With every one that I attend, I think I’m getting a better sense of the genius of the Emergent Theological Conversation. By finding a notable thinker with provocative work, and then (and this is key) expecting attenders to come with a familiarity with that work, we set the stage for something wonderful. Sure, folks can skip the reading, but they participate in the knowledge that they are at a loss, and that the larger group won’t be coddling their on-ramp questions. We all come conversant with this thinker’s work, and ready to really listen with wisdom and insight.
But watch out for the twist: the conversation isn’t about the nuances of their work, or interesting extensions of their thoughts. No, we do all of this work and travel all of that way and sit for all of these hours to talk about practical matters. We hear the person’s story. We see their passions, and weaknesses, and pecadillos. We enjoy their humor. We sense their politics. We witness their nonverbal tells instead of their academic remove (someone mentioned ‘total depravity’/'original sin’ in passing to Moltmann, and his face looked like someone had opened a sewer in front of him). We come prepared to do some theo/philo heavy lifting, and instead we talk about what’s really important.
Perhaps this was made more clear to me last week, since I was honored with an invitation to sit up front and engage Professor Moltmann with my questions. Sure, I could have read Crucified God four more times and inquired after some fascinating and enduring and devotional and astoundingly creative theology. But after hearing Moltmann’s story, I knew that I should just let him hear mine. So, with the further encouragement of Tony and Danielle, I did just that. I suppose this might have been indulgent, and if it was I regret it. But I hope I was speaking for all of us who have loss, who suffer disappointment, who feel forsaken, and who ask the impossible (and unproductive) question of ‘Why?’.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem proper to take notes whilst sitting next to the man. And I was in such mental overdrive that everything he said fell out of my head shortly after the session concluded. But as I reflect on it now, that seems only appropriate. For truly, it is not answers we seek, but understanding and solidarity. And– for a moment at least– I found that with a man who is one thousand times smarter than me, and who has suffered one thousand times more than I ever will. Thank you, Jürgen.
Posted in: Moltmann