The PostBarthian
12Oct/141

Jürgen Moltmann on Humane Revolution: The goal of Christian universalism can be realized precisely through the dialectic of siding with the humiliated.

Humane Revolution

Humane Revolution (source:wikipedia)

Jürgen Moltmann's lecture "God in Revolution" in Religion, Revolution and the Future was the 'opening lecture of the World Student Christian Federation Conference, July 23, 1968, Turku, Finland.' The lecture contained seven theses. I enjoyed the way in which Moltmann introduced them:

I do not want to begin this student conference with a well-polished theological discourse. Rather, I would like to open the discussion of the coming days with a series of theses. I do not intend to set a before you a masterful theological soup which you should consume with relish. These theses are meant as an aperitif to whet the appetite. For theology is not only a matter of eating something, but also the shared task of first preparing.

Moltmann, Jürgen Religion, Revolution and the Future. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969. Trans. M. Douglas Meeks. 129. Print.

The entire lecture is excellent, and as an example, the following is a quotation from Thesis 5, in which Moltmann introduces his idea of a 'humane revolution' that abolishes the master-slave paradigm, and how siding with the humiliated is the way we achieve the universal love of all men (not just the abused, but the abusers as well). The examples from Martin Luther King Jr., Karl Marx and Albert Camus are excellent. (I've added the bold text for emphasis, the italics is original.)

THESIS 5: The church is not a heavenly arbiter in the world's strifes. In the present struggles for freedom and justice, Christians must side with the humanity of the oppressed.

The Church is for all men, say some. Therefore, it should remain strictly separated from political struggle. Since there are no unequivocal Christian judgments in politics, the church should religiously be in the service of all sides. This is the old ecclesiastical triumphalism in modern dress as offered by the representatives of organized churches to the contending parties. Here the church is always "the third power," a "neutral platform" for peace and reconciliation, a "place for meeting" and negotiating. Sub specie aeternitatis all worldly conflicts become relative and insignificant. There was a time when this mediating role of the church was occasionally in demand and was instrumental in promoting tranquility. But today all ambiguous and abstract appeals for peace fall on deaf ears, as was demonstrated in the speech of Pope Paul VI to the United Nations. Struggling factions have become tired of appeals to their conscience and of verbose sermons on morality. They do not expect from the church any transcendent wisdom to aid the resolution of their conflicts.

Yet, if Christians take sides in the political struggle, will they not lose sight of God's love for all men? This is the question from the other point of view. I do not think that they need to lose it. The goal of Christian universalism can be realized precisely through the dialectic of siding with the humiliated. Let me amplify this. It is, in fact, the goal of the church to represent that "new people of God" of whom one can say: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Greek nor barbarian, neither master nor slave, neither man nor woman [and if we may proceed with modern relevance: neither black nor white, neither Communist nor anti-Communist] for all are one in Christ Jesus." The barriers which men erect between each other to assert themselves and humiliate others are demolished in the community of Christ, since men are there affirmed in a new way: they are "children of freedom." By undermining and demolishing all barriers--whether of religion, race, education, or class--the community of Christians proves that it is composed, not of equal and like-minded men, but of dissimilar men, indeed even of former enemies. This would mean, on the other hand, that national churches, class churches, and race churches are false churches of Christ and already heretical as a result of their concrete structure.

The way toward this goal of a new humane comment involving all nations and languages is, however, a revolutionary way. In this connection we quote the apostle Paul once again: "For consider your call brethren, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many of you were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord" (1 Cor 1:26-31). Accordingly, the community of the obscure and weak is given the power of judgement over the high and mighty. So in the community of the crucified, according to the old prophetic images of the mountain being laid low and the valleys exalted, those who hunger after righteousness are blessed and those who justify themselves are condemned. Thus the way of the kingdom of humanity into the world is prepared and only thus will all flesh see the glory of the Lord. Or to put it without images: The love of God and the humanity of Christ are partial to the laboring and heavily laden, to the humiliated and offended. But how can this be a way to the new community without barriers?

Martin Luther King, Jr., sided with the blacks and the poor. He organized protest movements and strikes. These actions were directed against the white racism and the capitalistic society in his country. But at the same time he was constantly concerned about the white people, unredeemed and enslaved by their pride and anxiety. He mobilized the marches of the blacks and the poor, not for revenge against the whites but for the redemption of the black and white alike from their mutual estrangement.

The young Karl Marx also spoke not only of the alienation of the exploited proletariat but also of that of the capitalist exploiter. By withholding or robbing from another his true humanity, the robber deprives himself of his own humanity.

Albert Camus described the humane principle of revolution this way: The slave revolts against his master. He denies him as a master, but not as a man. For his protest is directed against the master's refusal to treat him as a man. As master and slave, neither is a true man and neither can relate to the other in a humane way. If the denial of the master were total, the slave's revolt would bring nothing new into the world but would only exchange the roles of inhumanity. The humane revolution, however, is not out to turn the slaves into masters but to subvert an abolish the whole master-slave relationship so that in the future men will be able to treat one another as men. If the revolution loses sight of this goal, it becomes nihilistic and forfeits its fascination.

In this sense, Christianity's taking sides with the "damned of the earth" is a way to the redemption and reconciliation of the damned and the dammers. Only through the dialectic of taking sides can the universalism of salvation make its entrance into the world. Any ecclesiastical triumphalism is, therefore, an immature anticipation of the Kingdom of God.

Moltmann, Jürgen Religion, Revolution and the Future. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969. Trans. M. Douglas Meeks. 141-3. Print.

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Posted by Wyatt

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