September 24, 2009

Moltmann & Homosexuality: A Bit Disappointing & Not in that Way

From everything I've read, I don't think Moltmann explicitly addresses homoseuality. I've had lots of theoretical conversations and hypothesis on what he "might" say about it, even at the Emergent Conversation over lunch. Over at the Moltmann Yahoo group, there was a discussion on what Moltmann would say about it, but since it was merely speculative it shows that he doesn't talk about it in his works clearly or directly.

So when at the Emergent Moltmann Conversation when Tony Jones put the questin to him, I was excited. Yet, I found his answer rather disappointing. Moltmann answered, "The church in Germany doesn't struggle with the problem (referring to the schismatic nature of ordaining homosexuals or blessing partnerships in the USA), because we are about the Gospel and not about sex. We believe in justification by God's work, not human work."

Some other things he said that I thought were provoking were that gay or straight can be ordained to ministry. Also, he wouldn't say (and this is what I thought most interesting) that a gay partnership is equal to marriage between a man and woman, since "marriage is to further children." Yet he would have no problems blessing such a partnership, "why not bless a partnership? Homosexuality is neither a sin or a crime, like near-sightedness is neither a sin or crime. I don't understand the schism or heat of the debate."

For such a deeper thinker, I was somewhat surprised how surface level and simplistic his answer was even though it was simply a conversational format. Yet, to say that Germany is worried about the Gospel and the church in the USA is not is overly simplistic and not a valid depiction of cultural realities. Germany carried(ies) a national guilt so intense that Moltmann himself says many of his comrades in POW camps didn't survive the shame. It makes sense that Since WWII, Germany would be intentional, even overly intentional to be very inclusive and not prejudice. America doesn't have this cultural history, but a very different story. So, I felt like this statement was simply unfair and unrealistic.

Also, he's okay with ordaining gay ministers and blessing partnerships, but he never called the partnerships marriages and actually compared homosexuality to a physical defect. Obviously he sees homosexuality as being less than a healthy (read: normal) human. Will the resurrection, the New Creation where all physical defects will be healed have homosexuals? Why not if this is truly who they are? Is homosexuality simply a distortion of the created order? Is homosexuality an illness, sickness, or defect that should be "fixed" by genetics manipulation if possible? This is where I find his words to lead.

Furthermore, since marriage is intended to further children and for that reason homosexual partnership is less valuable or "not equal," does that make a marriage between a man and woman with no children less than equal to a marriage with children?

Is marriage simply about furthering children, or is this a proof text from Israel's creation story that is irresponsible in a world of almost 7 billion people?

Overall, I was excited to hear Moltmann's thoughts about this issue that has become so divisive in the USA and across the world in many denominations, but I left disappointed and unchallenged. What do you think about Moltmann's assessment and thoughts?


dan said...

Well, given Moltmann's familiarity with liberation theologies related to dis/abilities, he may not see something like near-sightedness as "less than healthy" or anything other than "normal". In fact, he may think that being near-sighted is just as normal, healthy, and fully human as having 20/20 vision. If that is how he thinks (and I wouldn't be surprised if it is) then I have no problem with that particular statement.

One of Freedom said...

I actually found the statement helpful. I wonder if there wasn't a bit of "oh crap, that issue" going on, like he knew what kind of a storm it could stir up and wanted to get it over with quickly. You are right his answer lacked depth. What I liked about it was that it was not at all what I expected. I didn't expect him to make a statement like "it is by faith you are saved, not by your sexuality" it is just so Reformed sounding. But I felt he was trying to put a little perspective around it. There are definitely deep historical and identity issues at stake in this debate. Some of us feel like we'd like to take a simple answer like Moltmann's and just say that's that. But it is never that simple, at least not in the North American context.

BTW I didn't get that he equated homosexuality with disability. I did catch the comment about marriage being categorically different because of the possibility of procreation. I think that there is a distinction that can be made in there (not sure if procreation is the right hinge for it though).

Maybe the best response is exactly what we are doing. Taking his comments and trying to flesh them out in our contexts.

Matt Kelley said...

I found that part particularly refreshing, since he comes from a different context and intentionally rejected the issue. Europe is so post-Christian that the Church there has many bigger fish to fry. Perhaps the American Church, which is actually pushing the the culture toward post-Christendom, could learn from his example.

Brent said...

question for ya. is there audio or a link of this conversation he had. i downloaded two podcasts from the "conversation" but did not hear anything addressing these issues. were they not posted perhaps? i'm currently a student at truett seminary and writing a paper and thought i'd try to cite this in a paper. if not, it's ok. thanks


Joe Bumbulis said...

@Brent, not sure if this part of the conversation is in the EM podcast. I haven't listened to them, but would guess they'd edit out the more conversational, Q&A stuff...but I'm just guessing.