Today’s selection is from The Trinity and the Kingdom, in a section where Moltmann is offering a criticism of political and clerical monotheism. It’s a long section, but this excerpt gives us plenty of food for thought and gets to the heart of the matter:
If we see the Almighty in trinitarian terms, he is not the archetype of the mighty ones of this world. He is the Father of the Christ who was crucified and raised for us. As the Father of Jesus Christ, he is almighty because he exposes himself to the experience of suffering, pain, helplessness and death. But what he is is not almighty power; what he is is love. It is his passionate, passible love that is almighty, nothing else.
The glory of the triune God is reflected, not in the crowns of kings and the triumphs of victors, but in the face of the crucified Jesus, and in the faces of the oppressed whose brother he became. He is the one visible image of the invisible God. The glory of the triune God is also reflected in the community of Christ: in the fellowship of believers and of the poor.
Seen in trinitarian terms, the life-giving Spirit, who confers on us the future and hope, does not proceed from any accumulation of power, or from the absolutist practice of lordship; he proceeds from the Father of Jesus Christ and from the resurrection of the Son. The resurrection through the life-quickening energy of the Holy Spirit is experienced, not at the spearheads of progress, but in the shadow of death.
Moltmann describes in previous pages why political monotheism is dangerous. To put it too simply, it makes it very easy for the state, or the emperor, or one ruler, to declare itself analogous to God. God is the central all-powerful Being, and so is the empire/nation/state/president/etc. But these things are NOT analogous, because what is almighty about God is not political power, or even power at all. It is love. If we understand God through the trinity, and if we see the trinity as a community of relationships, distinct yet mutual and collaborative, we get a much better picture of what God intends for us in human community.
This is so very unlike what we see in political spheres that it feels idealistic, impossible, and maybe even ridiculous.
Welcome to the gospel.
But Moltmann continues,
Attempts to restore the unity of religion and politics are mistaken. The result would be the engulfing of the church by the state. But we must ask which political options are in accord with the convictions of the Christian faith, and do not contradict them…It is not the monarchy of a ruler that corresponds to the triune God; it is the community of men and women, without privileges and without subjugation.
Those words sting a little right now, at least to me, as I look around our current American conversation and see people with privilege hold such deep defensiveness about privilege and such denial of it entirely. And I am soul-sick of seeing such tragic outcomes of a society where subjugation of race too often equals literal death. Privilege and subjugation are the acts and results of almighty power. They are not, and never will be, an act of love.
Imagine what might happen if, every time our prayers and liturgies and scripture readings say “Almighty God” we would remember that God’s power IS love, and always has been? How might that shape what people we become?*
*Brian McLaren’s new book The Great Spiritual Migration has an entire section that talks about what it might look like for us to reorient our faith communities around a God of love. Go get the book and read it.