It is easy to see why people who believe that the human story ends with death and who do not hope for the Last Judgment or the Final Reconciliation would want to remember foreveror at least as long as humanity lasts. The sentiment Elie Wiesel expressed in his testimony at the Barbie trial (1987) is argument enough for such a stance: "Justice without memory is incomplete justice, false and unjust. To forget would be an absolute injustice in the same way that Auschwitz was the absolute crime. To forget would be the enemy's final triumph." Even if full justice could be achieved, it would not be enough, states Wiesel. For though justice vindicates, it is unable to bring the dead back to life. Memory does that, in a senseit gives back life to those who are dead because it refuses to let them be effaced from memory as they have been torn from the land of the living. To remember is to deny the perpetrator ultimate triumph. Hence the obligation to remember "always."
If I did not hope in the world to come, I would embrace the "eternal" remembering of wrongs suffered. But I do hope in the world to come. I believe that we will be living with those who have died, not as with the dead but as with the living, looking into their eyes and not just remembering their past. Given this conviction, what moral obligation would there be to remember wrongs suffered eternally? After full justice has been done and final reconciliation accomplished, and after the dead are raised, will we need memory to keep victims "alive" and attend to their suffered wrongs? Will not they themselves be masters of the memory of their sufferings? Will they somehow transgress against themselves and others if they no longer remember there, in that permanent ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more