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Martin O'Malley and the Hidden God

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I never post on Tuesday. This week, though, I think I'll make an exception.

As was widely expected, Governor Martin O'Malley has come in third in a three-candidate field in the Iowa caucus, part of the Democratic Party's primary campaign for its Presidential nomination. Worse, he received in essence no support and suspended his campaign before the votes had been counted.

I spare O'Malley a moment of thought today because of a brief remark he made during the "town hall" meeting that the three candidates for that nomination held, in as non-debate-like a format as could be arranged, one week before the caucus.

If I heard him right, O'Malley said that the difficulties faced by a progressive political agenda in the United States today are "the hidden God's way of letting us know the job is important." I hope I heard that correctly because it is a fascinating expression. One doesn't hear a politician use the phrase "the hidden God" very often.

The phrase has a tangled history involving Blaise Pascal in the 17th century, Karl Barth in the early 20th, Lucien Goldman and Martin Luther King Jr. in the mid 20th.

Theologians and philosophers who spoke of the "hidden God" meant that God's transcendence is logically prior to His immanence, and that his Utter Otherness renders him incomprehensible to humans. Attempts to comprehend Him, to get behind His hiding place in Infinity, are folly.

In 1952 Martin Luther King wrote a paper on Barth's conception of God, which you can find online here.  It consists largely of King's statement of his own view that God is very much immanent in His workings within this world, and can be understood as such.

I love the thought that O'Malley knows something of that history and briefly referenced it in the course of a campaign that he by then must have known was doomed. Presumably in context it means, "God cannot come out and explain why He makes these things so difficult, because for His mysterious reasons He is in hiding, but it is a reasonable inference that He wants us to understand the importance of the job."

Not exactly Pascal or Barth, but it was still great to hear the unexpected.

O'Malley will presumably be looking for that hidden God for guidance as he considers his next career steps. Good luck to him.


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