Fury in Orlando (Guest Post by Mark Buchanan)

Guest post by Mark Buchanan. Mark is a Presbyterian Pastor specializing in multicultural ministry in the Los Angeles area. He has been an enthusiastic student of Jürgen Moltmann’s theology since encountering Dr. Moltmann while a seminarian at Princeton Seminary. He writes using engaging real life stories to illustrate and bring to life the central tenets of Dr. Moltmann’s theology. He currently resides in Pasadena, California with his wife and children. I reviewed Mark’s book, Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny here (it is a great primer on Moltmann in the form of story… Check it out!).

Fury in Orlando

Almost 20 years ago Jürgen Moltmann wrote, “Nothing is more dangerous in this world than disappointed love and love that has miscarried. Disappointed love for God which has missed its mark is the power that destroys, the fury of annihilation”(SoL, pg. 78). In Orlando such fury savagely cut life short, imprinted terror upon those who witnessed the unspeakable carnage and confounded all who search for a link between faith in God and hatred that slaughters the innocent. Yet in this time of sorrow and bewilderment, Moltmann’s insights ring true. In his book, The Source of Life, Moltmann identifies this incongruity in the decision made by those drawn to God’s power and goodness to secure their own dignity and to create a destiny for their own good, rather than the good of the whole human community.

Writing about that which is traditionally called sin, Moltmann recognizes the aggravation of those who are attracted to God but mistakenly turn to things which fail to provide them the happiness and security they sought. Such disappointment awakens fear and “this fear evokes hate of things and hate of the self: and this hate generates aggression and acts of violence (SoL, pg. 78). Moltmann first uses the term “miscarried life”(SoL, pg. 72) to describe a life that has failed to deliver its initial promise. When applying it to a “miscarried love for God”, he is referring to a love for God that has failed to birth new and fulfilling life. This stillbirth then leads to profound disappointment, disorientation, disillusionment, anger and isolation. It is this scenario that then leaves those engaged in sectarian activism to battle the “death-drive of evil” alone (Sol, pg. 73), and to be ultimately drawn to committing egregious acts of violence.

This same vulnerability applies not only to individuals and those engaging in sectarian activism but to institutions and nations who out of fear seek to dominate and in the name of God forcefully seize that which is in their own interest. While in The Source of Life, Moltmann does not specifically address sectarian violence, he does identify its root cause in the separation of spirit and body and this worldly life and heavenly life. “True spirituality” Moltmann writes, “is the rebirth of the full and undivided love of life”(SoL, pg. 85) in which God makes his home on earth and the human community its home in God.

Moltmann proposes that people of faith do not respond to the fury we have witnessed in Orlando by escaping into an inward search for spiritual union with God free from the world’s suffering. Instead Moltmann points us to the truth about our isolation and alienation from one another and from God as members of the whole human family. He urges us to acknowledge that the chains that keep us separated have begun “to hurt”. He writes, “We can no longer come to terms with them. We begin to rub ourselves raw on them until they break…If redemption is close at hand, we stop being accustomed to evil; the habit of mind that accepts it is broken. Then we get up out of our apathy and change things. I have always thought that the worst sins of all are to get accustomed to injustice and misery”(SoL, pg. 74-5).

Boldly Moltmann proclaims, “What we need is not a new religion, or a new peace between religions. What we need is life – whole, full and undivided life.”(SoL, pg. 21). Hope is the expectation that out of death, Christ was raised to new life and through the love of the triune God this life will be shared. Yet hope is not something we produce for ourselves, rather it is an effect of the resurrection. It is a living hope that dawns upon the living and the dead. It is as Moltmann concludes, “a resurrection with the dead and with this blood-soaked earth. In the light of Christ’s resurrection we can already trace the contours of the ‘new earth’ (Rev. 21:1), where ‘death will be no more neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more’ (Rev. 21:4).

Enlarging our vision of the future that the God of the resurrection will share with his people is worthy of both our deepest devotion and the full employment of our imaginations. The new life that springs out of death through the resurrection releases all of God’s creation from the destiny of death and decay. In Moltmann words, “we remember Christ’s resurrection in the splendor of the divine, eternal life that is embracing our human and mortal life already here and now.” (Christianity: A Religion of Joy, pg.15) It is this embrace that beckons every person into the hope of an everlasting future with God.

What Moltmann encourages us to do as we face the fury of hatred and blood thirsty revenge is to recognize the offense that has been committed against God’s future and to resist it with actions that uphold the whole human family. What Moltmann inspires us to do is to poetically image our future in Christ with the triune God, a future our minds can only introduce, but our deepest longings for the whole human community already taste. We are to allow our deepest longings to anticipate the fulfillment of new life, traces of which are alive in us. Here we are to dwell in a “living hope” full of a “living love” that gives birth to life that seek to include everyone.

Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel has died

Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel in "Love: The Foundation of Hope" (around 1987)
Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel in “Love: The Foundation of Hope” (around 1987)

“Love never ends. It goes beyond death.”
Jürgen Moltmann, speaking of his wife Elisabeth during a recent Work of the People interview.

I’ve just learned that Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, famous feminist theologian and wife of fellow theologian Jürgen Moltmann, died on Tuesday, June 7. She was 89. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Via ekd.de (with thanks to Google Translate):

The feminist theologian Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel is dead. She died on June 7 at the age of 89 years in Tübingen [….] She became internationally known as one of the pioneers of feminist theology in Germany and the author of numerous books and studies. Since 1952 she was married to the Protestant theologian Jürgen Moltmann and had four daughters.
Read more….

Elisabeth’s works available in English include I Am My Body, Rediscovering Friendship and The Women Around Jesus.  An incredible theologian in her own right, she also had a profound impact on the thinking of her husband Jürgen. Anyone who reads his books will find the influence of his wife throughout. As he writes of her in his autobiography:

Personally, the discussions with Elisabeth about a joint theology taught me to say ‘I’ and to withdraw my seemingly objective professional language – ‘this is the way it is’ – reducing it to my own conviction. Whatever we see and perceive is limited by the conditions of the place where we stand. If we want to communicate our perception to other people, we must be aware of our perspectives. Male and female existence in their respective socio-cultural forms are part of the conditions for possible perceptions. This does not at all mean putting what has been perceived down to existential conditions, as Feuerbach and Marx thought. Not every objective perception is ‘nothing other than’ a self-perception, but every perception is a link between the perceiver and the perceived, and creates community between the two. Consequently, the subjective perception of one’s self belongs to every perception of God, even if this leads to a self-forgetting astonishment. I have learnt to introduce theological questions and perceptions into the context of the life in which I myself am living together with others. For this path ‘out of ideas into life’ I have to thank Elisabeth and her feminist theology.

A Broad Place, 330-331

Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel and her husband Jürgen Moltmann coauthored and/or contributed to several books together, including Passion for God: Theology in Two Voices, God: His and Hers, Humanity in God, and Love: The Foundation of Hope.

At the Emergent Village Conversation in 2009, Jürgen Moltmann was asked about what it was like being married to a fellow theologian. Listen to his response:

I regret that most of my direct exposure to Elisabeth’s writing so far has been through a chapter here and a chapter there. I hope to remedy this shortcoming in my reading very soon, and have just picked up Rediscovering Friendship on Kindle (it happens to be on sale for $3.99 at the moment).

Readers of this blog may remember that last year I digitized some old video of Jürgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel and posted it here. This segment, Theology of Hope: A Feminist Response, featured Elisabeth especially. It is well worth watching!