Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together into a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis. This is one of many in a series of blogs based on Moltmann.
People argue they must be free. They argue, because they experience a threat to that freedom. They are not free. They feel rights are being taken away. Their comfortable lifestyles may be reduced. Jobs are threatened. Careers devoted sacrificially to provide the energy resources for our free and comfortable lives… are being criticized, shamed and blamed for environmental degradation and global death.
What’s the answer? More freedom! Maybe even the freedom to leave the confederation and create new, independent, self-determining provinces! Great rallying cry. But what does that really mean?
Perhaps we begin with freedom that is not trivial. Isn’t that the point? Freedom is not trivial; it is essential – to everything! True. But freedom is also not merely individual.
Consider that freedom, the struggle for freedom, is somehow determined over against someone other, someone else. And indeed, that tension, that conflict usually takes the form of reciprocity or revenge. That struggle for freedom begins with a sense of alienation. “I am not like you…. I will wrench my freedom, my rights, my independence from you!” But does this battle for independence really create “a better justice”?
Moltmann points to the disquiet Jesus caused. Moltmann quotes Herbert Marcuse who said, “In a world in which hate has been everywhere institutionalized, nothing is more frightful than the preaching of love.” (p.99). “Do not hate your enemy,” Jesus said. But continuing the thoughts of Marcuse… “Marcuse called the hatred of exploitation and oppression a humane and humanistic element in itself. But if justifiable hatred of exploitation does not go hand in hand with hope for the birth of true man (sic) in the exploiter, revolution will become more and more like the oppression itself.” (PP.99-100)
It could be argued that this climate crisis is all about degrading people and creatures and nature to things. People are consumers. Or cheap labor. Resources are commodities. Borders are raised against any who might want to immigrate and share in good fortune. Borders are lowered by trade agreements or defended by increasing tariffs and trade restrictions. Climate change is calling for more revolutionary schemes than reconciliation efforts. The inhumanity that has contributed to climate change is increasing, not decreasing.
We do not gain freedom by defending our individual interests. What is the source of evil threatening our freedom? Moltmann identifies that the various liberation movements point to equally varied “sources of evil.” (see page 100 of the text).
“Socialists maintain that capitalism is the source of everything that is bad, and call racialism and sexual discrimination merely capitalist epiphenomena.” Or maybe the problem is rampant, institutionalized, militarized racism? Or maybe the sexual oppression of women is the beginning of all oppression?
Ecologists rant against the material exploitation of nature. But then Moltmann queries, “Only seldom does anyone ask the question, why and through what have people arrived at capitalistic, racialist and sexist aggression?” (100). And he observes, “everywhere we find oppressed oppressors, who aggressively pass on to others the suffering which they themselves experience.” (100) It’s about fear changing into aggression.
Moltmann calls freedom a rare, dangerous and frightening blessing. “In order to take the risk [of freedom] we need an unshakeable hope, which would rather be disappointed than disappoint others, and a firm trust, which would rather be wounded than hurt others.” (101)
Sound familiar? The price of freedom is high. “It is true,” Moltmann says, “anyone who is prepared for freedom must be prepared for the cross. The messianic secret ‘man’ is seldom revealed in any other way than ‘as dying and behold we live.’ Freedom on the cross: that is the gospel.” (101)
But isn’t suffering a scandal? Isn’t that exactly why we groan in our bones for freedom? Listen again to Moltmann…
“The Job-like figure of Israel, the people of the Exodus, suffering for a thousand long years, remains a point of orientation for all liberation movements which in the depths their hope encounter the messianic kingdom of ‘man.’ And the fact that the liberty of the resurrection became manifest through the forsaken, oppressed and crucified Son of man remains the hope for the hopeless.” (101)
That should be all that needs to be said. Except, there is the encounter with Jesus who promises freedom but only to those who admit they are not free. And then the call to those who are made free, to, in turn set free the captive and the oppressed and the imprisoned.
What does that mean for climate change? There will be no freedom from climate change until people choose to accompany the suffering – the people, the creatures, the wind and the water and the land… and choose to sacrificially let go, to offer what we have to those who don’t have, so others also may be free.
Next time, the captivity of the church….