Today’s edition of The Guardian had a lead article about how the religious right is fueling the decline of religion in America. I think that’s true but it goes deeper than that. While observing the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and listening to the readings from Genesis about how God created the world in seven days I was struck by how out of touch these readings are with what we know from modern science. I love the vigil service and always have because there is something very mystical and wonderful about it. Nonetheless, how can the church and Christendom in general still cling to a world view that clearly ancient.
Last fall I took a course at a local Christian college via Zoom. The focus of the course was on science and the Bible. The professor did a good job of not interjecting his own thinking and inviting our own nevertheless many of my classmates clung to the traditional interpretation of the creation story. This winter I took another online course where read about the creation story from an indigenous people in North America. I actually liked their story better as it envisioned the creator of the world as more feminine. That creation story is viewed as primitive in Christian circles while the biblical creation story is viewed as inerrant as it comes from the Bible. Mythologized history can be beautiful as the story of Genesis is and so too the story of Skywoman falling to earth.
Just this week I read, This is How it Always is, and was struck by our primitive and savage reactions to people who identify as LGBTQ+. There are some who identify as Christians in this country that continue to persecute and condemn on the basis of their religious beliefs. These folks seek to impose this narrow world view on the rest of us. While reading the book I was shocked to learn that forty-percent of those folks who identify as transgender commit suicide. How can anyone who calls themselves pro-life countenance this tragedy.
It’s not surprising then that millennials are leaving or disregarding religion and choosing to follow their own hearts. one of my favorite quotes from Karl Rahner is, “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.” Mystics follow their hearts. They’re not bogged down by dogma. I don’t see creative force of universe as exclusive. God or if you will the higher power created everything and everyone. I try to respect all creation even that which I cannot understand. Considering a different creation story based on quantum physics and a continually expanding evolution of consciousness hasn’t stifled my belief in God. On the contrary these thoughts have encouraged me to consider the evolution of consciousness and the continued evolution of the creative force that spawns it.
“What Christianity requires now, especially in view of developments in science, is not “no God,” as scientific naturalists propose, but a “new God,” as Teilhard provocatively announces”
— From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe by Ilia Delio, OSF
Up until now I’ve been trying to reconcile what Teilhard and Ilia have written with the old cosmology. But today the scales fell from my eyes. God is evolving and so is the universe. It makes perfect sense. The Garden of Eden never existed or not as the idyllic we have made it. I’ve known for some time that the Bible is full of wisdom stories. I’ve heard fundamentalists exclaim that the word of God is inerrant and that the Bible is to be taken literally. But after reading Leviticus one soon realizes that no one in their right mind would dream of observing some of what is written there. The dietary laws may have made perfect sense when they were written but not anymore.
The treatment of women is just plain backward and fundamentalists today perpetuate such practices because they are looking backward and trying to put new wine in old wineskins. We live in an evolving world where the role of women and men are changing. Religion and in my own case Roman Catholicism is too rigid. It must be redefined or it will become a minor sect. Priests must be allowed to marry. Women must be ordained. I am reminded frequently of Karl Rahner’s quote, “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic or nothing at all.”
What does this new God look like? How are we called to live?
“Teilhard prophetically anticipated that human evolution would not take place without sideways forces of resistance and devolution, but he also saw that we would reach a decisive point of choosing either to evolve or to annihilate. We can destroy this world and ourselves in the process. We have the power to do so both in the form of weapons of mass destruction and the weapons of anger and hate.”
— A Hunger for Wholeness: Soul, Space, and Transcendence by Ilia Delio, OSF
The coronavirus maybe the agent of a new order. We can see the older order driven by fear, so called free market capitalism, xenophobia and ignorance flailing madly about trying to preserve the status quo in which the ultra-rich have benefitted. Covid-19 is deadly and only those who heed the directives to shelter in place are going to avoid its ravages. Maybe even those of us who are wearing masks, physically distancing, washing our hands religiously are still in danger.
I don’t think we are ever going back to the “way it was.” This pandemic is a prophetic moment and a warning. What happens in our community can have a global impact. We can chose to evolve or annihilate. The established order wants to maintain what was but that will never be and they are fighting tooth and nail to hold on. There is a new order emerging and who knows exactly how it will manifest. We are evolving. How will that order manifest?