Every year we preachers eagerly look for help with the daunting challenge of preparing an Easter sermon. Never are we as acutely aware of our own limitations, intellectual and spiritual, as when we try to find words to express the reality that a dead man didn’t remain dead.
Criminal violence, like the murder of a retired Presbyterian missionary and her daughter during a carjacking in Kenya, is claiming many more lives than warfare, lamented Samuel Kobia, the head of the World Council of Churches.
Religion may be killing us. The good news is that in our post-9/11 world there is a widespread concern about religion and violence. A December 2003 Minnesota poll, for example, showed that 77 percent of respondents attributed a fair amount of the cause of the world’s wars and conflicts to religion.
Many intellectuals associate religion—and Christianity in particular—with violence. Hence they argue that the less religion we have the better off we will be. In an article in the Atlantic, for example, Jonathan Rauch argues that the greatest development in modern religion is “apatheism”—a sense of not caring one way or the other whether God exists.
Recently, in a class titled “Theology and Trauma Theory,” we read the text that catapulted Karl Barth to theological fame: Epistle to the Romans, written shortly after World War I. In the light of current events, what resonated with some of us was Barth’s critique of religion. Religion is not the solemn music that accompanies all the noblest human experiences, argued Barth.