I am coming to the end of Moltmann’s ‘The Crucified God’, and I found this interesting section where Moltmann addresses issues of power, empire and the dangers of idolatry that can/do come with it. He looks at where Christian theology is in fact liberating as well as restrictive:
” The consequence for Christian theology is that it must adopt a critical attitude towards political religious societies in society and in the churches. The political theology of the cross must liberate the state from the political service of idols and must liberate en from political alienation and loss of rights. It must prepare for the revolution of all values which is involved in the exaltation of the crucified Christ, in the demolition of relationships of political domination. Now political representations and master-slave relationships continually arise when a people is capable of action in the medium of history. The citizen surrenders the right of self-determination to his representatives, so that they may act for him. This process of unburdening in political action is associated with alienation arise when the representatives go over their heads of those whom they are mean’t to represent, and when the people bows to its own rulers. Alienation between government and people is then shown in an all-embracing apathy of the people towards those ‘up there’. Because the representatives are out of control, the citizens lapse into a passivity which allows further misuse of power to go unhindered. The democratic movement has clearly seen the connection between political idolatry, with the consequent apathy of its subjects, and the deprivation of political rights. ‘Democracy has no monuments. It mints no medals. It does not bear a man’s head on its coins. Its true nature is iconclasm.’ If the nature of democracy is political iconclasm, its reality lies in the demolition of master-slave relationships, in the limitation and control of the political exercise of power, and in activating the people from their apathy as subjects towards responsible participation in the process of political decisions.
…. Christianity did not arise as a national or a class religion. As a dominant religion of rulers it must deny its origins in the crucified Christ and lose its identity. The crucified God is in fact a stateless and classless God. But that does not mean that he is an unpolitical God. He is the God of the poor, the oppressed and the humiliated. The rule of the Christ who was crucified for political reasons can only be extended through liberation from forms of rule which make men servile and apathetic and the political religions which give them stability. According to Paul, the perfection of his kingdom of freedom is to bring about the annihilation of all rule, and at the same time to achieve the overcoming of equivalent apathy and alienation. Christians will seek to anticipate the future of Christ according to the measure of the possibilities available to them, by breaking down lordship and building up the political liveliness of each individual.” Jurgen Moltmann, ‘The Crucified God. SCM Press, 2001, p 341-342.
All of that helps me to understand the tensions which I personally face in my place of God’s ministry, and working alongside people who seem to prefer power and influence over the very lack of such things in Christ. In fact he gave so much up in limiting himself as the incarnation. Idolatry, power, influence and empire…… all increasingly ride to the top at the possible taste of them, forgetting what we as Christian should be truly about.