New World Community
There are some writers I will rush to read even if I have no idea what they are going to give focus. One of these is Ilio Delio, a Franciscan Sister who teaches theology at Villanova University in Philadelphia. I have never met her, although I very much want to do so. As often happens, I “met” her through some friends who do know her.
Delio writes on science and religion in some creative ways. She is a good scientist who is also clearly a woman of faith. Since I am not very conversant with modern science, I rely on someone like her to help me make sense of faith in our contemporary world. In this world we too often are tempted to hold on to an old-fashioned faith that makes no sense in our scientific environment or we ditch religion altogether as old-fashioned and so much rubbish, as the British say. I would like to stay in the middle ground---a person of faith and a scientific believer.
I spotted Delio’s recent article that was entitled, “Politics, Teilhard, and the world’s future.” Most people I know are not very happy with the current political scene in America and neither is Delio. So we have that in common. Most people have no clue who Teilhard is, but I know about him. I have a couple of his books. I wish I knew more, but I know he plays a key role in Delio’s theology.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit who was a paleontologist---that is, a guy who studied old things and old cultures. He spent a significant amount of time in China. Frequently, he was in trouble with Rome for his attempts to show that science and religion dance together. He died in 1955, but not without leaving a significant mark on the Catholic Church. The spirit of Teilhard is carried on in the work of people like Delio---for which I am grateful.
Delio’s article begins with a stated distaste for the state of political life in our country. I share much of this. Everyone knows how divided our country is---nearly ungovernable in some ways. Because of this, one temptation is the dream of the good old days and hope in some real ways we could return to those days. Of course, anyone who is realistic knows this is not going to happen. We live in a different world than the 1950s. Leave it to Beaver is condemned to be nothing more than re-runs on tv. We have evolved from those days.
And evolution is the paradigm (pattern) of our world. This is precisely where Delio introduces her thinking about the future of the world. Listen to her words. “We live in an evolving, unfinished universe, which means the one thing we all share is the future. In Teilhard's view, we must co-create the future together.” This idea of co-creating is crucial to the good possibilities humans can have for themselves and their world. The old American dream of rugged individualism can be set aside for a more spiritual vision of life together---co-created with our neighbors and with God’s guidance. That’s the future work I want to do.
Delio continues, as she cites again Teilhard. “He saw that computer technology would be our most significant evolver in the modern age. The rise of the internet has given way to Google Earth; mass communication, air travel, space travel, and artificial intelligence have all rapidly altered the map of human consciousness in such a radical way that there is no turning back. According to Moore's law, which states that computing power is doubling every two years, evolution is speeding up. As a result, we are evolving at an exponential rate. Not only will we not return to any former halcyon days, but we are heading for greater convergence and complexification of consciousness, whether we want to or not. The question is not "Can we go back?" but "What are we evolving into?"
This is the crucial question for contemporary men and women. Those of us who consider ourselves believers need to give serious thought to this. I think Delio is correct: our world will continue to evolve. The question is whether we can bring our experience of God and God’s guidance into play so that evolution is shaped in significant part of the spiritual aspect?
I pray that people of the Spirit don’t throw up their hands and say, “It doesn’t matter.” I fear people of the Spirit will also be tempted to abdicate their creative role in bringing about a future in the way God would have it. If we abdicate our role in that co-creative bringing of the future, someone else will step in and shape evolution in a way that we won’t like and that God will find displeasing.
I like a line near the end of Delio’s article. It can be our line, too. She says, “We are evolving into a new world community, a new consciousness of being America…” I truly hope this has a significant spiritual flavor to it. The kingdom still can come, but we have to be kingdom-builders for that to happen.