Last 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.