Sunday, September 06, 2009

Moltmann, Theology, and Politics

In preparation for my participation in the Moltmann Conversation being sponsored by Emergent Village, I have been reading Jurgen Moltmann's autobiography, A Broad Place, (Fortress, 2008). Moltmann has been known for his explorations of the links between politics and theology. His "theology of hope" has links to Ernst Bloch's Marxism.
In a chapter on Political Theology, he shares how he and the Catholic Theologian Johann Baptist Metz developed this political theology, and why.
He writes:

At the deepest level, what led to the development of a political theology in those years was shock over the failure of the churches and the theologians in the face of the German crimes against humanity, symbolized by the name Auschwitz, a name that can never be blotted out. Why that appalling Christian silence? Had the bourgeois privatization of religion secularized the politics of our country so far that they fell into this abyss? Did conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism keep the Christians silent when the Jews were taken away? Was the misinterpreted Lutheran two-kingdoms doctrine responsible: "Christ for the soul--Hitler for the people?" As can be seen from our publications, talk about "God in our own time" became talk about God "after Auschwitz." . . . For me, what followed was a turn to a political theology of the cross." (p. 156).

This turn led to the writing of The Crucified God (ET 1974).
Note that it was reflection on the failure of the churches to respond to Hitler and the Holocaust that led Moltmann to exploring the political implications of theology. As an American, I need to ask how, for instance, slavery and Jim Crow impact my theology? While I wasn't around, nor did I live in the South, it is part of my history.
What is interesting is that Moltmann suggests that we must now move beyond a political theology. He notes that he and Metz have perhaps "over valued" politics.

The political and military East-West conflict ended in 1989, but its place was taken by the globalization of the economy and the total marketing of everything and every relationship. Whereas once politics regulated the economy, today politics are regulated by the economy, for this has become trans-national whereas politics are still persistently national. (pp. 157-158)

I think he's on to something here. Politics is local, but the economy isn't. We are a global world. I need to get some help for my computer, I'm likely calling India or China. My clothes might be made in the Philippines or Bangladesh. China owns a large amount of America's national debt. We may fight political battles at the national level, but what really drives the world is happening at a global level -- because it's economic!
So what about theology? What does it have to say to this situation? Remember that Moltmann takes a distinctly eschatalogical perspective -- looking to the future. He concludes the chapter:

Theology "with its face turned towards the World" must therefore also become an economic and ecological theology if it wishes to take on the forces of our time. (p, 158).

Unless theology simply is a reflection on our attempts to rescue the perishing from a world going to hell, then it must push us to working for the transformation of the world. But, we must do this with a sense of humility and not triumphalism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article.

I will point out however that Jim Crow racism was present in the USA far beyond the South. For example, Chicago's most famous race riot of this type occurred between July 27 and August 3, 1919. The violence was precipitated by the drowning of an African American teenager who had crossed an invisible line at 29th Street separating customarily segregated “white” and “black” beaches. There were so many race riots in 1919 that it was called the Red Summer.