Cameron Coombe, a doctoral student at the University of Otago in New Zealand draws our attention to this passage from Moltmann:
I grew up during the German dictatorship and as a young man spent five years in barracks and prison camps (1943-1948). I have therefore personally experienced authority and power as not especially healing—in fact, the reverse. Quite early, I believe it was in 1947, a sentence from Abraham Lincoln fascinated me: ‘I do not want to be any lord’s slave nor any slave’s lord.’ As a theological student, I was hesitant and mistrusting of the then-dominating theological schools of Bultmann and Barth, of Gogarten and Althaus. I felt myself oppressed by the pressure for ideological consent that was placed on one if one wanted to ‘belong.’ I could not march well in step with others, and so I became a divergent thinker, a nonconformist in that theological school to which I owe the most: the Barth school
A few things strike me about this passage.
First, the linkage, which is always there in Moltmann, between his biography and his theology. While many theologians (and here I think of Pannenberg in particular) like to pretend to be doing theology at 1000 feet, concerning themselves little with the concrete setting in which their own theology is formed and takes place, Moltmann has always been forthright about the dependence of his theology on his own personal story, particularly his experience in World War II and as a prisoner of war. Given the role that those experiences played in his conversion, it would be hard for him to be theologically honest without reference to those points, but he's never been shy about it.
Second, his general view of authority as that which should be viewed with suspicion. I'm particularly struck by the idea that "authority and power" were "not especially healing" in his experience. And certainly the kind of top-down authority structure that the Germany in which he grew up represented could and should give anyone a healthy suspicion of authority.
Third, the connection he makes between that and his own theological formation, in particular his desire not to be a metaphorical "slave" to anyone else's theological program. And that nevertheless, his affinities lie closest to the Barthian approach. This conforms well with what Douglas Meeks once told me, that he thought the best way to understand Moltmann was as a "liberal Barthian." It's certainly true that even insofar as his affinity is for the Barthain school he's definitely a "divergent thinker," and the battles between Moltmann and the Princeton Barthains to which I was a witness were at times impressive.