Evolutionary Thoughts: Kingdom Come

God’s presence in our history and in the evolution of creation at large is that of a Spirit-power, wisely shaping and forming the inter-connected web of relationships that holds everything in being.  The divine is first and foremost a wisdom-force, forging unceasingly the relationships that sustain and enhance life.  In our Christian story, that relational process is encapsulated in the concept of the new reign of God, traditionally described as the “kingdom of God.”

The wisdom that imbues the sacred writings of many great religions, the wisdom that Christians perceive to be embodied uniquely in Jesus of Nazareth, is that same wisdom that gave birth to stars, pulsars, planets, and people.  Although I have drawn mainly on the Christian story, I want to acknowledge that the wisdom story is bigger than Christianity and indeed exceeds in grandeur and elegance all the insights of the great religions.  It is the prodigiously creative energy of being and becoming.  It is the heartbeat of the evolutionary story in its elegant, timeless, and eternal unfolding.

Evolutionary theology requires us to honor the big picture where God in time begins prior to the evolution of the major religions as we know them today.  The wise and holy God was at work for billions of years before religious consciousness began to develop.  And that same creative wisdom will continue to beget radically new possibilities, forever defying and challenging the outstanding theories and inventions of the human mind.

Diarmuid O’Murchu, Evolutionary Faith, p.72

The Erotic Spirit

The first week of spring has felt more like the first week of summer in New York.  We’ve had temperatures in the 80s most days.  This is unheard of in a land where I’ve preached Easter sermons under a blanket of snow.

I’ve come to love spring over the last ten years or so.  It started when I was living in Vancouver, where spring’s arrival is loudly announced by the explosion of cherry blossoms and the rhododendrons just outside my apartment window.  The combined effect is like floral fireworks.

Flowers aren’t the only things popping out either.  I’ve noticed that, as human beings emerge from hibernation, they have some kind of instinctual urge to get out of their clothes in public.  They do it while jogging, sunning, or going to class.

I like to say, “It’s mating season for the earthbound human!”  I stole and adapted that phrase from a movie in the 90s.  While sometimes annoying, this tendency never fails to be entertaining.

Earlier this week, the weather being what it is, I decided to take my work out of the office to the lake.  Grading papers, prepping for next week’s lectures, and quietly meditating.  Not normally sexually charged activities.  I was rather surprised to find, on a weekday afternoon, our wannabe naturists already out in force with all the coy subtlety of Britney Spears’ famous claims to virginity.

In years past, I probably would have stormed off in a self-righteous huff, annoyed at the distractions while I was trying to get work done or “be spiritual” (whatever the hell that means).  It reminds me of something Rich Mullins said (I think he stole it from Tony Campolo).  I paraphrase:

“If you’re a [straight] guy on a beach and a young woman walks by in a bikini and that doesn’t do something for you, that doesn’t mean you’re spiritual.  It means you’re dead.”

So, in the interest of (a.) reminding myself that I’m not dead and (b.) liberating myself from old habits of belief and behavior, I decided to stay where I was and see if it was possible to be spiritual and sexual at the same time.  To many out there, this will probably come across as rather basic, but it’s still a new concept for me, thanks to my previously disembodied (my seminary prof, Loren Wilkinson, would call it gnostic) orientation toward all things theological.

What I discovered in that moment was happily surprising.  I began to recall particular prayers of thanksgiving from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.  In one prayer, we express gratitude for “All beauty that delights us…” and in another, “The treasure stored in every human life…”

I began thinking about the Greek word Eros.  It’s one of several words that sometimes gets translated as Love.  It’s where we get the English word Erotic.  Eros is romantic love, desire, and attraction.  Matthew Fox and Diarmuid O’Murchu, who have written on this subject far more than me, like to emphasize Eros as creative love.  It simultaneously includes and transcends animal lust.  I’m currently coming to believe that lust is neither foreign nor antithetical to love unless the two are deliberately divorced in the name of either licentious selfishness or “purity” (which can become a form of religiously legitimated selfishness).

I found myself saying prayers of gratitude for that indefinable magnetism that draws human beings together.  It drives us to know one another fully.  No other single psychic factor is so motivating.  We yearn for intimacy, not only in our minds and spirits, but in our bodies as well.

The coming together of human beings (in the lab, studio, classroom, boardroom, or bedroom) is inherently life-giving and creative.  It’s also complex, tricky, messy, and requires lots of skill and commitment in order to be fulfilling in the long-term.  I pray that we would learn how to honor the meaning of our connections with each other so that we might sustain the beauty we have created.  In this sense, all of life is as erotic as it is spiritual.

As my time of meditation at the lake came to a close, I surveyed the trees, the water, and the hills of the earth around me.  I thought about the Jewish creation myth depicted in the first chapter of Genesis.  Delirious in the pulsating and passionate throes of creation’s rhythm, God cries out repeatedly in climactic pleasure, “It’s good!  It’s good!  It’s SO good!”

Evolutionary Thoughts: Creed

I’ve been enjoying a book by the Irish Catholic priest Diarmuid O’Murchu called Evolutionary Faith: Rediscovering God in our Great Story (Orbis: 2002).

O’Murchu is an innovative mystic with a poet’s heart.  Neither his theology nor his science are very orthodox.  He kind of picks and chooses what he likes from both.  Of course, if we’re honest, every single one of us would have to admit that we do the same.

More inspiring than informative, this book has really had my wheels turning lately.  I’m going to start posting some fascinating snippets on this blog.  I really don’t care if you’re not impressed with him (I’m not always) or if you don’t agree with him (I don’t always).  He’s introduced me to some new ideas and authors that are quite fun and interesting.

Think of this as the jungle-gym on the playground of ideas.  The following is from the book (p.2-3):

My Evolutionary Creed

  • I believe in the creative energy of the divine, erupting with unimaginable exuberance, transforming the seething vacuum into a whirlwind of zest and flow.
  • I believe in the divine imprint as it manifests itself in swirling vortexes and particle formations, birthing forth atoms and galaxies.
  • I believe in the providential outburst of supernovas and in the absorbing potential of black holes.
  • I believe in the gift of agelessness, those billions of formative aeons in which the paradox of creation and destruction unfolds into the shapes and patterns of the observable universe.
  • I believe in the holy energy that begot material form and biological life in ancient bacterial forms and in the amazing array of living creatures.
  • I believe in the incarnation of the divine in the human soul, initially activated in Africa over four million years ago.
  • I believe in the “I Am Who I Am,” uttered across the aeons, pulsating incessantly throughout the whole of creation and begetting possibilities that the human mind can only vaguely imagine at this time.
  • As a beneficiary of the Christian tradition, I believe in the power of the new reign of God, embodied and proclaimed in the life of Jesus and offered unconditionally for the liberation of all life-forms.

Last summer, I also enjoyed reading Prayers to an Evolutionary God (Skylight Paths: 2004), a daily devotional by William Cleary based on Evolutionary Faith.  You can order both books on Amazon.com by clicking on the image: