Redemption (The Cain Chronicles: Book Two)
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This association between oppression and Cain is more or less taken up by Katherina von Kellenbach who finds solace in the figure of Cain in her own geopolitical context, Germany, in her book, The Mark of Cain. Cain is neither hero nor villain. His legacy is not erased, but burnt into the collective memory. Memory is the reason why Von Kellenbach thinks he can serve as a matrix for the discourse on the legacy of Nazi perpetration during the Holocaust.
He failed dismally to hide the murder from the deity. He is punished but does not perish because a mark protects him from violent revenge. That mark. It protects him and prevents the erasure of memory. There is no miraculous purification of guilt in the story of Cain.
No sacrifice cleanses the stain of Abel's blood. No ritual absolves Cain from the guilt of the past. Instead, God's protective mark imposes radical transparency and links Cain's redemption to memory.
Truth-telling becomes the basis of moral and spiritual recovery. Cain lives a successful and productive life as a married man, father, and founder of a city as he grows into the memory of fratricide and re gains moral integrity. In the face of a perpetrator the issue of memory is quite important. The public white discourse in South Africa is focused on forgetting the past in the hope of building a better future. But those who bore the brunt cannot forget it and continuously bear witness to it.
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Von Kellenbach refers to the enormous extent of the hurt and pain of the Holocaust that makes the act of remembering rather intolerable if not impossible for both survivor and perpetrator and their families, one should add. Driven by fear of guilt by association they exhibit "an internal compulsion to conceal the truth and to hide the shame. To Von Kellenbach neither forgiveness nor punishment in terms of Christian soteriology is able to remove the burden of guilt. Subsequently, on an emotional and private level, the micro-history of Nazi perpetrators holds their families and communities captive.
Time does not heal all wounds and any act of wrongdoing creates a moral obligation towards the victims. She prefers to "learn to shoulder the legacy of perpetration and to acknowledge the reality of the agents of collective evil.
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One can summarize her argument as follows: 85 Cain leaves his father's house to rebuild his own in an open conversation about his life. Cain's story correlates redemption, transparency, and remembrance in as much as repentance is turned into a public affair in terms of conduct and communication. Atonement happens over a lifetime with small steps and numerous daily interactions that change perspectives, modify attitudes, and repair relationships.
Cain's battle with the legacy of fratricide goes through many stages in which he encounters different peoples, places and philosophies. The mark of Cain is a sign of grace, because transparency removes the sting of guilt. The acknowledgement of wrongdoing makes the recollection's power to haunt and terrify to disappear. The mark of Cain is not a stigma to denounce but is a sign of protection that turns the public proclamation of guilt into an integral aspect of Cain's redemption.
It is only the perpetrator's truthful engagement with the atrocities inflicted on victims that can provide a release from the moral remainders of history. The history of atrocities will only keep on haunting the perpetrator as long as the latter remains ideologically committed to the victim's lack of humanity. Release from guilt can be measured by a person's ability to bear the reality of victim's suffering.
As long as the victim's humanity is denied, no release takes place. Von Kellenbach describes the mark of Cain as "a path of moral repair based on openness and transparency. Cain does not die but settles in Nod, marries, fathers a son, builds a city and establishes arts music and culture. Moreover, his new life is built upon his ability to honour the memory of his brother.
Von Kellenbach's utilisation of the story of Cain stands against the understanding of the mark as a repressive stigma. In the past, as already mentioned, the mark of Cain became synonymous with exclusion and discrimination, starting with anti-Semitism and ending with racism and xenophobia:. The mark of Cain played not only an ignominious role in the history of Christian anti-Judaism but was also used to justify racism and colonialism.
Black skin became the mark of shame that legitimated capture, trade, and enslavement of African peoples and the colonization of non-white populations by European Christians. As a divine stigma, the mark of Cain invited and justified the mistreatment of vulnerable minorities or majorities in the case of colonization , who were considered guilty of some past violation and deserved to be subjugated. In fact, the history of the interpretation of the mark of Cain speaks against using the story as a paradigm for perpetrators.
In Von Kellenbach's terms the mark becomes a symbol of the liberating power of memory that provides Cain with the possibility of transformation-moral regeneration and the restoration of his human dignity:. In my reading, the mark of Cain encapsulates the task incumbent upon perpetrators. Cain's success as a human being is measured by his ability to resist the impulse to bury, forget, and cut off the past.
Cain's crime does not end his life. He lives on and gets a second chance, but only because he does not erase the guilt of his past. His life as city builder and father of toolmakers, artisans, and musicians depends on his ability to respect the memory of his brother and to accept his responsibility. Cain as ultimate white perpetrator? The question is now whether one can take Von Kellenbach's association of Cain with Holocaust perpetrators and relates him to white apartheid oppressiveness. Will Cain's position in the story help one to understand the current position of whiteness in the aftermath of apartheid?
One can even go larger and add to the configuration also modernity and its underbelly of slavery, exploitation and capitalism that caused the death of millions of the non-Western other. If one looks from a perpetrator's perspective to the Cain story, any interpretation that links the murder with atheism or lack of trust in the deity becomes suspicious, as Ed Noort for example argues.
To him, it is crucial to understand that a human being not trusting Yahweh is turned into a wrongdoer who may commit fratricide. The problem is that religion ran very deep in modernity and its underbelly as the missionary enterprise of conversion has shown. Moreover, apartheid itself has been theologically justified and the previous republican South African dispensation of was very Christian. As the story starts with the birth of Cain, the expectations of him are piled high. His mother proclaims his birth as a divine creation 94 and the role of Adam in his conception is ignored.
His role is that of being the brother of Cain. Cain's brisk response "Am I my brother's keeper? Then follow the murder. The subsequent punishment serves as an indication of the consequences of Cain's act. In literally severing the ties with his brother, Cain also severs the ties with his immediate community, i. The latter ceases to be responsive to Cain's labour, compelling him to move from place to place to eke out a living. As a farmer he is forced to leave his fields because the earth, in sucking up Abel's blood, has been rendered unusable and infertile.
The murder made him unclean and anyone dealing with him will be rendered similarly unclean.
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Cain is ultimately banned from the community, because he rendered the community unstable. It makes him vulnerable, turning him into an outlaw, like a prey for wild beasts. His life is in continuous jeopardy. Cain is forced to leave the place where he lived. Moreover, he leaves the presence of Yahweh, who in effect removed his divine protection. Says LaCocque:. Cain, banned from the clan, feels that he must hide from God and from man. A fugitive away from heaven and earth, his miserable existence would be the one of a living dead, of a ghost not a nomad roaming aimlessly in an absence of time and space and in a space without contour, were it not for God's compassion.
Yet for Cain to survive, the ius talionis is suspended. LaCocque argues Cain's lament, although understandable as his cry is parallel to the crying blood of Abel, remains an insensibility and an effrontery. Van Wolde thinks differently. To her the sentence is harsh enough. Cain merely proclaims his own vulnerability as he realises the curse will cause everyone wanting to kill him.
Cain is not complaining about the sentence, he is coming to terms with the severity of his act and the insufferability of its consequences. After all, the curse implies banishment, which consists of being cut off from the means for life, such as nourishment, security, prosperity and protection. Cain's punishment implies that Yahweh has removed his protection so that the life of Cain can be exchanged for his brother's. However, Yahweh will not allow such retribution. But it is not as if Yahweh will intervene when someone tries to kill Cain. It is only that the killer should realise that Cain's death will receive a sevenfold vengeance.
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Absence from the face of God amounts to a certain death, but Cain, now a fugitive, receives a mark of protection, whatever it may be. Cain does not receive a clean slate to start over with. He remains under the burden of his injustice, exposed to the anger of God and an outcast.