Guest lecture "Speaking of God in a Time of Crisis: Religion as Ground Zero" by Christopher Brittain, October 10th, 2016

Not long after the terrible earthquakes and tsunamis that shook Japan in March 2011, the mayor of Tōkyō made a public statement in which he said that, because "Japanese politics is tainted with egoism", a tsunami had been needed "to wipe out egoism". He thus described the disaster as "divine punishment". As such, this political leader repeated a pattern frequently repeated in the wake of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other human tragedy. Such examples highlight the perils of reading meaning into situations of human suffering, as well as of speaking of God in an age when many suspect that religion is inherently violent. The lecture explored the work of theologians and philosophers, who had wrestled with that challenge, including Karl Barth, Emil Fackenheim, Johann Baptist Metz, Rowan Williams and Theodor W. Adorno. The discussion analysed ways to display some similar sensitivities to the problem in the theological speech of those thinkers, and how each of them offered instructive warnings to consider when speaking of God in delicate and critical situations.