Last week, I spent an hour listening to two gentlemen give their critique of the Moltmann conversation on an internet radio show. To their credit, they were kind and even conciliatory at points, even as they mocked attenders and bemoaned how depressing the whole event was for them. Fair enough. And they’re certainly entitled to disagree and to say so in whatever format they like. And there is a lot for avowed conservatives to critique about a theological figure like Jurgen Moltmann, who has been on a lifelong quest to explore the bounds of orthodoxy and to creatively interpret the Bible.
I wasn’t really bothered by their commentary, because it seemed to miss the mark in so many different ways. What interested me more was the strained psychology they demonstrated. Which inspired this personal (tongue-in-cheek) definition–
Fundamentalist (n.): a person obsessed with the twin ideas that, 1.) someone, somewhere is happy, and 2.) someone, somewhere disagrees with them.
1.) The constant refrain of the podcast was about divine judgment. While Moltmann spoke eloquently and with consideration about an eschatology (future) of hope, these men were quick to (repeatedly) point out that God’s judgment will not be exclusively good news. Which is true, obviously. (Indeed the very same Hebrew term is used for ‘justice’ and ‘judgment’. That is, the same act of God will be both good news and bad news, depending on where you’re at. If you’re an oppressor, then it’ll feel like judgment. And if you’re oppressed, then it’ll be a freeing sense of justice that you experience.)
But really, do we need to harp on the bad news all of the time? And do we need to assume that such a basic point has escaped all of those who gathered at the event? Seriously, guys: we get it. We read the same Bible. You see God primarily as a force of judgment, and we see God primarily as a force of love and grace. If we’re wrong, then we’re prepared take our lumps from your angry God. But if you’re wrong, you’ll be spending a very long time regretting all of the people you chased out of God’s playground.
2.) This need to be right, and to perseverate on the wrongness of everyone else seemed pathological, truly. Can intelligent people not simply disagree? Do we need to villainize one another? Do we need to be so polarized? Did these two men really need to avoid table fellowship with everyone else who attended the Moltmann conference? I mean, let’s talk to one another, rather than lobbing podcasts and tweets back and forth after the fact, okay? We might be able to find common ground, rather than only arguing about our differences.
Now, I understand that with a radio show called ‘Fighting for the Faith’, I need to expect a bit of pugilism. At the same time, I find myself wondering about that very adversarial assumption. What faith is so fragile as to need such a constant, shrill defense? Does God need that from us? Is anyone convinced by such vehemence? Is such an engagement with the world healthy, and life-giving? Are these two men happy?
There’s just got to be a better way.
Posted in: Moltmann