Skip to main content

Bill Hamilton Death of God Theologian Revisited

Update of an Article Written in 2008 when Hamilton was 83
Religion News Service | Faith | Leaders & Institutions | William Hamilton, 
who said `God is Dead,’ dies at 87 http://buff.ly/QhYhUQ
I want to make three points, based on a brief friendship with Bill Hamilton 
and a significant encounter that was my last personal memory of him.
1. I went to Rochester in early 1965 to write an article on FIGHT, the community organization Saul Alinsky had helped to create in the wake of 1964 rioting in the city. Bill Hamilton kindly took me in and put me up. I wrote a piece for Christianity and Crisis (a defunct journal founded by John Bennett and Reinhold Niebuhr. whose archives should be made available online). It earned me a nasty editorial in the Rochester Gannett newspaper -- no archive exists that I can find. In any case Bill was a great host and helped me to meet the folk who contributed to the article.
2. The last night I was there I had the incredible experience of meeting Malcolm X who was speaking at a Colgate-Rochester Seminary event. Bill was on the faculty. Richard Prince describes Malcolm's visit to Rochester in the following paragraph:
"Newport, now an urban planner in the San Francisco area and a former Berkeley mayor, accompanied a 'rough, disheveled' marked-for-death Malcolm from New York City to Rochester, N.Y., on Feb. 16, 1965, five days before Malcolm was killed."
But my recollection is that he was composed and at ease. He had returned from Mecca and in his speech he imparted the serenity he felt when he had been caught in the race-transcending atmosphere of his pilgrimage.
Prior to his speech, we were in a small anteroom off the main seating area. I went up to Malcolm and asked him what book he had read lately that impressed him. He responded that he had been reading Lerone Bennett's The Negro Mood. I remember thinking, This is not a hostile human being, this is a straight-forward, inquiring and admirable person. I have always thought of Malcolm as the full equal if not in some respects the surpasser of Martin Luther King, Jr., who I also had the chance to meet and interview in Birmingham, in 1963, the day after his brother A. D. King's house (and the Gaston Motel) were bombed.
3. In 1968 Bill Hamilton and I were among the attendees at the Gallahue Symposium on Next Steps for the Church and Theology. I was one of the presenters since I had been actively promoting a structural option for the renewal of the church -- namely the proposals in my book The Grass Roots Church. Bishop John A. T. Robinson was among the participants and I noticed that Bill Hamilton was quite impressed with him. I jokingly said that perhaps someday Bill would be a Bishop -- hardly likely given the fact that he and Tom Altizer were the celebrated proponents of the death of God.
Bill's response to me was somewhat arch. "Maybe someday Steve, you'll be a theologian."
Well, I think he was being prophetic as I think the intervening years have enabled me to hammer out what I believe the be the beginnings of a viable theology for the future. It is a theology that can move past the death of God to the understandings that are explicit and implicit in the writings here -- namely that Jesus was introducing us to the God who has always been at hand, whose existence beyond our own perceptions and experience is a complete mystery.
A theology that eschews metaphysics and builds on a reappropriation of the Gospel narratives is to me the best way beyond the necessary but hardly final "death of god" theologies of the 1960s.


Stephen's Remarkable Kindle Store
Appalachian Blue My first commercial recording in Nashville - 
Demo by Shauna Lee
 – Appalachian Blue
On Spotify

Popular posts from this blog

Etc.

"Sto Perigiali" One of the Surpassingly Best Tunes Theodorakis Has Written

A Setting for a Poem "Denial" Beloved by the Greek People by the Nobel Prize Winning Poet Giorgos Seferis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhk0ckaCxDI
The remarkable video at the link above is of a performance of "Sto perigiali" Mario Frangoulis and Mikis Theodorakis in 2001.

Frangoulis and Theodorakis are joined by musicians, including two bouzouki players, and a very large audience that is completely familiar with the words. The audience joins in at Frangoulis' prompt.

This is my very favorite Theodorakis melody. Those who know Theodorakis only for his "Zorba" music are in for a treat. When I was in Athens in 1966, for a short period of study with Constantinos Doxiadis, I knew nothing of Theodorakis. But about five years later, my friend Irene Vassos sang "Sto perigiali" to us. I have never gotten the tune out of my mind.

Later, when Irene joined our group to form a travelling company performing "New Rain", I learned to pick out a …

Stephen C. Rose Bio

Stephen C. Rose (1936-) was born in New York City and raised there. He currently lives there. He was educated at Trinity, Exeter, Williams and Union Theological Seminary. He served in the Student Interracial Ministry in Nashville. He founded and edited the prize-winning Renewal Magazine in Chicago and studied with C. A. Doxiadis in Athens. His first books "The Grass Roots Church" and "Who's Killing The Church" established him as a prominent critic of American Protestantism and American religion. He was and remains a civil rights activist. He has interviewed and done in depth pieces on Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King, Jr. He won awards for editorial courage and for two documentary films. He has written and published many songs and musical works including "We Are All Americans". During the late 90s and early 2000s he worked for UN agencies, most recently editing CHOICES Magazine at UNDP. Since 2000 he has written several books for distribution via K…