Yesterday the Public Religion Research Insitute published a study reporting on the presence of various ideological positions within the Tea Party (which I continue to insist is a stupid name, but I guess is better than their historical antecdents the Know Nothings). The major finding was that lbiertarians are actually not very well represented among the Tea Partiers, despite their rhetoric and reputation:
Libertarians also constitute a smaller proportion of the Tea Party movement than other core conservative groups. Aboutone-quarter (26%) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are libertarians, compared to a majority (52%) who say they are a part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement, and 35% who identify as white evangelical Protestant.
Religiously, libertarians offer an interesting profile:
Libertarians are composed of a disproportionately high number of white mainline Protestants (27%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (27%). Only about 1-in-10 (11%) libertarians identify as Catholic, and no libertarians identify as black Protestant.
As Ed Kilgore notes at The Washington Monthly, the Tea Party is dominated far more by theocratic conservatives than libertarians, though their rhetoric can be misleading:
Yes, a lot of Tea Folk use libertarian “don’t tread on me” language and insignia. But they’ve come to the ideology of the hard dollar and the minimalist state via David Barton rather than Ayn Rand: via a belief that absolute property rights (and for that matter, the rights of the “unborn”) were divine endowments to America as an “exceptional” nation directed by Providence. So they don’t “get” the idea that they harbor contradictory attitudes towards government on economic issues and social issues. To most “constitutional conservatives,” the property-owner and the patriarch of a “traditional family” are equally endowed by God and the very structure of the universe with powers that are perpetually endangered by God’s enemies operating through a secular-socialist State.
What this implies from a political perspective is that the dominance of the Religious Right in the Republican party has, far from waning, simply repositioned itself within a putatively libertaian interest group. As a matter of policy, this reality is revealed by the degree to which Tea Party candidates, or those who use Tea Paty rhetoric to advance themselves, are likely to combine strongly libertarian (to a Ron Paul level of nuttiness) economic and regulatory policies with strongly authoritarian policies regarding individual privacy, specifically in areas of sexuality and reproduction.
And of course we've seen this playing itself out in state legislatures that are dominated by Republicans, where the initial promises are of loosening economic restrictions for the sake of creating jobs, but most of the legislative action has been take up with imposing new restrictions on abortion. Whether it's Michigan, Texas, Virginia, or half a dozen other examples, the pattern is the same -- libertarian rhetoric combined with authoritarian policy. For the super rich, of course, it's a great deal, since they get the benefits of lower taxes and less economic regulation, while at the same time being able to evade any inconvenient restrictions on their personal lives simply by virtue of being super rich, and having the mobility that implies.
For ordinary people, they simply continue to see economic stagnation and a growing gap in inequality, while at the same time watching their legislatures spend all their time trying to make abortions harder to obtain, banning contraceptives and requiring police reports for miscarriages.
Many of you will recall that last winter there was a flurry of controversy over the opposition in some quarters to Obamacare's contraception mandate, which required employers to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, specifically, birth control pills.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was opposed on principle, since it has a religious objection to almost all forms of contraception (an objection, by the way, which is not in any way related to abortion, more on that anon). But many conservative protestant churches also registered opposition for reasons that were, frankly, quite perplexing. Specifically, they objected to it because they believed (wrong, by the way) that birth control pills were abortifacients, that is to say, they function by causing abortion.
Why bring this up now? Well, as it turns out, my Twitter feed saw a bit of activity last night in the form of a Catholic pro-life activist who was under the impression that 1) birth control pills do function by causing abortion and 2) that this is (at least one of) the reasons that the Catholic Bishops were opposed to it.* As you can imagine, there's only so much you can communicate in 140 characters, but I did my best to point out to him that neither of these things is true. Again, being Twitter, it was hard to do more than reenact Monty Python's argument sketch.
That being the case, I thought it would be worthwhile to spell out, in a brief way, the reason why my correspondent was wrong about these points. Obviously, I'm not intending to be comprehensive here, but simply to point out the argument in its basic form.**
So, to the first issue: Is the Pill an abortifacient? No. Though apparently there has developed a cottege industry on the Christian right trying to demonstrate that it is. The argument goes like this: Because the means by which the pill prevents pregnancy is to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in a woman's uterine wall, it therefore functions by causing abortion.***
However, the best research on the subject establishes quite well that this is not actually how the pill (as well as other forms of hormonal birth control like Plan B) functions. Rather, the pill prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation not by preventing implantation. To cite the conclusion of a study from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynocology:
Modern hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine contraceptive devices have multiple biologic effects. Some of them may be the primary mechanism of contraceptive action, whereas others are secondary. For combined oral contraceptives and progestin-only methods, the main mechanisms are ovulation inhibition and changes in the cervical mucus that inhibit sperm penetration. The hormonal methods, particularly the low-dose progestin-only products and emergency contraceptive pills, have effects on the endometrium that, theoretically, could affect implantation. However, no scientific evidence indicates that prevention of implantation actually results from the use of these methods. Once pregnancy begins, none of these methods has an abortifacient action. The precise mechanism of intrauterine contraceptive devices is unclear. Current evidence indicates they exert their primary effect before fertilization, reducing the opportunity of sperm to fertilize an ovum.
That seems pretty definitive. Of course these studies are always subject to revision and later research could conclude something different, but at least on the basis of the best research currently available, these contraceptives do not work by preventing implantation.
This point was recognized by the National Catholic Reporter, which published a report in February, n the midst of the controversey, stating:
The reality is that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the IUD and Plan B work only as contraceptives. Since Ella is new to the market, it has not been studied as extensively. But as of now, there is no scientific proof that Ella acts as an abortifacient, either.
This, of course hasn't prevented many abortion opponants from expanding their field of battle to the subject of contraception. Again, in the case of Catholic conservatives, this is rooted in Catholic opposition to contraception (I'm coming to that), but what's up with the Protestants?
It seems to me as though the protestant opposition to contraception can't be understood without a greater understanding of the way in which a particular conception of patriarchal authority has more and more deeply embedded itself within conservative evangelicalism over the past forty years. Once upon a time, even the Southern Baptist Convention was both pro-choice and pro-contraception. That begin to change in eh 1970s with the rise of the Religious Right. In the ensuing decades, this has transformed from an argument about protecting unborn life to an argument about the whole nature of male and female sexuality, male family headship, and the proper role of a woman as, first and foremost, a machine for making babies.
This can be seen most clearly in movements like the so-called "quiverfull" movement, which advocates the idea that couples should produce as many children as they can (so-named on the basis of Psalm 127). These movements are not simply anti-abortion, they are pro-pregnancy. Theoretically they are pro-perpetual pregnancy. Ideally they imagine that adult married women should, from the time they are married to the time they are incapable of bearing further children, should either be pregnant, recovering from pregnancy, or actively trying to get pregnant again. Failure to produce a "quiverfull" of children is seen to be both a moral and a spiritual failure.
From this perspective, of course, contraception is a horrible abomination, allowing women to evade their God-given responsibility for producing as many children as possible. Of course, many conservative protestant opponents of contraception are not necessarily overtly affiliated with this movement, but they are often strongly associated with positions regarding family and birth which are strongly patriarchal, deeply anti-feminist, and heavily supportive of the basic idea that a womans first responsibility is for the family -- both in giving birth and in the nurturing of children.
This whole approach is, honestly, pretty vulgar. The Catholic doctrine on contraception is much more sophisticated (though, it might be argued, it boils down to the same thing). The position of the Catholic magisterium is summarized in the Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae thusly:
Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one's partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source.
Therefore, the Encyclical continues (after a proforma condemnation of abortion "even for therapeutic purposes"): "Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means."
In other words, any form of contraception (except for what has come to be know, laughably, as "natural family planning") is in principle excluded. This would include all forms of hormonal contraception, including the ones we've been discussing, as well as any use of condoms, IUDs, vasectomy or tubal ligation. Notice that the grounds are, quite explicitly, that it interferes with the natural procreative process, not that it causes abortion.
The Vatican expanded on this in its "Instruction on Respect for Life In Its Origin and On the Dignity of Procreation," which stated:
Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. This doctrinal reminder provides the fundamental criterion for the solution of the various problems posed by the development of the biomedical sciences in this field: since the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned.
Note the shift in emphasis between the two documents. The first emphasizes procreation as the fruit of human sexuality, and the need to affirm the integrity of the natural sexual act. The second focuses on the status of the embryo "from the first instant of its existence" as a being of full human dignity. Nevertheless, the document goes on to restate: "Contraception deliberately deprives the conjugal act of its openness to procreation and in this way brings about a voluntary dissociation of the ends of marriage."
As these are the two foundational documents of Catholic magisterial teaching on the subject of contraception, and its worth noting that, for my Twitter disputant, neither of them is dependant on the idea that contraception equals abortion. Yet, it appears that many Catholics, like my Twitter foe, are committed to the idea, unsupported by either science or magisterial teaching, that the Pill equals abortion. Why would this be?
If one wanted to be ungenerous, one might conclude that, since even practicing Catholics are far less opposed to contraception than to abortion, in order to win adherents over to an anti-contraception perspective, they are purposely misrepresenting the data.
A more generous interpretation would be that they are actually stuck using outdated research (about thirty years out of date), and refuse to accept the latest and best findings on the issue. This may be for the best of reasons, or out of genuine ignorance or perplexity about what current scientific research shows.
But whichever of these is the case, what's clear is that, if you're a Catholic and want to be opposed to contraception, you don't need to believe it's abortion (and, as it turns out, it's not). For conservative protestants, on the other hand, there is, I think a much more deeply seated set of contradictions at play, since they don't have the rather impressive theological edifice of Catholic theology to rely on, and are usually in the position of having to come up with justifications for moral stances on an ad hoc basis with no firm theological foundation, they tend to be blown by whatever prevailing cultural wind happens to catch them. So, having been blown by the trade winds into the anti-abortion camp, they took on a whole raft of other, related positions, without much sense of whether they could be justified by more than a random passage of scripture (no exegesis please!).
In a sense, the DNA of Protestantism tends to be more easily mutable than Catholicism, because it lacks the firm architectural structure that keeps Catholicism together. That's not to say that Protestants don't have traditions, or that Catholicism doesn't change, but their relative cultural strengths can also be massive weaknesses, which is displayed in the way in which the contraception debate has played out in the U.S. over the past several months.
Both from a theological and bioethical perspective, of course, neither Catholic nor Protestant opposition to contraception on the grounds that it's equivalent to abortion holds any water.
*Which is not to say that you can't find individual Catholics, and even Catholic Bishops, who are opposed to contraception on this ground, but that's not the same thing as it being Catholic teaching. Unfortunately, being especially clever is not a necessary prerequisite to being a Bishop.
**Also, for the sake of keeping the argument to the subject at hand, I'm not going to address the obvious related question: Namely the morality of abortion, though as I've argued in other places and at other times, I have no in principle opposition to abortion and think that the core moral questions are best addressed between a woman, her doctor, and her family (in that order of importance).
***This of course raises another dimension of the issue, namely whether "conception" should be understood to refere to the moment that sperm meets and fertilizes egg, or to when it implants in the uterine wall. Given the extraordinarily large percentage of fertilized eggs that never successfully implant, I am strongly inclined to define "conception" as the latter, but however it is defined, what is clear is that it is not a moment, but is rather best understood as a process.
I can't resist a bit more Moltmann. Via several sources, I've come across this video of a recent interview with Jürgen Moltmann, entitled "God's Unfinished Future," that encompasses many of the central themes of Moltmann's work. I can't seem to embed it, alas, but please click the link and watch.
A few good lines:
"Eschatology is a strange name for the life-power of hope, and the life-power of hope is to stand up after defeat."
"Eschatology is not only about the future, but about the present of that future."
"If we expect a catastrophe at the end, why should we preserve the world? Apocalyptic expectations of a catastrophe at the end is the most dangerous thing in the world, because it destroys what should be preserved in the name of God here and now."
"Christian hope is a forward hope in history, to make a better world here and now."
"Jesus Christ is the kingdom of God here and now, and to follow Christ is to share in his messianic mission, and to work on behalf of the poor and oppressed."
"In the kingdom of God everything smells divine and tastes divine because the divine and human are intertwined. No part of life is separated from God."
"We need a holistic understanding of the kingdom of God which is present everywhere."
"There is an inclusive promise of the new creation."
"The final judgemnet has not so much to do with the good and the evil, or the good guys and the bad guys, but with the victims and the persecutors. We should look forward to the final judgement with joy, because it is the etablishment of God's justice. It is a creative judgement that brings justice to the victims."
"I am not a universalist, because there are a few people I may not want to see again, but God may be!"
These are my quick and dirty transcriptions. I know I missed a few things in typing as I listened. But listen to the whole thing, and of course, read more Moltmann.
Bill Tammeus, reporting on an article by James Bennett, offers some interesting data on voting patterns in the 2012 election, and what they might portend for futur elecitons:
Bennett says that although people of faith seemed to vote in relatively traditional ways for these decidedly unconventional 2012 presidential tickets (there was no white Protestant on either ticket), the fact is that Hispanic Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated voted in ways that may shape presidential elections well into the future. (If he's right, it's more bad news for the Republicans, who in the last week seem to have created nothing but bad news for themselves.)
Hispanic Catholics, he writes, voted Democratic 75 percent to 21 percent in the 2012 presidential race. And the growing group of people who say they are religiously unaffiliated (now almost 20 percent of American adults) voted three to one for the Democratic ticket in 2012.
What does this mean going forward? Among other things, a diminishing of the overall relevance of religion in electoral calcuations:
the "subdued role of religion" in the 2012 election is likely to continue if, as was the case with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, neither side sees any advantage in highlighting either his or his opponent's religious affiliation.
Much like Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of public religion are frequently much exagerated. It keeps reentering the public discussion after each subsequent obituary. That said, however, the trends certainly seem to be pointing to a decreasing degree of relevance to specific religious denominations as a factor. I'm not sure that's really a bad thing.Will religion continue to be essentially a non-factor in presidential races, as Bennett seems to suggest? I think it's quite probable, but as soon as analysts begin to discount or ignore the role of faith in presidential elections it will surface in unexpected ways to show such analysts are fools. That's why the best prognosticators in politics wait until after an election to describe why the results were inevitable.
John Vest argues over at Adventures in Post-Christendom that rather than Satan, Walter White is best seen as a Christ figure:
The final scene brings it all together. The camera pulls out on a dying Walter White, lying on the ground in an almost cruciform pose, bleeding from a wound to his side, one palm of his hand bloodied like the stigmata. When the camera rises past the ceiling rafters, two of them make a cross over his body.
He goes on to explain how Walt's final actions can be seen as somehow salvific:
In the end, Walter White dies as a savior who manages to bring about some degree of redemption to the web of evil he has himself created.
Christ figures function in fiction in one of two ways: they either provide commentary on Jesus himself or they reflect an understanding of hero and savior from contemporary culture. Walter White is the latter. Though we have been horrified by his actions and mesmerized by his transformation from good to bad, at some level we were still rooting for him. We were skillfully reminded of this in the final episode as we marveled at his ingenious play of Elliott and Gretchen and took pleasure in his ultimate command of his situation and fate.
Whether it is catharsis or something else, it is not uncommon for us to admire and identify with the “bad guy” of the story. When Walt makes his confession—”I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was…really…I was alive.”—we were forced to admit that we liked it too.
I was skeptical of the articles that argued Walt was a Satan-figure. Needless to say I'm even more skeptical of the idea that he's a Christ-figure. In the end, as I've argued earlier, Walt's actions show him to be human, all-too human. And thus both the allure and the horror of watching what he does comes from recognizing that what separates us from him may simply be the matter of a few bad breaks and a few bad choices.
Last night's Rachel Maddow show offered a fascinating example of public religion happening at the very heart of the government shutdown crisis -- in the form of Senate Chaplain Barry Black. Black's prayers at the opening of each day's Senate session have become increasingly pointed in calling for an end to the crisis, and for cooler heads to prevail. Watch the story here.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the government shutdown over the last couple of days. Most of that conversation has revolved around the political dynamics involved (and keeping scores about who's winning and who's losing). Jim Wallis of Sojournors argues that the real conversation should be a moral and theological one. His argument is that shutting down the government is "un-biblical."
Meanwhile, Frank Schaeffer makes the case that the blame for the shutdown can be laid squarely at the feet of the American Evangelical movement, or more specifically, the dead-enders of the Christian Right.
To the old-fashioned conservative mantra “Big government doesn’t work,”the newly radicalized evangelicals (and their anti-abortion Roman Catholic co belligerents) added “The U.S. government is evil!” And the very same community—Protestant American evangelicals—who had once been the bedrock supporters of public education, and voted for such moderate and reasonable men as President Dwight Eisenhower, became the enemies of not only the public schools but also of anything in the (nonmilitary) public sphere “run by the government.”
As they opened new institutions (proudly outside the mainstream), the evangelicals doing this “reclaiming” cast themselves in the role of persecuted exiles and victims of secularism. In my new book And God Said, “Billy!” I examine in depth the paranoid fantasy land of delusion this sort of thinking took me and millions of others into. What they never admitted was what my alter-ego Billy in my book never admits: we evangelicals were self-banished from mainstream institutions, not only because we evangelicals’ political views on social issues conflicted with most people’s views, but also because we evangelicals found ourselves holding the short end of the intellectual stick.
Pointing to Sarah Palin as the apotheosis of this know-nothing strain of evangelical self-righteousness, he then turns the tables and, like Wallis, argues for a more Christian view of place of government in the common life:
What’s so curious is that in this religion-inflicted country of ours, the same evangelicals, conservative Roman Catholics, and others who had been running around post-Roe insisting that America had a “Christian foundation” and demanding a “return to our heritage” and/or more recently trashing health care reform as “communist” and demanding the shutdown of the government in order to overturn this “communist” invention by a “non-American” president, ignored the fact that one great contribution of Christianity was a commitment to strong central government. For instance, this included church support for state-funded, or state-church-funded, charities, including hospitals, as early as the fourth century.
Government was seen as part of God’s Plan for creating social justice and defending the common good. Christians were once culture-forming and culture-embracing people. Even the humanism preached by the supposedly “anti-Christian” Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century was, in fact, a Deist/Christian “heresy,” with a value system espousing human dignity borrowed wholesale from the Sermon on the Mount.
Meanwhile, Morgan Guyton at Huffington Post makes the argument that there is a theology behind the government shutdown: It is rooted in the weird biblicist crypto-fundamentalist Calvinism of R. J. Rushdoony:
On the eve of our government shutdown, I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown. I'm interested in understanding what account of Christianity creates the "no compromise" crusade that the Tea Party has become known for. It turns out that Ted's father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism.
This dominionist trend has been lurking in the shadows of American evangelicalism for decades -- sometimes more pronounced, sometimes less, but always present. You didn't have to scratch Sarah Palin very hard to watch it come out, and the same seems to be the case with Cruz.
And you can see the kind of faith in the idea that the Church will replace and supplant the government (in every regard, in Rushdoony's ultimate vision), in the confidant avowals by Tea Partiers and their water carriers in Congress that, once the government is shut down, people will quickly realize how little they need it, and how easily the "private sector" can step in to do everything that we've gotten so used to government doing. And, if you belong to this particular branch of evangelical subculture, you can deceive yourself into believing this quite readily:
So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian "kings" who will accomplish the "end time transfer of wealth." Then "God's bankers" will usher in the "coming of the messiah." The government is being shut down so that God's bankers can bring Jesus back.
And here's the thing. When you get a lot of people together in a megachurch, you can do some pretty impressive things with your mission projects. You can feed thousands of people and host ESL classes and job training programs and medical clinics. And I imagine that seeing your accomplishments could give you the hubris of thinking we don't need a government at all to make our society run; our church can be the new government.
More's the pity for us if this brand of evangelicalism continues to take hold. It's a remarkable confluence of economic libertarianism, political anarchism, and religious authoritarianism that should leave us gasping in fear. If you want to know what the early marks of religious totalitarianism look like, these are your indicators.
Third Way Magazine has a fascinating interview with Jürgen Moltmann, which I highly recommend. I want to pull out some particularly interesting excerpts here:
On today's atheism vs. the atheism after World War II:
It was after World War 2 when we had this type of 'protest' atheism. Because of the misery, many people [objected to] the traditional image of the loving and caring God and therefore they left the church as a protest - but this protest bound them to God! Today, we have people who have just forgotten about the church and have discovered that they can live a happy life without God or religion. It's more an atheism of banality. And so the church should not only bring consolation to this society but stir it up, because (as a character in an Ingmar Bergman movie once said) 'without God everything would be OK, but with God nothing is' - because God gives us a conscience about what we do and what we let happen.
On false idols and images of God:
I became a theologian for God's sake, and he spoke about atheism 'for God's sake' - to follow no false gods in politics and economics and other areas of life. If you take the Second Commandment seriously, you should have no images of God but also no concepts of God, because he is not far away that we must represent him by images or even rational concepts of him. If my wife is travelling I look at a picture of her, but if she is present I don't need pictures. And so in the full presence of God, if you feel that he is present, you don't need pictures, or concepts of whether he is almighty or good or whatever. He is more present than you are. Or, as Augustine said: God is more in me than I am myself. As Meister Eckhart said: If you enter into the way to God, you must leave all images of the way to God behind and be happy in his presence.
On crying out to God:
We were drafted when I was 16 and in 1943 my whole class at school was put in the anti-aircraft batteries in Hamburg, and in the last week of July we experienced the destruction of the city by the Royal Air Force. This was given the codename Operation Gomorrah by the British.3 I was in the centre of Hamburg with my battery and as thousands of people died in the firestorm around me I cried out to God for the first time: Where are you? ...
I don't want it explained why I am in this misery, I want to be liberated from it, and therefore I cry to God: 'Where are you? Save me!'
If you as a pastor visit a dying person and he asks you why he is dying and you explain his situation, he will have you thrown out of the room. The question of theodicy is, to my mind, one asked mostly by the onlookers, not by those who are in a hopeless situation.
On believing in God after Auschwitz:
In whom can we believe after Auschwitz if not God?
Also, Rabbi Emil Fackenheim made a good argument: If we abandoned our faith in God after Auschwitz, we would give Hitler a posthumous victory.
And as long as we know that the 'Sh'ma Yisrael' and the 'Our Father' prayers were prayed in Auschwitz, we must not give up our faith in God.
On the Financial Crisis and Occupy:
I think it is relevant more to the situation of two-thirds of humankind. The Occupy movement is a bourgeois youth movement but where we are really suffering is in Africa and Asia - if you want to learn the power of hope, go to these miserable quarters of humankind. The rich don't have hope, they have only anxiety because they have something to lose; but those who have nothing to lose but their chains, as Marx said once, have real hope in an alternative future.
Today, I think we need a movement to liberate nature from suffering and violence and injustice. I think humankind will learn either through insight or through catastrophe, and I think most of the people in the First World are waiting for the next catastrophe. At the moment I am a little proud of Germany, which has given up atomic power because of Fukushima - but that is another story…
On the death of Martin Luther King and his writing of The Crucified God:
In '67 I was at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and when Theology of Hope was mentioned on the front page of the New York Times my students came to me and said: 'You've made it!' We had a large 'Theology of Hope' conference at the university in April '68 and I could sense how the forward-looking spirit of Americans was reinforced by the theology of hope. And then someone came storming into the room and cried, 'Martin King is shot!' By the end of the day there were pictures of cities burning everywhere - the black population was enraged by the murder of the prophet of the civil rights movement. And then Durham came under curfew and we broke off the conference and they all rushed home as quickly as they could.
And then I saw that the theology of hope is not the right way to speak the gospel to Americans: they need to get a feeling of the suffering and violence and injustice in their country. And I promised that whenever I returned to that country I would speak about the cross of Christ and the cross of Martin Luther King and all the black people who had been lynched. And so I came to write The Crucified God. ...
His cross stands among the thousands of crosses in the Roman Empire - those who were enemies of the Empire and its system of slavery were crucified. So, he carries the suffering of the world on the one hand and the sins of the world on the other. Where there are evildoers, there are victims, and Christ suffers both vicariously for the sins of the perpetrators and in solidarity with the victims. This is a broadening of the significance of the Passion. Church tradition was always oriented towards the perpetrators, but I think liberation theology, unconsciously perhaps, prepared the way for a theology of the victims.
Much of what is in this interview I've heard or read from Moltmann before, but as a summary of where he's been and where he is now as a thinker, it is an excellent piece. Please go read the whole thing, if I've left enough there for you to chew on after grabbing so much to post here!