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The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory: Time and Eternity in the Far Country

The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory: Time and Eternity in the Far Country

Jonathan Tran

ISBN: 978-1-444-32413-6

Mar 2010, Wiley-Blackwell

312 pages



The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory develops a theological analysis of the American war in Vietnam and constructs a Christian account of memory in relation to this tragic conflict.
  • An elegantly written reflection of memory and forgiveness, this unique work explores the ecclesial practice of memory in relation to the American war in Vietnam
  • Questions how and why we choose to remember atrocity, and asks whether it is ever ethical to simply forget
  • Explores the theological categories of time and eternity, and the ideas of thinkers including Aquinas, Augustine, and Barth
  • Reveals broader insights about history, memory, and redemption
  • Resonates beyond the field of theological inquiry by offering a broader analysis of war entirely relevant to our time



Part I Time and Its Discontents.

1 Our Time in Vietnam.

The Divine Kenosis and Being-Toward-Death.

“Our Time” in Vietnam.

“When Time Is Nothing but Speed”.

2 Killing Time.

Boredom and Atrocity.

God and the Ordinary.

Part II Created Time.

3 Christological Time.

“The Detemporalization of Time”.

Being and Time.

The Goodness of Death.

The Spiritual Life of the Age.

A Time of Idols.

The Fragility of Time.

4 The Sorrow of the Exile: Trinity, Memory, and Return.

Trinity and Mind.

Trinity and Forgetting.

Forgetting God.

Desire and Return.

The Witness of the Martyrs.

Authentic Temporality.

Part III Memory and the Americans in Vietnam.

5 Saving Our Lives with a Story: Memory and Narrative.

The Case for Forgetting.

Realism and Narrative.

From Paradox to Mimesis.

From Mimesis to Forgiveness.

Trinity, Forgiveness, and Gift.

Forgiveness as Gift Exchange.

The Gift of New Stories.

6 Re-performing the Dark Night of the Soul: Memory and Liturgy.

Two Views of Liturgical Memory.

Liturgies of War.

Incomplete Killers.

Rival Liturgies.

God’s Acting on Time.

“Out of the Night”.

7 Eucharistic Re-membering: Memory and Politics.

National Memory.

Suspending Time.

Walling Memory.

Resurrection as National Mythos.

Depoliticizing Memory.

Superpower Biopolitics and the Possibility of Fugitive Bodies.

Spectral Others in Beloved.

Ghosts and the Moreness of Time: Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream.

Tending Memory: Listening, Traveling, and Tabling.

Eucharistic Memory.

Eucharist as Traveling Table.

The Politics of Re-membering.



“However, the insights of his theological analysis of time and memory, and of the role of God’s hospitality in and through time, are not limited to theological engagement with questions of war but are a welcome contribution to theological reflection more broadly.”  (Dialog, 4 March 2014)

“This is an extraordinary book in a number of ways . . . To have written a whole book on theologies of memory is in any case remarkable.”  (Studies in Christian Ethics, 1 May 2013)

"Tran's book is a model for contextually grounded theological analysis. Much of it is sophisticated theology, but portions will be useful for professionals from other disciplines who work with veterans, especially on spiritual issues." (CHOICE, December 2010) "Tran is at his best when analyzing the POW/MIA movement and other stories from the war and the lives of the veterans.  His remarkable account of the other positions suffering of the Vietnam veteran is among the most moving sections of the book." (Christian Century, December 2010)