Insurrection or Evolution:  What is Happening in our Midst?

Ilia DelioLast week chaos and anarchy erupted in Washington DC, as protestors scaled the walls and stormed the offices of the U.S. Capitol.  Opposition to the recent election results, fueled by a beleaguered president, a position quietly held by millions of Americans, sparked the protests.  The country was seized with panic, as the seat of the government seem to be out of control.  History was repeating itself–the French revolution, Nazi Germany, the Spanish war, now the U.S. coup– all fueled by power, opposition, righteousness—and—white men.

In the past Europe was the scene of violence; today the United States of America, originally built on principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, now seems like a third world country disguised as a first world power.  Government officials are at war with one another, as some seek to impeach the president or arrest him for sedition.  News media flash scenes of violent protests while economic gaps widen.  Jobs are being lost, businesses are closing, while wealth is increasing for a few, all on top of a lingering pandemic that has swallowed up thousands of lives in silent deaths. We are struggling each day to live with a sense of balance and goodness. Perhaps we should be distributing Prozac with the vaccines.  The truth is, this country is in a state of despair; we are a people desperate for hope, for signs of new life, for a government who puts people before power, for someone who cares.

To think that a new government will cure our ills and restore order, however, is wishful thinking. Anarchy is a mentality fueled by fear, an unbridled will to power in which the mind is captured by its own ideas of righteousness. Anarchists do not go away; they breed corrupt ideas underground and rise up when everyone is asleep or looking in another direction. They are not aliens from another planet; they are in our midst, in our government, communities, churches and schools. They are incendiaries waiting for the right moment to attack.  Unhinged minds, impervious to reason and discussion, are dangerous.

Many anarchists do not see themselves as incendiary protestors but as people of God seeking to defend their country from blacks, gays, marxists and liberals. Anarchy and religion in the U.S. are closely aligned.  When Franklin Graham lamented the loss of America founded by white Protestant men, following the election of Barack Obama, he was speaking about the white male mythology that marks the evangelical mentality. Donald Trump sought to rekindle this mythology by drilling his mantra, “Make America great again,” into the heart of multi-racial America.  To be “great” is to be white, male, protestant and anglo-saxon, in pursuit of progress and wealth.  All non-white persons corrupt the evangelical purity of the saved and must be annihilated.

The political power of evangelical religion in the U.S., both Protestant and Catholic, remains unchallenged.  Behind the power of politics is the power of religion, which has been turned into a weapon of mass destruction.  How did religion become so twisted into idolatrous slogans and ideas?  How did God become Zeus?  One has only to recall the fiery debates on evolution and creationism in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when evangelical Christians rejected evolution and opted for a creation story based on myth, replete with Noah’s ark.  The rejection of evolution affirms the species superiority of the white, male Adam and his descendants.  Women and non-whites are sources of sin.

While the political weaponry of religion is primarily Protestant in the U.S., Catholic evangelicals are not far behind their Protestant brethren.  Efforts to realign theology with evolution have failed to ignite change in the Catholic Church.  Recently I was made aware of an upcoming Vatican conference on technology with Humanity 2.0. (https://humanity2-0.org/2020-forum/) in which top leaders of technology companies come together with Vatican approved theologians and philosophers to discuss how technology is affecting the human person today. The Church has invited leaders from Google, Microsoft, and other vanguard companies to dialogue with Vatican approved scholars on the trajectory of the human person in a technological age.   I thought, how wonderful that the Church is attentive to modern trends in science until I looked at the list of speakers and topics; an agenda clearly in favor of the medieval theology of Thomas Aquinas, which is the official theology of the Church. Even though Teilhard de Chardin was one of the first Catholic writers on the topic of technology and religion, he was nowhere on the radar of the conference.

The Vatican has been sponsoring conferences on current trends in science and technology for years; in some respect, it is one of the most vanguard institutions on modern progress.  So why is theology stuck in a rut?  Reflecting on the Humanity 2.0 conference, it occurred to me that the purpose of the conference is not to change our worldview by integrating science and religion or to see how technology is evolving humanity; rather, it is to validate the positions of each side. The wealthy technocrats retain their power while the Church retains its doctrines, all while engaged in friendly dialogue.

The broken-down and inept political and religious systems of our age do not want to change; they want to be vindicated.   The Church does not want to change its theology by entering into dialogue with scientists and technologists.  Rather it asks, what can we offer you out of our storehouse of treasures?  Similarly, technology instead ask: “How can we consolidate our white male power by working together?” For science, like religion, is a male endeavor of power, a quest to perfect the fallen Adam and attain God-likeness.

The Church does not tolerate novel thinkers.  From the silencing and house arrest of Galileo to the burning of Giordano Bruno, and the placement of Teilhard’s works on the index of forbidden books, the Church controls God-talk. As a consequence, many theologians dismiss Teilhard without ever reading his works. As one theologian said to me, “I could not care less about Teilhard. I have never read him.”  Another young theologian said to me, “once we get beyond your boomer theology we will get back to real theology.” This sleight of hand borne from a narrow mind and a fearful heart is not much different from the evangelical mind of Adamic purity.  Teilhard de Chardin was well aware of his critics but it did not dissuade him from stating that unless Christianity realigns its theology with a world in evolution, religion will fail and so too will all other systems. The God-world relationship is a unity and must be held together to be credible and vital.  Without God, evolution has no real direction.

There are many religious people who have a virus of contempt but do not know they are contagious. They are the silent anarchists who, by their smug intellectualism and inflated opinions, are unraveling the threads of humanity in the name of God-fearing faith. Anarchist mentality is all around us. Every person who vindicates a self-righteous position is an anarchist.  I would suggest that the only persons who should enter into dialogue today are the poor, the humble, the lowly, the open-hearted, the pure of heart and the mystics; those who are willing to see things in a new way and can cross over in dialogue to see the world from another perspective.  All others entrenched in their certifiable opinions are anarchists-in-the making.

I should like to have confidence in our elected leaders as well as our religious leaders, but the fact is, our government infrastructure is rickety and brittle, and institutional religion is riddled with corruption, as shown in the latest sexual abuse crisis.  Neither system can sustain the evolving complexities of the global world.  Unless these systems get on board with evolution and process reality, we will face dire consequences.

So what do we do?  We the people can feel small and inconsequential in the face of these massive, patriarchal systems of power but the truth is, we make a difference as to how these systems progress.  We must trust the power of God within and act from this center of faith; dare to think differently and act according to an integrity of thought.  But we must also wildly create and imagine a new world. The protective shell of the individual is deadly.  We are to love without conditions and forgive over and over again; we are to be merciful.  Keeping the door of the heart open to the suffering of others and letting the heart be a womb of mercy is salvific.  The whole process of evolution is cruciform in nature, a suffering through the fragile limits of unfinished life towards wholeness.  If we suffer well, we shall triumph in new life.

Teilhard saw the implications of static religion and failed politics in a world of change.  He died alone and in exile because his ideas were rejected by the Church, but his vision can realign the world toward a planetary humanity bound in love.  He asked us to remain steadfast in the Spirit of love, the Spirit who groans in the birthpangs of labor, birthing a new reality (cf. Rom 8:22) a reality that is always emerging, as Teilhard reminded us, eppur si muove, we are moving!  In the present moment, we see insurrection and destruction, but the truth is, we are in evolution.

 

 

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29 Comments

  1. Maile on May 3, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you, Ilia, for this profound and pertinent analysis of the maelstrom (malestrom?!) we are experiencing at this time. A time, as your writings have persuaded me, of great shifting. This piece expresses many things I am thinking and feeling in such a beautiful way, and it also offers hope.
    The one thing I am uncomfortable with is the use of the term “anarchists” to describe the rioters and fundamentalists. Although the word anarchy is used in a generic sense to mean chaos, anarchist today often refers to a revolutionary movement that in many ways is quite similar (I hope you don’t mind my saying) to the (r)evolution you call for in your writings, including in this piece. Anarchists are critical of the same institutions and powers you criticize (wealthy technocrats, patriarchy, for example); they stand in active solidarity with the poor, humble, lowly. That, in the minds of many, is the “Anarchist mentality.” Not what happened on Jan. 6. Anarchists are opposed to fascists, which, as one reader pointed out, is really who the rioters were. And in France, Teilhard de Chardin is one of the few Christian thinkers with whom anarchists (they wouldn’t capitalize it) are able to find any affinity.
    Although anarchist in general can refer to anyone creating disorder, using it to refer to fascists creates what I feel is a dangerous confusion because many people will then tend to equate anarchists with fascists, when in fact they are two mentalities that are vehemently opposed to each other. Trump tried to create confusion around the antifa movement, which is of course anti-fascist. In your writings you speak of disorder/chaos as necessary to open and emergent systems. That is the kind of disorder anarchists also find necessary (at least in theory).
    Except for the discomfort I felt with this term, I was thrilled to read your blunt but inspiring analysis of the situation. Your words and works are so valuable and, more than ever, vital for the shifting process we are undergoing today.



  2. Joe Masterleo on April 12, 2021 at 9:17 am

    A particular religious denomination may, as a matter of convention and/or policy, decide on strict gender assigned roles. Notwithstanding, while any denomination may choose to do so, it can claim no legitimate biblical basis or precedent for same. A careful review of Old and New Testament Scripture indicates that the spiritual gift of prophecy was given to both genders. Many people misunderstand the gift of prophecy as the ability to predict the future, which is only one aspect of its meaning. In the main, the prophetic gift means to “speak forth or to declare the divine will, to interpret the purposes of God, or to make known in any way the truth of God which is designed to influence people.” While the most well-known Hebrew prophets are presumably male, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel, the Bible also contains little-known but powerful women prophets such as Deborah (Judges 4:4-5), Huldah (2 Kings 22), and Anna (mentioned in Luke 2:26). Hence, wisdom would dictate that one best avoids saying “always” and “never” in predicting who is to be the odds-on-favorite to be so gifted. Reviewing biblical history accurately appears to render the current argument against opening ecclesial offices to women a specious one, and therefore null and void. Separation consciousness is the great divide and disorder that has plagued human thought and the Church from time immemorial. “What God joins together let no man separate” (Matt.19:6).



  3. Kay Jackson on April 12, 2021 at 8:14 am

    I left mainstream Catholicism years ago. A “”cradle Catholic”for nearly 40 years, I now identify as Christopagan. (Celtic Christian -Wiccan) Why? For all the reasons so eloquently delineated by Ilia.

    What started as white, male, protestant, affluent men has grown to include the submissive wives who believe their roles of submission to their husband in all things, staying bound to lesser role and position in home and society is “the way to go”. What all do not realize is the blindness with which they fumble through each day. The disasters they leave behind and the sheer ignorance of every act and word. It has been happening since the first European set out foot on America and will continue until there are drastic DNA changes.

    As for the Church – Catholic, protestant, nearly any institutionalized religion, once the patriarchal hierarchy is in place it will stay in place – POWER BREEDS POWER! Nothing will be said to awaken and enlighten the people which may topple the power structure. THAT is the obstacle we are facing



  4. James Michael Philipps on January 16, 2021 at 10:36 am

    My heart has been broken by the hierarchy of the Church so many times and in so many ways. But when Cardinal Dolan here in the Archdiocese of New York preached from the pulpit – on Easter Sunday no less- about what an “effective leader” President Trump is….well……something deep within me broke. I caught a glimpse of just how deeply that white male supremacy runs in the Church. Better to support a hollowed out blasphemer who mocks both God and man then to stand with Christ’s people.



  5. Joe Masterleo on January 15, 2021 at 7:28 am

    The thinking envelope of the planet calls for a new story, which necessarily includes an integral theology. An effective integral theology must necessarily be comprehensive (catholic, small “c”) and reconcile all disciplines, bar none. Most important, an integral view of divinity must balance yin and yang, masculine and feminine dimensions of Go in its spirit, expressions, thought and leadership, as divinity is a living expression of both, per se, and in creation (seen Gen. 1:26). The sacred feminine, while on the integral consciousness at all levels, has historically been grossly under represented in western views of God, and the Church. By and large, such has been but one critical omission that has made the modern institutional church a caricature of God, and itself. Through honoring the sacred feminine we find natural access to spiritual qualities like receptivity, patience, the ability to listen, care for life, and the relational elements like nurturing, connecting matter and spirit, and reconnecting the created world with its soul. Such is not bound to gender, but has been downplayed in a patriarchal world, one largely of white male privilege (board room, war room, locker room) and the ecclesial structures of organized churchianity for millennia. In a post-modern future-looking era, women have a role in claiming and furthering that integral notion, indispensable to church reform, the healing and transforming of human consciousness, and with it the world. To deny same is to deny the creative, recreative and relational dimensions of God. As half truths are whole lies, so is divinity halved.



  6. John Dinges on January 14, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Teilhard has been my north star since the Sixties. Realigning Theology based on evolution is a daunting but necessary task. So Ilia’s writings have given me hope. But there is a but: singling out whiteness and maleness as somehow less human or more inclined to evil is a dangerous “error” and most certainly a contradiction of Teilhard’s insights. I have noticed this before and I hope it does not become a part of Christogenisis “orthodoxy”. Error and orthodoxy, I realize, are terms from dogmatic thinking. Perhaps someone can suggest a better way to call attention of statements that are incompatible with a realigned Theology.



    • Ilia Delio on January 14, 2021 at 9:12 pm

      John, thanks for your comment but your statement -“singling out whiteness and maleness as somehow less human or more inclined to evil is a dangerous “error” and most certainly a contradiction of Teilhard’s insights” leads me to suggest that you misread the text. Whiteness and maleness per se are not the issue; however, divinization and patriarchy are and were spawned in Europe before making their way to the U.S. The notion of the white male subject is a particular reading of the Western male, the Vitruvian man, the descendent of Adam, all notions of a “mindset” [not an ontology] that has its roots in Christianity. To get a deeper understanding of the issues at hand please read David Noble’s book, The Religion of Technology and the Spirit of Invention, and Joel Dinerstein’s article, “Technology and Its Discontents: On the Verge of the Posthuman” (American Quarterly, 58.3, September, 2006). Teilhard would be quite at home with these ideas. He was well aware of how narrow religion had become. He did not use the language of patriarchy but his rejection of it is within his writings, highlighted by his focus on the eternal feminine. And of course, he rejected the myth of Adam and the doctrine of original sin.
      The way you frame your comment tells me a lot of where you stand. A Teilhardian, “feminine” approach, that is, one based on deep relationality is not a certified opinion, but an open perspective, offered perhaps with a question, inviting dialogue. I hope we can pursue this direction.



  7. Jim Ryan on January 13, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    I agree that anarchists is misused here. What we viewed on January 6 and for the last 4 years is a fascist movement searching to exalt its glorious leader. This article, while laudable as an effort to take a long view, appears to make the argument that insurrection is just one step along the way of the historical inevitability of evolution.
    If Sr. Ilia wanted to grouse about Vatican bureaucrats and conservative theologians who are not enamored with Teilhard she should not have buried the lead.



    • Ilia Delio on January 14, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      Jim – Just to be clear, the word anarchy is not used here in a political sense of without government, order or control but in a general sense of chaos and disorder (From the Oxford English dictionary: “The word “anarchism” is from the Greek αναρχία, which means “without rulers”, not “without rule”; In the common language, the word anarchy is often used to describe chaos or anomie.”) For a brief moment, as the walls of the Capitol were overrun, there was no ruler in so far as the chaos was being incited by the ruler himself. A “mentality of anarchy” is another way of speaking about the fragmented individual, where the self’s will to power transcends the power of the rule. Such a mentality lurks in modern culture.



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