From shame to responsibility and Christian identity: the dynamics of shame and confession regarding the 'Shoah.'.
Christians who wrestle with the Shoah face a problematic task: how to live with their history in light of that history's role in the Shoah. One need not recite a litany of scholarly quotes to make the point. The investigations of many scholars reveal a legacy of displacement and contempt that contributed significantly to an event that has marked history indelibly. How do critically reflective Christians live with that legacy, knowing how tangled it is with their confessional identities? The present essay seeks to address this question by utilizing a distinction that the literature of psychology makes between shame and guilt, asking how one lives with such shame without remaining ashamed.
Facing shame is no easy task. While shame can be associated with an ambiguous set of emotions that range from mild embarrassment to intense disgrace, the full experience of shame involves facing aspects about one's identity that, when faced, tend to threaten the core of who one is. That threat includes possible separation or alienation and injury to the self.(1) As Thomas J. Scheff has pointed out, "In feeling shame, one experiences . . . the disintegration of the self, or its potential for disintegration."(2) By contrast, one's identity is not threatened by the experience of guilt. Indeed, the pain of guilt is dependent upon the identity that has transgressed an honored boundary or value. Consequently, guilt confirms identity even while it causes pain.(3) In guilt, one's identity remains intact,(4) but shame is experienced as a threat to the very identity of the one experiencing it. That identity must grow to incorporate the shame; deny, withdraw, or bypass the shame to remain intact; or disintegrate under shame's critique. In this sense, shame is a crisis of the self or the identity of a group or a people.
Still, shame is not simply an identity-related phenomenon. More precisely, shame is an identity-in-relation phenomenon. In all its forms, shame has to do with how one is seen by significant others. Whether the other is internalized or literally an external other, the persons or agents experiencing shame enter a self-referential crisis in terms of how they are seen by another or others whose view of them is vital to the maintenance of their identity. Some aspect of who or what one is seen by another leaving the one seen problematically exposed. In other words, shame is related to a vulnerability of self or of identity that is not chosen but unexpectedly encountered, revealing an unembraced nakedness to some other whose gaze counts significantly.
The phrase, "facing shame" is an instructive one. On the one hand it implies confronting a reality or dimension about one's life or history that requires a change in the level of awareness about an already present reality. It also implies that shame is more easily recognized and encountered for what it is when a "face" can be put on it. That is, the tale of discomfort that is the source of shame is encountered in naming the events that give rise to the affect of shame. Further, the events that give rise to shame generally have to do with the self in relation to some significant other, whether that other is literal or figurative, internalized or physically present. As well, the affect often precedes any awareness of what is at stake. Understanding and healing often follow from the naming, but naming alone is not enough. If all that happens is that the unwelcome exposure of shame is recalled, then the recalling doubles back on itself, with the recalling of the experience evoking further shame - and the shame perpetuates itself in a recurring cycle.(5)
Still, the primary task in dealing with shame is recognition. Shame must be recognized as present and as the unsettling experience that it is. Most often, that is accomplished by identifying the "other" in whose presence, whether internalized or not, the experience of shame has arisen. The other in whose presence the shame is or was experienced must be evoked and named.(6) Yet, the other is not the source of the shame but its occasion. Not surprisingly, then, recognition must be followed by some form of integration that incorporates the relationship with the other that evokes shame in such a way that the problematic quality of the identity-in-relation is changed.
In other words, shame and its source must be given its place as well as its face. Shame is a normal aspect of our social relationships, providing important clues and cues that, when acknowledged, lead to respect and hospitality for the other in our relationships. By utilizing the internalized perspective of a significant other, shame - when acknowledged and integrated - can provide a critical vantage point for seeing the limits of one's world and the problematic flaws of one's identity. However, when shame is present but denied or not acknowledged, it leads to alienation from the self and the other. When shame is not given its place, it can go underground and fuel destructive cycles of shame-anger-rage, or it can be maintained as a chronic sense of "invisible shame" leading to depression or outbursts of accusatory anger and aggression toward another that one sees as inferior or without power.(7)
Because of such dynamics, shame is often a hidden emotion,(8) either unacknowledged or denied by those experiencing it. Like an underground spring, shame can cut a deep path beneath what appears to be a strong and solid foundation. When the fated time comes, the foundation collapses bemuse of the undermining work of that hidden and powerful stream. Helen B. Lewis has pioneered in identifying this phenomenon and studying the tactics of self-defense that drive shame underground.(9) According to sociologists Thomas Scheff and Suzanne Retzinger, these dynamics can account for much of the intense hatred and violence experienced in human society during the twentieth century.(10) This hidden quality and the threat that lies behind it intensify the difficulty encountered in facing shame - not to mention its urgency.
Facing shame, like shame itself, is an interactive, if not fully dialogical, phenomenon; yet, shame is not rooted in the other but in the identity one bears in the face or presence of the other. All of this is caught up in the colloquial language in which shame is frequently expressed. For example, people often speak of "losing face," "saving face," and "facing the music." The gaze of another and the images of being seen are typically employed when expressing shame. This interactive quality and the imagery of "face" and "facing" are no more vividly portrayed than in the biblical narratives of Genesis, from Adam and Eve's self-conscious exposure in the Garden to the Jacob cycle wherein the issue of identity-in-relation is encountered repeatedly. In fact, the very imagery of the episode of Jacob at the Jabbok builds metaphorically on the Hebrew word for "face" (panim) as it frames the historic encounter anticipated by Jacob with his estranged brother. Central to the many issues with which Jacob wrestled that night and throughout his life was that of shame.(11)
Facing the Shame of the Shoah
Christians who choose to struggle with the impact of the Shoah in their lives are like Jacob's setting camp at the River Jabbok. They know there is a life-transforming struggle ahead. Indeed, they are in the midst of it. For post-Shoah Christians it is as much a legacy of conflict and shame as it was for Jacob. Just as Jacob struggled with his elder brother from birth, so have Christians struggled with their older Jewish siblings. Just as Jacob usurped his brother's birthright, so have Christians sought to displace their elder siblings from their place as God's people. Just as Jacob manipulated his father to take the blessing intended for his brother, so have Christians practiced distortion and spread contempt in order to discredit their siblings in God's household. Indeed, it is a legacy of contempt and shame - and fear - as it was for Jacob.
At the Jabbok, in the wrestling of that night, Jacob met an unknown, unnamed figure - in Hebrew an 'ish. As they wrestled, Jacob brought his entire history into the fray; he brought that history to a temporal and spatial threshold (the time before dawn and a river) that separated him from the morning's encounter with his estranged brother and his story. When the struggle was over, Jacob named the place where it happened "Penuel"/"Peniel," that is, the face of God. Jacob had faced his brother, faced himself, faced his past, faced God, and faced (up to) what all of that meant.(12)
When Jacob wrestled with the mysterious figure at the Jabbok, he brought a lifetime of manipulation and deception to the struggle. He also brought a lifetime of enmity with his brother Esau. He carried a lifetime to that night, a legacy of shame and conflict, and he faced it with trepidation. We bring a metaphorical lifetime, a 2,000-year legacy of displacement, contempt, and shame to our struggle. While we may face it with fear as well, we must also confront it with what John Roth and Richard Rubenstein have called "undeceived lucidity."(13)
Such lucidity yields a very unsettling recognition. The legacy of displacement and contempt is not an aberration of Christian identity but an expression of it. That is, the dynamics of displacement reach deep into the historic identity of Christianity and penetrate the story Christians tell in describing their place in history as God's people. Paul van Buren has put the issue concisely: "[I]n the Church's story the Jewish people was displaced by the Church as the sole legitimate representative - and successor - of Israel."(14) Van Buren's commentary is instructive: "[W]hat is at stake is nothing less than the Christian story."(15) The point is that the issue is bound to identity and not simply to behavior (though for some it may include behavior). Therefore, what many Christians encounter in the shadows cast by the Shoah is shame, as distinguished from guilt.
In one sense, shame is deeper than betrayal, at least the way many people think of betrayal. For, much of what has happened in the shameful history of the church's relationship to the synagogue grew out of fidelity to a triumphalistic mission that sought to convert and finally to eliminate the disconfirming identity of Jewish siblings. Yet, in a more critical way, this too is betrayal - betrayal of that covenantal intention of creation that Christian traditions tragically distorted in the very expression of that intention.
The Other Side of Innocence
The history of the last half of this century teaches that innocence comes with a cost that is simply too high. It yields ignorance at best, indifference even if unintended, and hostility if allowed to nurture an undetected cycle of victimization. With regard to the Shoah, there is a strong, even if insufficiently regarded, contingent of scholars who insist that it is time for faith to come of age, to confront what has happened, to face what the Christian faith's role has been and continues to be, and to build new ways of sharing life together as humankind approaches the millennial cusp.
Christians who honestly confront the legacy of Auschwitz inevitably face a number of issues that strike at the heart of their faith-identities. Many experience a sobering encounter with their own complicity in this tragic event and the contributory history that made the Shoah possible. Some discover the Antisemitism contained in their own scriptures.(16) Some recognize in the displacement theology of the apostolic witness the seeds of later hatred. Many go on to discover that in the ensuing history of the church the poison festered and grew, not at the margins, but at the center of the church's life, in the beliefs and teachings of its leaders. This kind of honest encounter leads to a loss of innocence and is often followed by disenchantment.(17) Some have come to believe that confessional integrity can be maintained by Christians only if they are able to articulate their faith on the other side of innocence. They have concluded that in the last part of the twentieth century it is no longer responsible, if it ever was, to allow faith, particularly the Christian faith, to live and flourish as a naive expression of trust in the world and in the sacred stories of its received tradition. From their vantage point in the shadows of Auschwitz, too much remains at stake.
Even the phrase, "the other side," invites a double reading. On the one hand, these three words imply a sense of beyond. A critical passage or transition is implied. On the other hand, the phrase implies a complementary meaning or value. To the meaning that is revealed, there is one concealed, because there is always an "other side." For the value that is in the open, there is one that is hidden from view. Both aspects inform those who face the Shoah; both are needed as people of faith wrestle with what has happened. For example, one side of modernity is its liberation from superstition and the liberating spirit of enlightened knowing. Its other side is the removal of traditional constraints on human power and a misplaced confidence in human tendencies to do good and avoid evil. Shadow meanings accompany those that are more apparent, and an even greater threshold is crossed.
The unthinkable is do-able, because it was done. The unimaginable is indeed imaginable because it happened. With the power of modern technology accompanied by the disconnectedness of bureaucratic life, the unthinkable and the unimaginable can be yoked together in staggering proportion. If that were to happen again, the cost of naivete would be more than tragic; it would be cataclysmic.(18)
Certainly Jews as well as Christians can no longer proceed uncritically as stewards of life - indeed, of creation - given the power and destructiveness of this century. The other side of innocence is indifference and/or ignorance, noninvolvement, and irresponsibility. Given the planetary stakes of the contemporary world, innocence cannot be the end of faith. Faith must come of age. It must move to the other side of innocence, passing through its critical undoing and its consequent shame, hopefully to be reconstituted on the other side of confessional naivete. Responsibility requires critical awareness and knowledge. That should be more than a simple truism.
Now, the call for critical faith, though urgent in this century, is not new. Its plea was articulated in the nineteenth century and nowhere more clearly than by Adolf von Harnack. He and his scholarly colleagues called for and led a movement of historical-critical dimensions, seeking to move faith from naive understandings of itself to critically situated expressions of mature, historically self-conscious faith. Yet, tragically lost to this group of scholars was the embedded ideology of contempt regarding Jews and the unyielding grip of Antisemitism on their work. For this reason, Clark Williamson has pointed out that it is not enough simply to call for critical faith. The faith of nineteenth-century German liberalism was critical, but it was not free from the ideology of anti-Judaism.(19)
Not without Shame
Indeed, it is time for faith to come of age, if it has not done so already, by facing some very problematic aspects of its history. For Christians those aspects lie at the heart of their history with the Jewish people. Many have argued this with conviction and clarity. While they concentrate on different aspects of that history, even in intense disagreement at times on how to interpret their mixed legacies,(20) they all share a sense of urgency that humankind must pass through theological and historical innocence about the world, especially as it is encountered in the shadows of Auschwitz. This is the painful consequence of theological and historical honesty.
As some Christians have confronted this history, they have called for the church to repent of its sin vis-a-vis the Jewish people and face up to the need to rethink foundational aspects of Christian identity. For example, Rosemary Ruether has argued that Antisemitism is the left-hand of Christology - its other side - and calls for a liberated Christology. Clark Williamson has asked (after Auschwitz), "[I]s it still morally possible to be Christian, and if so, how? . . . If we do not all reexamine our theology in the light of the fires of [Majdanek], can we avoid repeating the theology that made possible the final solution?"(21) Others make similar and penetrating points.
Morally aware Christians find themselves, whether they wish it or not, bequeathed a historic identity that is flawed with Antisemitism, contempt, distortion, manipulation, and violence - all in the name of truth and faith. They share a problematic inheritance that, when recognized for the fruit it bears, evokes shame; hence, the issues with which they wrestle are identity ones. Consequently, those without direct relationship to the events of World War II, even those born after that war and therefore after the Shoah, cannot dismiss these questions because they have to do with a larger identity that Christians share through their particular traditions. Only those directly responsible for actions taken or not taken bear the added burden of guilt.
This emphasis on shame is not meant to obscure more subtle dimensions of guilt that may still apply to how one relates to the Shoah. For example, Ralph Giordano analyzed the guilt associated with silence and denial that he described as characteristic of contemporary German culture. His contention is that his fellow Germans are, for whatever reasons, failing to confront their past and are therefore responsible for that failure. He called this a "second guilt," which he directed to the tasks of memory, teaching, learning, and the like that are not happening in his homeland.(22) Bjorn Krondorfer, building on Giordano's categories, spoke of a "third guilt," which he associated with third-generation Germans and their failure to question their parents about their culture and its past.(23) While these nuances are focused on German responsibility, they are clearly not limited to Germans in application. The point remains, however, that guilt is associated with behavior or action for which one is directly accountable. Shame, on the other hand, is linked to the identity that acts or is capable of acting in such fashion.
What happens when shame is faced authentically and constructively? First of all, shame is "faced." That is, it is given a face, an image. The internalized other is named as the one in whose presence shame is felt or experienced. In the case of Christians and the Shoah, that other has been rendered in caricature. A distorted image of being Jewish has been integrated and passed on in Christian history - an image that has borne the selfish face of displacement and contempt, symbolized at times by Judas, even at times by the devil,(24) and almost always as the enemy. Yet, for Christians, Jews are siblings, historically as well as theologically.(25) So, the first moment of change is a complex experience of recognition that in a literal sense is occasioned by putting a face on the shame.
Like repentance, a healthy encounter with shame is incomplete without a second moment of change. In repentance (teshuvah), recognition leads to a turning around or a turning away from covenantal irresponsibility and a turning toward covenantal accountability. That is, repentance leads to a realignment of and toward life. Similarly, the dynamics of facing shame point to an act of integration that enlarges the identity in question, such that the shame and its source can be included critically in a now more reflective identity. Moreover, if the source of shame lies at the heart of this identity, that source must be removed from its central location (that is, it must be displaced) to a position that allows for its critical but no-longer-determinative inclusion. In other words, the centering claims of that identity may need to be reconfigured.(26)
This is an important point. If shame leads directly to an embrace of theological siblings without passing through a serious rethinking and recasting of those aspects of its confessional heritage in which the contempt and distortions grew, then, at some point after repentance is over and the shame forgotten, the contempt and distortion can once again take root and grow. Francois Mauriac's forward to Elie Wiesel's Night provides an occasion for pondering what can often be overlooked when Christians confront their shame. Mauriac concluded his introductory essay with the statement: "And I, who believe that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner, whose clark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which had appeared one clay upon the face of the hanged child? What did I say to him? . . . But I could only embrace him, weeping."(27) Many Christians have resonated with Mauriac's imagery. They, too, have responded with tears. However, if Christians, despite empathetic intentions, only embrace their Jewish friends in shame and compassion, what happens when the theological affirmations that need to be rethought are not? What happens if or when the shame is forgotten or no longer acknowledged, even tacitly?
Shame, alone, is an insufficient foundation for dialogue. While it may pose the imperative for dialogue by showing what happens if people do not act responsibly, it is not yet a constructive or proactive ground from which to engage in dialogue. Indeed, it is important for Christians to deal with their shame, but alone it is insufficient as a base for being committed to interfaith cooperation and respect between Jews and Christians.
Facing the Shame without Remaining Ashamed
Just as there is another side to innocence, there is another side of shame. Indeed, there are several "other sides" of shame. First of all, there is the other side encountered above: the other side of identity. There is, as well, the danger of moral paralysis, passivity, immobilization. Knowing how and where people are flawed, especially in their attempts to be true to God and all that they believe to be holy, can lead thoughtful believers to a critical impasse. Disenchantment wrought by shame can relativize any set of moral and spiritual values and lead such people to ask what right they have to speak up or act in a situation. Not infrequently they may conclude that they are not worthy of offering public witness. Wiesel has put the issue powerfully by asking, in effect, in the face of what happened: What other response is adequate save silence? And yet, to adopt Wiesel's characteristic qualifier, silence is not, by itself, an option. Rather, silence is a limit one integrates paradoxically into one's actions and words. In a similar fashion the critically faithful must learn to do this with shame.
Just as Jacob eventually moved on from his night of wrestling to face his brother, so must those who follow his path, but they cannot proceed without a limp. For Jacob, the limp was surely more than physical, though that is how the story makes its point. He was wounded by all he faced that night - his own legacy of conflict and shame. As self-critical Christians enter ever more deeply the struggle for their theological souls, they recognize their kinship with Jacob. They, too, can move on, but never without the limp of shame. The wounding of shame will punctuate their confidence and clarity, their words and actions.
It is in this spirit that Irving Greenberg's criterion, "No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children,"(28) is helpful. Cited by many who wrestle with the questions posed by the Shoah, Greenberg's statement could stifle everyday speech. Moral or spiritual paralysis would follow too literal a reading of his point. A more paradoxical interpretation helps, but only when language is being used in a serious way. In ordinary, mundane speech the application of his criterion approaches extremes of both trivialization and pretension. A fitting application is reflected in the aftermath of the encounter at the Jabbok.
Jacob left his struggle behind to meet his brother at daybreak. He moved on from the unknown figure he encountered, but not without a limp. He took with him the wounds from the struggle in the form of a limp, one that would be part of his walk for the rest of his life. The limp would be integrated but never wholly forgotten because it was part of him thereafter. Likewise, post-Shoah Christians must move on but not without shame. They will need to integrate their shame into who they are, not just as an aberration but as a crucial aspect of who and what they are and have been. Like Jacob, they carry the lifetime of their faith with them wherever they go. They can move on and let go of obsessive preoccupation with these issues, but never without shame not without feeling the need to forget. Indeed, the awareness will often be tacit and subliminal, but never far from being retrieved into focal awareness,(29) just as Jacob's limp could be put out of mind but never completely overlooked. In order to move ahead, Jacob had to focus on where he was going and whom he was meeting, not how he was walking. Nonetheless, he limped. That must be the post-Shoah Christian attitude as well.
In the distinctions that psychologists make regarding shame, there is a differentiated embrace of constructive or healthy shame. It mirrors what J. B. Metz called a moral grasp of the tradition, when he wrote: "A moral awareness means that we can only mourn history and win from it standards for our own action when we neither deny the defeats present within it nor gloss over its catastrophes."(30)
In one sense, the healthy integration of shame that grows out of wrestling with the legacy of Auschwitz can even be conceptualized using Martin Luther's historic phrase, "simul justus et peccator." However, one must be careful in adopting Luther's language not to adopt his Antisemitism as well. One must know and work with the tradition critically. In an interesting way, such an integration of shame yields a humility that characterizes faith come of age. It is a humility born of shame and its contention with the forces of life. Moreover, it is a humility that is able to honor Moses' admonition in the wilderness to choose life (Dt. 30). In the end, life is chosen, covenant life, in the shadows of Auschwitz, but not without the integration of a shame that knows the deepest violations of covenant life.
The task is to move on, but not without shame. After the Shoah, responsible Christians can do that only with significant revision to the form and content of their theologies. In this sense, Christians are called to move on critically (postcritically?) and in some form of partnership with their Jewish siblings. What might that look like? In what might that partnership be grounded if shame is an insufficient base, albeit a necessary component of that base? Clearly, not just any kind of solidarity will do. What is required, therefore, is a form of mutuality that integrates the past wholly, the problematic legacies as well as the life-giving ones. Just as important, such a partnership must sustain a renewed sense of respect and understanding for previously discounted companions.
The Interdependent Dynamics of Shame and Honor
Honor is the opposite of shame. Typically, and especially, in classical culture,(31) shame is paired or correlated with honor. Shame is the experience of dishonor in the face of some other whose regard communicates respect or shame. In the classical sense, duty is often the source of honor as fulfilled in the presence of a physical or internalized other who "authorizes" or confers such obligation. However, duty, especially post-Shoah, is suspect when it is unqualified. Peter Haas has shown in unsettling fashion how, by defining Jews as the enemy, especially a demonized enemy, an ethical framework is provided for the duty of all-out warfare, namely, the annihilation of the enemy.(32) Hence, the shame-honor correlation can function in that case such that those who see themselves as soldiers in such an affair are able to see their acquiescence in mass murder as a source of honor, not shame - unless a larger, relational field of moral obligation is restored to a correlative sense of honor.
Zigmunt Bauman, in his analysis of modern, bureaucratic society, has provided helpful insight in this regard.(33) Bureaucracies provide social distantiation that removes the other from view in the process of developing more efficient and effective means of organizing society and work. Such means are the product of rationality applied to faceless problems managed with technical reason and in systems held accountable under the aegis of technical responsibility. Face-to-face obligations are transmuted into technical obligations, and accountability is consigned to supervisory relationships. From Bauman's perspective, even Lager personnel would not function without accountability. On the contrary, they would be held accountable by their supervisors for ful-filling their jobs. In such a bureaucratically confined universe, shame would thereby be diminished and increasingly correlated with functional expectations. As a society becomes faceless and accountability is shifted from persons to functions, its constituents can derive a sense of honor from doing a job efficiently and well, while nonetheless contributing to the destruction of a people.
The point is that how honor is constituted matters significantly. Is the significant other of the shame-honor dialectic a circumscribed field of those who count over against all those others who do not or a set of seemingly autonomous functions that fit into a larger functional (that is, faceless) system? Either way, the signifying other who evokes shame or bestows honor is restricted to a self-validating universe of moral obligation(34) that, in the shadows of Auschwitz, must ever more be challenged and broken open.
After Auschwitz, one must ask from whence honor comes. What gives honor? A clue may lie in the shame being faced in this essay. Shame is often paired with honor as that which it negates, but honor is a derived condition. It can derive from duty. It can also derive from integrity, honesty, fidelity, and the like. In a similar fashion, salvation and reconciliation are derived conditions, restoring the one saved or reconciled to the original intention for life one has violated or from which one has been estranged. From what, then, is honor derived?
If shame, indeed, provides a clue, honor, like shame, must also have something to do with otherness - how one integrates and respects it, even confronts it. If shame ultimately reflects who matters as the significant other in one's life, honor has to do with how one is perceived by that other. Moreover, if the framework of meaning is a covenantal ecology of life, as it is for Christians and Jews, then honor is derived from covenantal fidelity and wholeness - the exercise of covenantal responsibility. Honor comes from loyalty, fidelity expressed in responsibly upheld covenant life. In this fashion shame's role is restorative,(35) evoking the more primary covenantal ground from which shame and honor can each be responsibly derived.
From Recognition to Integration
For Christians facing the Shoah, the shame is bound up with "the covenantal world" represented by the internalized other whose presence evokes shame. The shame that it evokes is experienced as a covenantal crisis: Are Christians like me worthy of the claim to be participants in God's covenantal way with creation in the tragic light of how they have portrayed and related to their covenantal partners? As a result, Christians now face themselves and their history as embodying a story of exile from, as well as inclusion in, the vineyard of covenant life to which they have been called by Jesus, Paul, and the church (however imperfectly that call has been conceived and embodied).(36) The recognition of the legacy of contempt that Christianity has passed on regarding Jews evokes a sense of shame, because the previously discounted covenantal world of Judaism retains its significance as the moral order and ground of their problematic confessional history. Moreover, the either-or, displacement logic of supersessionism is exposed as not only problematic but also anathema to the very covenantal structure of life to which Christians have laid claim. Ironically, the very paradigm that evokes the sense of shame and its accompanying crisis of faith confirm the claim of the other as an essential aspect of who Christians are as covenantally oriented people. It is in this covenantal spirit that Metz's admonition for post-Holocaust theology makes its renewing and paradigmatic sense: "To go beyond Auschwitz, if we see clearly, is impossible for ourselves. It is possible only together with the victims of Auschwitz."(37)
In the end, inclusion of the excluded or discounted other calls for a confessional voice that, while displacing contempt from its core, is able to locate the restored claim of this other within the central identity-claims one makes and by which one has been embraced as well.(38) As a result, the "Jewish other" in the Christian confessional world is restored to positive significance in a larger, more inclusive covenantal identity. The way forward is revealed to be that of reentering the covenantal paradigm of life with an inclusive view of how it can now hold Christians and Jews in its divine embrace.(39) Thus, shame can play a healthy and restorative role - a summons to accountability and wholeness that grows out of the recognition of that significant and signifying other whose evocative presence calls forth the shame that is being experienced. When shame and its dynamics are so honored, the covenantal complexity of the identity that experienced the shame can be embraced in its fuller relational gestalt.
The covenantal character of faith is primary. In facing up to and moving beyond the shame of the Shoah, any option that is successful and authentic must make this connection with the internalized paradigm of covenant life that shame reveals as essential even when violated by expressions of contempt. Moreover, it must do so in a way that enlarges the either-or logic of displacement theology as it thinks covenantally. It must be inclusive and know its ground of inclusiveness in the covenantal paradigm, not simply in its violation. That is, the faith relationship must be covenantally critical even as it is critically covenantal. In addition, the shame of the Shoah must be integrated, as shame, with the identity-distorting source displaced from its capacity to undercut the covenantal embrace of otherness it previously undermined. This is faith's critical confessional task. The result will be an identity that is more inclusive than before and capable of displacing the very dynamics of displacement and contempt that have operated historically for Christians vis-a-vis Jews and their covenant walk with God. Moreover, such an identity, for it to remain truly and historically Christian, must stand in sufficient continuity with its historic manifestations that its developmental progression remains clear and confirmable by others who also claim the same identity. Confessionally, Christians know the covenanting embrace of God from and through Jesus. From this locus they reach back to the very beginning to recognize that the divine covenantal embrace of life that began with creation extends to the end of time and creation's final fulfillment in covenant love. Jews know this covenanting embrace of God from the experience of deliverance and through the gift of Torah. Together, Jews and Christians can know covenant life, as the originating and divine intention for life, confirming not just any kind of otherness, but otherness grounded in freely chosen relatedness held together by the glue of promise and fidelity. In the end, this is a highly vulnerable model, to be sure, but still paradigmatically evocative for people of faith in critical times and the way forward after Auschwitz.
The issues of shame as well as its subsequent acknowledgment and integration are not restricted to Christians wrestling with the Shoah. The task of facing up to shame responsibly extends to any person or group whose identity reveals and/or conceals a history of contempt toward another people. The specifics of the Christian legacy of contempt led to the particular issues addressed in this essay. However, the dynamics of recognition and integration as two critically differentiated moments in the hermeneutics of facing shame can be instructive to those with other histories dealing with similar stories. Of course, this is no simple matter. When the cycle of shame has a long and embedded history, the defense mechanisms of denial and avoidance will be strong. Even an essay like this one may evoke resistance or denial inconsistent with the flaws its analysis may contain. More dangerous are reactions that erupt in rage or pathological hatred, blaming the one evoking the shame for the experience itself.(40) The history of Christian Antisemitism tragically illustrates this reminder.
The recognition of shame, as shame, is an experience of the moral claim of the other on the one experiencing the shame. The integration of that moral claim as an articulated quality of the identity faced with this experience is a self-conscious confirmation of that claim as a hereafter-included aspect of that identity. By facing up to the shame in their confessional past, post-Shoah Christians accept responsibility for the place of the other in their lives, most especially the Jewish other, as a legitimate covenant partner in the fragile and imperiled project each knows as creation. Of course, shame is not left behind. Instead, as an ever-vigilant guardian it remains, watching over the moral universe of the persons who have faced up to themselves and the legacies that have nurtured their lives. What is broken is the self-perpetuating cycle of shame that generates compounding layers of more shame, contempt, and rage.
Toward Covenantal Responsibility
The critical return, or path, from shame leads to an embrace of responsibility that depends on the reintegration of the problematic other displaced from his or her relational significance. In making this critical, confessional journey, another is discovered vis-a-vis the shame. As that other is recognized as one with relational significance in a person's life, one is led to reclaim the basis of that significance. In the face of Jewish-Christian history that significance is covenantal, although the claims have been competing, even contemptuous. As the contempt is reexamined and left behind, a new foundation is required, namely, a covenantal basis inclusive enough to support those who previously sought to displace one another from its embrace. It is not enough that the displaced other be restored to relationship. In the contentious history of Jewish-Christian relations, each has sought to displace the other from the sacred ground of covenant life. After Auschwitz, the Christian can no longer participate in such an enterprise. The boundaries of covenant life must grow to include the excluded one, or they must be left behind.
Was this not the dilemma that Rubenstein faced with Pastor Gruber in 1961, which he reported in After Auschwitz?(41) Rubenstein and Gruber saw the dilemma only in orthodox (Christian and Jewish) covenantal terms. The critical response encouraged here leads to a rejection of an exclusivistic covenantal model (and, I would add, an interventionist model),(42) but it does not lead to the rejection of the place of covenant relation. It moves to the edge of orthodoxy to suggest the ongoing significance of covenantal existence, particularly as it is hidden and disclosed in the experience of shame. Hence, the restoration of the other is accompanied by the restoration of a place for the other in the significance of covenant partnership: "I am responsible for this other. I am responsible for my sister and for my brother. I am their keeper." This is the path, through shame, that Cain did not recover. It is also the path, through shame, that Judah and his brothers did find, with regard to Joseph, in Gen. 43-45.
The episode between Joseph and his estranged brothers is instructive. When Judah and his brothers came face to face with their betrayal of Joseph in the guise of their Egyptian benefactor, Zaphenah-paneah, they encountered their own guilt and shame. What happened to Joseph resulted directly from their behavior, so they bore the guilt of those actions. As well, who they were, their own narrative renderings of themselves as Jacob's sons, was also torn asunder. They were not who they represented themselves to be, either to themselves or to Jacob, so their guilt was compounded by shame. When Judah acknowledged his and his brothers' shameful tale of betrayal and deception, he accepted responsibility for what had happened, responsibility for their now-threatened existence, and, more importantly, responsibility for their youngest brother, Benjamin. Also, Judah accepted responsibility for how he presented himself to Joseph, the problematic other in his life, whose memory, if not presence, evoked the guilt and the shame.
As the place of the displaced other is restored - not just the other but also the place of the other - covenant life emerges as confessional ground upon which the post-Shoah Christian may stand. It provides the ground upon which the other's significance is faced and the double-sidedness of responsibility is encountered. Confessionally one faces one's past, recognizes its flawed character, and acknowledges responsibility for it. At the same time, one faces the future and the present, acknowledging the place of the other who has previously been viewed and treated with disdain and contempt. As this double acknowledgment is made, one moves toward active responsibility for keeping the place of the other open and hospitable. Responsibility thereby becomes proactive even in its responsiveness, cultivating a place of understanding and respect for the covenantal other in one's life.
With an inclusive broadening of this sacred ground, Christians (perhaps Jews as well) face a question of the place of the other generally in their lives. For example, by moving from accepting only those with whom one identifies, that is, someone "like me," groundwork is laid for acknowledging the covenantal significance of any other with whom one comes in contact. One is led back to an ethic directed toward hospitality for the stranger and respect for otherness per se.(43)
In this fashion, the responsible self sought by critically minded Christians leads to a covenantal self that is embraced, post-Shoah, in responsibility and courage. Such a notion of selfhood understands that a person is not whole until he or she is linked, by promise and fidelity, to another, similarly linked in promise and fidelity to him or her. Moreover, fidelity is as much faith as faithfulness, trust as loyalty, expressed and experienced relationally. As well, the sacred ground of covenant provides a multienvironmental dimension for speaking of God, mystery, and transcendence after Auschwitz, which can honor even the criterion offered by Greenberg and the criticism of secular and religious critics alike. Confessional integrity, critical-mindedness, and covenantal wholeness thereby offer a way of moving from shame to responsibility in the post-Shoah shadows of modernity.
Responsibility has an affective dimension(44) in its openness to the world, particularly its otherness, that can be characterized as "respondability." Indeed, this affective character of responsibility hints at the fundamental linkage binding shame to responsibility. Each confronts the ontological necessity of facing otherness - one as a problem from which one too often disassociates and withdraws, the other as a vulnerable vocation toward which one gives one's life with world-defining consequence.
Furthermore, responsibility, like shame, is an identity-in-relation phenomenon. It grows out of who one is. That is, responsibility is a characterological issue, not a competency that one exercises for handling moral or technical dilemmas. In rethinking responsibility, one rethinks identity. The self-definitional presentation that is responsibility is other-oriented, and the self one presents is articulated vis-a-vis those others with significance in one's life. As that essential field of significance increases, responsibility increases - responsibility to, with, and for those others.(45)
This way of linking shame and responsibility to identity points to an understanding of the self as essentially relational, which I propose identifying confessionally as a covenantal self. Importantly, the way in which covenant is understood thus determines the covenantal range of obligation. If covenant embraces only those "like me," then the universe of obligation is drawn quite small. If covenant embraces those "not like me," then the scope of obligation reaches out to otherness in its truest sense. The covenantal self is thereby a connected self - not just a participant in a broad ecology of interdependency, but a partner with a self-aware and articulating sense of responsibility for connectedness that is more traditionally identified as stewardship. Moreover, with an extensive commitment to otherness, the range of covenanted connectedness includes not only human beings (creatures "like me") but also nonsentient others inhabiting and constituting the earth, sky, sea, and all that dwells therein.
Collecting Our Thoughts
The psychological distinctions between guilt and shame lead to increased understanding regarding personal identity and responsibility and help clarify the dimension of responsibility as commitment and as accountability. We must not forget, however, that we have focused primarily on individual agency even when contending with shared identity. With the Shoah, we encounter more than individual agency. Douglas John Hall puts the matter succinctly: "The evil which is unleashed in the world through the continuous distortion of human freedom acquires a life of its own. There are 'principalities and powers' which transcend the individual thoughts, words, and deeds through which they come to be enacted and perpetrated."(46)
How then do we utilize the distinctions and insights probed in this essay to deal with group and cultural phenomena? Can we speak of collective shame and collective responsibility? If so, what do we mean? Can an affect like shame be experienced by any entity other than individuals, even though the identity experienced as problematic may be a gestalt that transcends and exists in some sense apart from those who draw their identity from it? Surely, one can experience a spirit or ethos of responsibility that sets forth conventions of corporate as well as individual accountability. When that ethos is violent, how do we identify the shared shame? Is it collective shame, as if shame, like its counterpart, identity, had a reality apart from those who experience it; or is it shared shame and only an affect shared by individuals, because their experiences intersect? Still, is it not the case that an ethos of shame can dominate a culture or a people such that it exercises a life of its own?(47) As we collect our insights into the relationships between guilt and shame, these questions linger. While they clearly require more extensive investigation than what is attempted in this essay, it might be helpful to consider how the relational dynamics of guilt and shame might affect how we ponder these matters.
If shame is better understood as an identity-in-relation phenomenon, then the dynamics we are trying to understand are interactional. That is, they do not exist unrelated to our encounters with them.(48) Coming to terms with relational phenomena will therefore be an equally interactive affair. Consequently, we must be careful not to seek inflexible categories that could indicate a different perception of reality. That is, purely subjective and purely objective specification can miss and even distort the intensely interactive qualities that we are trying to clarify and understand. Rather, we can know objective and subjective dimensions of our worlds that are not exclusively experienced in either domain. Shame and guilt would be no exception - likewise, our quest for responsibility. More precisely, a relational understanding of self and identity calls for an interactive epistemology that can recognize the similarly interactive dynamics of shame, responsibility, and identity at the collective level.
For this reason, we might find it more instructive - indeed, more accurate - to distinguish between shared shame, when identifying the personal appropriation of the affective dimension of shame, and collective shame, when encountered as an externally experienced yet exposing dynamic. The differentiation would depend upon several factors: the inquiry being made, the experience trying to be understood, the persons making the inquiry, the persons encountering the shame, or the scope of the shame being faced. Correspondingly, we would differentiate between individual and collective responsibility. The importance of these distinctions underscores the issues of personal, shared, and corporate or institutional agency. Differentiating shame with this kind of care helps identify who is responsible and where the agency for responsibility should be located in such experiences. If a culture or an ethos bears shame in a collective manner, then it becomes important to identify how responsibility can be reclaimed in a correlative fashion. That is, collective responsibility unfolds as a group or institutional agency deals with its problematic qualities and comes to terms with its identity-in-relation at the collective level. Likewise, if the shame is shared but not collective, then the identity-in-relation issues will be shared similarly, though not necessarily encountered collectively.
The "over-against" quality we often encounter when confronting these matters perdures, even when not recognized. That otherness calls forth the need for increased differentiation and understanding. Our experience is like trying to divide a prime number by another prime number: There is always a remainder. We should not expect otherwise in the search for responsibility.
Concluding an Unfinished Task
This attempt at coming to terms with the Shoah and its legacies of shame is an unfinished task. Indeed, it is intentionally so, pointing ahead toward further differentiation and understanding. Throughout these reflections, care has been given to the ways we link with the Shoah as occasioned by the multifaceted experience of shame. To be sure, only a limited number of those facets(49) have been examined. There are other faces of shame and its dynamics that can claim our attention. Some are uniquely Jewish or German or Polish. Some are shared by bystanders and their descendants; some mark the legacy of perpetration. Some require struggle with issues of corporate agency and culpability, while others require distinguishing the difference between individual and shared responsibility.
From this analysis I hope it is clear that shame, itself, is not the problem; rather, that which evokes it is. Indeed, the ironic nature of shame is that it is evoked by another (internalized or actual) who matters enough that one's sense of self vis-a-vis that other is dishonored. The task, then is to recover the source of violated respect that funds the shame as shame - that is, the problematic relation with otherness manifested in the face of that other. Approached vis-a-vis guilt, one may attempt to undo the past - or remove it from the significance it has and is due - without undoing that which led to the "tragic" doing. The reflection on shame's dynamics led into questions of identity, not simply morality. Hence, the attention given here to theology in a post-Shoah voice is an appropriate confessional response to the shame: a post-Shoah "hineni."(50)
One is led from moral and ethical issues to questions regarding their ontic ground. It should come as no surprise, then, that the relational character of shame indicates the ontological nature of the self to be grounded in relationship as well. For Christians, as for Jews, this relational quality is intentionally focused in covenantal living. It is hoped that these remarks make clear both that, in the critical, confessional voice of post-Shoah faithfulness, the responsible self is thoroughly covenantal in an extensive and inclusive way and that the dynamics of shame are an important clue in its ever-unfolding responsibilities.
1 Thomas Scheff and Suzanne Retzinger, Emotions and Violence: Shame and Rage in Destructive Conflicts (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1991), p. 65.
2 Thomas J. Scheff, Microsociology: Discourse, Emotion, and Social Structure (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 169 (emphasis in original).
3 Like shame, guilt is an equally complex phenomenon that can be associated with expressions, actions, thoughts, or affects generated by a person or by the same range of possible expressions that should have been generated and were not. In each case, the moment or action (or nonaction) is discretely identifiable and violates a respected value or boundary or standard held by the one who experiences the guilt.
4 Scheff, Microsociology, p. 169.
5 Ibid., p. 104.
6 The emphasis here and in this essay is not to cause or induce shame but to inquire how those whose experience gives rise to shame face it, integrate it, and move on with their lives in ways that are healthy and authentic.
7 There are indications that the systemic nature of the shame-rage cycle is related to the ethos in Germany and France prior to World War II and the Shoah and are explored at length in Scheff and Retzinger's study on shame and roots of violence. These insights are not, however, explored in the present essay. The task here is not to explain someone else's way of dealing with shame but to articulate one's own strategy of facing shame. I.e., the task is confessional and descriptive, not accusatory or prescriptive. See Scheff and Retzinger, Emotions and Violence, esp. pp. 141-192.
8 It is probably wiser to designate shame as an affect, not an emotion, in order to encourage a more holistic framework that can include the dimension of feeling, but at the same time not restricting shame to the domain of feelings alone. A glance at the etymology of the word "affect" underscores this point. Derived from the Latin affectus, the word designates a posture or an existential reaction to one's world that indicates the responsive character and vulnerability toward the other that occasions shame. Shame is thus an inward disposition or orientation inclusive of, but not limited to, feeling. Even more, one can examine other meanings attendant to the word "affect," as both noun and verb, to further nuance the sense that an affect such as shame is also the result of something's happening, a consequence resulting from an occurrence of something else. Thus, shame is a derived or dependent reality connected to another source or event. In addition, shame is an embodied consequence of such an encounter and, as such, is physiologically manifested by the one experiencing it.
9 Helen B. Lewis, Shame and Guilt in Neurosis (New York: International Universities Press, 1971), pp. 39-42.
10 Scheff and Retzinger, Emotions and Violence, pp. 13, 19, 21-39, 141-192.
11 See my essay, "Meeting Jacob at the Jabbok: Wrestling with a Text - A Midrash on Genesis 32:22-32," J.E.S. 29 (Summer-Fall, 1992): 451-460, for a more focused elaboration of this comparison.
12 Ibid., p. 452.
13 John K. Roth and Richard L. Rubenstein,Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1987), p. 364.
14 Paul van Buren, The Change in the Church's Understanding of the Jewish People, The Westminster Tanner-McMurrin Lectures on the History and Philosophy of Religion, delivered at Westminster College of Salt Lake City, February 15, 1990 (Salt Lake City, UT: Westminster College of Salt Lake City, 1990), p. 14.
15 Ibid., p. 16.
16 Clark M. Williamson has an interesting and helpful discussion of Luke Johnson's work on "contingent polemic" as a feature present in Jewish as well as Christian scripture. Indeed, he argues it is a standard feature of any literature regarded as scripture and is characterized as a reductionistic tactic used against closely related religious groups. See his A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), pp. 143-148.
17 Two excellent sources for charting this loss of innocence are Rosemary Ruether's Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism (Minneapolis, MN: The Seabury Press, 1974) and the more recently published work by William Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1993).
18 I developed this theme in my essay, "Choosing Life between the Fires: Toward an Intentionalist Voice of Faith," in Yehuda Bauer et el., eds., Remembering for the Future: Working Papers and Addenda. Vol. 1: Jews and Christians during and after the Holocaust. Proceedings of an International Conference, Oxford and London, 10-17 July, 1988 (Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press, 1989), pp. 637-647. See also Darrell J. Fasching's Narrative Theology after Auschwitz: From Alienation to Ethics (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992).
19 Williamson, Guest, pp. 181-193.
20 Stephen Haynes has provided an insightful analysis of the ways in which the history of Antisemitism and contempt in Christianity is viewed by the scholarly community. He distinguished three typologies or paradigms for understanding the problematic: reformist, radical, and rejectionist. The reformist paradigm treats the presence of Antisemitism and contempt as a historic component of Christian tradition but distinguishes it from the core message of Christianity (its gospel), which can provide a basis for contemporary reform. The radical paradigm views anti-Judaism as an essential characteristic of Christian tradition, even its scripture, but sees authentic Christianity as providing a basis for critique and radical reform. The rejectionist model views anti-Judaism as bound up with authentic Christian identity; one cannot be rejected apart from the other. See Stephen R. Haynes, "Changing Paradigms: Reformist, Radical, and Rejectionist Approaches to the Relationship between Christianity and Antisemitism," J.E.S. 32 (Winter, 1995): 63-88.
21 Clark M. Williamson, Has God Rejected His People? Anti-Judaism in the Christian Church (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1982), p. 137.
22 Ralph Giordano, Die zweite Schuld oder Von der Last Deutscher zu sein (Hamburg: Rasch and Roehring, 1987).
23 Bjorn Krondorfer, Remembrance and Reconciliation: Encounters between Young Jews and Germans (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 111-114.
24 Elaine Pagels' recent work has examined the development of the figure of Satan from an adversarial other to a fully demonized, evil Other: "This research, then, reveals certain fault lines in Christian tradition that have allowed for the demonizing of others throughout Christian history - fault lines that go back nearly two thousand years to the origins of the Christian movement" (The Origin of Satan [New York: Random House, 1995], p. xix).
25 Alan F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 2, 179-180.
26 This reconfiguration may include a recognition that the center is not as simply configured as previously thought. E.g., if Jesus is the center and is reencountered as a faithful Jewish child of the covenant whose Jewish identity remains essential, then this center may break open into another richly textured circle of relationships and commitments of its own. Elsewhere I have noted that Jesus is the Christian burning bush, and, as such, Jesus, a covenantally faithful Jew, must remain unconsumed by the confessional claims of his followers.
27 Francois Mauriac's foreword to Elie Wiesel, Night, tr. Stella Rodway, 25th Anniversary Ed. (New York: Bantam Books, 1960, 1982), pp. x-xi.
28 Irving Greenberg, "Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire: Judaism, Christianity, and Modernity after the Holocaust," in Eva Fleischner, ed., Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era? Reflections on the Holocaust (New York: Ktav Publishing House, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1977), p. 23.
29 Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, "Personal Knowledge" in Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), pp. 37-42.
30 Johann Baptist Metz, The Emergent Church: The Future of Christianity in a Postbourgeois World (New York: Crossroad Publishers, 1981), p. 18.
31 The best study of the dynamics of shame and honor in classical culture is Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993).
32 Peter J. Haas, Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).
33 Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 83-106, 182-192.
34 Helen Fein, Accounting for Genocide: National Responses and Jewish Victimization during the Holocaust (London and New York: Free Press, 1979), p. 9.
35 See Bauman, Modernity, p. 205.
36 For a further elaboration of the theme of covenant life viewed as a vineyard to which all are invited to work as caretakers, see my article, "The Inclusive Call of Covenant Life," in "Confronting and Combatting Anti-Judaism," a special issue of New Conversations 15 (Autumn, 1993): 32-.36.
37 Metz, Emergent Church, pp. 19, 32 (emphasis added).
38 Without reflecting specifically on the issues raised by the Shoah, sociologist/theologian Carl Schneider made a similar point. He proposed that our culture needs to recover an appropriate sense of shame and mutuality, pointing out that mutuality serves as shame's foundation: "Our age rejects shame because it rejects our bond with the Other. We believe in an isolated identity ("I am as the Other sees me") and deny our communal nature ("I am as the Other is"). The recovery of a proper sense of shame would go hand in hand with our knowledge of radical sociality" (Carl D. Schneider, Shame, Exposure, and Privacy [Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1977]), p. 136). Schneider's work is an insightful cross-disciplinary analysis of shame's problematic and healthy relationships between the self and the other, as well as the self with itself.
39 See Bernard Williams's discussion of shame and how it can lead to attempts to reconstruct and improve the self or agent experiencing shame, in Williams, Shame and Necessity, esp. pp. 85-95.
40 See Scheff and Retzinger, Emotions and Violence, as cited above. I have tried to be careful in describing these dynamics and the realities that have evoked them, lest, instead of rehearsing my own struggle to recognize and integrate them, I point an accusing finger at another. The result is more shame, not the healthy recognition of hitherto unacknowledged shame. The goal is to be clear enough in my analysis that those facing similar issues will be helped by the distinctions I have drawn. Still, shame can be so strong and existentially threatening that denial may follow, nonetheless.
41 Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966), pp. 46-58.
42 Elsewhere, I have tried to describe an alternative to the interventionist understandings of providence that also characterize the orthodox covenantal understanding that Rubenstein so radically criticized. See "Choosing Life between the Fires," cited in note 18, above.
43 Christian ethicist Thomas Ogletree and Emmanuel Levinas, the noted Jewish philosopher from whom Ogletree has drawn many implications, are two figures who have explored this ground, inquiring of its ontological as well as ethical significance. Levinas grounded the call to responsibility in the face of the other. The very presence of another, mediated by a face, calls for being addressed. See Thomas W. Ogletree, Hospitality to the Stranger: Dimensions of Moral Understanding (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), esp. pp. 35-63. A helpful introduction to Levinas's work is Sean Hand, ed., The Levinas Reader (Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989); see esp. Part I, chap. 6, "Substitution," pp. 89-125.
44 H. Richard Niebuhr, in his classic treatment of responsibility, The Responsible Self, identified four key elements of responsibility: response, interpretation, accountability, and social solidarity. The first, response, is rooted in this affective dimension, even if the affective dimension also grounds the other three elements (see his The Responsible Self: An Essay in Christian Moral Philosophy [New York: Harper & Row, 1963], pp. 61-65).
45 While I agree with such ethicists as Stanley Hauerwas that responsibility is characterological, I take issue on how one articulates identity and the manner in which one links one's identity with its essentially related - covenantal - others. It need not be exclusive nor imperialistic as he has claimed.
46 Douglas John Hall, God and Human Suffering: An Exercise in the Theology of the Cross (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1986), p. 87.
47 In the same fashion we might also ponder what followers of Jesus might mean when they say, "The Kingdom (reign) of God is at hand." If we look to our reflection on the presence and otherness of an ethos of shame, we can draw an interesting inference. Would not the counterpart of an ethos of shame be an ethos of covenantal responsibility (i.e., covenant life fulfilled in steadfast fidelity) - in other words, the realm of God and its fruit, the blessing of shalom?
48 It is significant that Antisemitism is a projected distortion of Jews by Antisemites and, therefore, a denial of the interactive nature of the identity-in-relation phenomenon of shame. I.e., Antisemitism does not itself evoke the shame. Rather, the shame is evoked by the identity that may include the Antisemitism, but it must include some value of positive significance as well in order to produce the shame. In other words, for shame to be experienced, the very resource to displace the Antisemitism must be present. Of course, this also means that extreme forms of Antisemitism can be present without identity resources that might give rise to shame - a point treated above.
49 The play on the word "faces" is intentional. The facets of shame are intimately connected to the faces of shame - those who express it, those who evoke it, and those in whose presence shame is faced.
50 The Hebrew word "hineni" literally means "behold me" and is uttered in scripture by those who indicated their covenantal presence and readiness to respond to the call or summons they have received, from either God or another human being. I use it here to designate the confessional response to the summons of shame and the other who occasions it. Such a response is truly an act of postcritical, covenantal readiness.
Henry F. Knight (United Methodist) has been the university chaplain and an associate professor of religion at the University of Tulsa since 1991. He previously taught religion and served as chaplain at Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, OH, 1979-91. During 1974-79, he was an associate minister of a United Methodist church in Nashville, while also supervising seminarians from Vanderbilt Divinity School, where he was Associate Director of Field Education and an instructor of Church Ministries in 1978-79. His articles have appeared in Encounter, Shofar, New Conversations, Ailanthus, Religion and Intellectual Life, and J.E.S. (Summer-Fall, 1992). He co-edited (with M. S. Littell) The Abuses and Uses of Knowledge: The Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the German Church Struggle (University Press of America, 1997). He serves on the editorial board of Ailanthus, the National Association of College and University Chaplains and Directors of Religious Life's news journal, and has lectured and led workshops in many settings. A member of the steering committee for an international conference on the Holocaust to be held in England in July, 2000, he co-chaired the program committee for the 14th National Workshop on Jewish-Christian Relations in Tulsa and co-chairs the Task Force on Jewish-Christian Relations of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry. Ordained an elder in the Baltimore Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1975, he is a clergy member of the Tennessee Annual Conference (and an affiliate of the Oklahoma Annual Conference).
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Knight, Henry F.|
|Publication:||Journal of Ecumenical Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1998|
|Previous Article:||Zen master Dogen meets a thirteenth-century postmodernist.|
|Next Article:||The image of covenant in Christian understandings of Judaism.|