remembers that unrepentant perpetrators and their unhealed victims would then have to sit around the same table and share a common home without adequate attention to the violation that has taken place. The idea ends up too close for comfort to the Nietzschean affirmation of life, in which a sacred “yes” is pronounced to all that is and “but thus I willed it” is said of all that was, including all the small and large horrors of history. Absolute hospitality would in no way amount to absence of violence. To the contrary, it would enthrone violence precisely under the guise of nonviolence because it would leave the violators unchanged and the consequences of violence unremedied. Hospitality can be absolute only once the world has been transformed into a world of love in which each person is hospitable to all. In the world of injustice, deception, and violence, hospitality can only be conditional—even if the will to hospitality and the offer of hospitality remain unconditional.

“Transformation of the world of violence into a world of love cannot take place by means of absolute hospitality. It would require radical change and not simply an act of indiscriminate acceptance for the world to be transformed into a world of love. The Christian tradition has tied this change to the coming of the Messiah, the crucified and the resurrected One, whose appearance in glory is still awaited. Is this messianic intervention violent? Does it sanction human violence? The answer is simple regarding the Messiah’s first coming. Jesus Christ did not come into the world in order to conquer evildoers through an act of violence but to die for them in self-giving love and thereby reconcile them to God. The outstretched arms of the suffering body on the cross define the whole of Christ’s mission. He condemned the sin of humanity by taking it upon himself; and by bearing it, he freed human beings from its power and restored their communion with God.”—Volf, War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, page 12

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