Criticizing Religion
Great Plains Bison

Embracing Hopelessness

Embracing HopelessnessEmbracing Hopelessness by Miguel A. de la Torre
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book challenges some of the core elements of my own theology and ministerial practice. Jurgen Moltmann's theology of hope helped me out of my deepest depression and gave shape to my ministry, particularly when I pastored the Cathedral of Hope, a predominately LGBT congregation. De La Torre considers the theology of hope a theology of the privileged that lulls people away from facing how awful reality actually is and the revolutionary praxis necessary to work for justice.

The methodology of the book is interesting. Each chapter explores a traumatic episode from history, with De La Torre traveling to a location--Sand Creek, Dachau, Charlottesville, the Border, etc.--with another theologian to explore a range of theological questions that these moments of injustice and violence expose.

At first I didn't care much for his style. I felt he wasn't engaging Moltmann in genuine argument. And that he was tilting at straw men, spending lots of time criticizing Hegel's philosophy of history, which I can't imagine many people believe anymore.

But near the end the book improved. The best chapter is entitled "F*ck It."

I am not fully persuaded by De La Torre to abandon my core beliefs and practices, but I am now compelled to hear these criticisms and revise accordingly. The book lacks any discussion of resurrection, which is the key Christian idea in response to catastrophe, which left me confused about De La Torre's overall approach.

Also, he makes much of turning traditional systematic theology on its head with this third volume of a trilogy addressing the issues that normally would be addressed first, whereas he dealt with ethics and praxis first. But this isn't new. Plenty of theologians have written this way in the last generation or two. James McClendon, for instance, in his three volume theology began with ethics.

Finally, I thought he could benefit from an exploration of William James's pragmatic eschatology, meliorism, which is neither optimistic nor pessimistic and was itself worked out in the crucible of the Civil War.

Here is a good summary paragraph from near the end of the book:

"When I consider the hellish conditions under which brown bodies are forced to live, I simply lack the luxury or privilege to hopefully wait with Motlmann for God's future promise to materialize. Too many dead and broken bodies obscure my view of the eschaton. Instead, I call for storming the very gates of Hell not at some future time, but now. Motlmann's theology of hope is in effect a theology of optimism based on a God of process derived from trust in a certain biblical interpretation rooted in linear progressive thinking issuing from the Eurocentric modernity project. And while such a hope may be comforting for middle-class Euroamerican Christians, it falls short and sounds hollow for the disenfranchised."

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Comments

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Joe Meinhart

now I want to read this, currently reading Johan Hari's book Lost Connections and R J Lifton's The Broken Connection. for a paper I am writing. They explore depression, death, suicide, social breakdown.

Joe

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