I recently read an interview with Ilia Delio, OSF, author of 11 books, and “American theologian specializing in the area of science and religion, with interests in evolution, physics and neuroscience and the import of these for theology.”
The interview was in an article I read in preparation for a meeting. “Seeing Christianity as a Religion of Evolution & the Implications for Religious Life” offers implications for people not in religious life, too. It also challenges some of the current context of Christianity.
Delio draws on the theology of Teilhard de Chardin and talks about Christianity as a religion of evolution. She writes, “The Christian life is meant to be a forward-moving life. In the Gospels, we have Jesus saying that those who put their hand to the plow and look back are not for the reign of God.” She goes on to say that “The Gospels are about reconciliation and whole-making but Christianity has become divisive and, at times, corrosive. I think Christians need to stop fighting over who is right and wrong and end the polarities and name-calling.”
Delio wrote the article in 2012. Today, we are living in a time of increasing polarization, even among people who call themselves Christians. Many of us, myself included, are prone to proclaim we know what is true and what is best and we may stoop to using less than dignity-affirming language to refer to those with whom we disagree.
How can we practice reconciliation and whole-making in this context of amplified fracture-making?
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13:13
How can we remember that love is greater than faith and hope? Our current cultural context pushes us toward faith, though perhaps not faith in God, but rather faith in money or might or our version of the truth. When we choose faith before love, we may get caught up in a sense of self-righteousness. Our current cultural context doesn’t urge us toward hope, yet we may still be drawn to a hope that is more like a shallow optimism. When we choose hope before love, we may lose sight of our responsibility to participate with God in the process of whole-making. When we choose love first and foremost, we are called to listen to the truth offered us in every encounter, we are called to tend to others and ourselves, we are called to recognize our interconnectedness.
“What are the greater wholes we are moving into?” Delio asks. She responds, “The new pluralities of culture demand new ways of uniting, new ways of community. These pluralities include ethnic and religious diversity, gender diversity, spiritual diversity.”
When love is our guiding principle, love invites us into the vulnerable work of opening our hearts and expanding our understanding and practice of community. Delio writes, “There is need to care for the earth itself, as well as the poor, the marginalized, and those excluded from the center.” Love calls us into our own deepest center and then asks us to open that center to others, especially those who’ve been left out.
Delio goes on to offer this reminder, “But Christianity was never intended to be a problem-solver.”
Christianity was never intended to be a problem-solver. Love doesn’t ask us to fix things or people. Love asks us to love, expansively, freely, whole-heartedly. Love asks us to be in relationship with other people and with all of Creation, even when those relationships offer no strategic outcomes.
Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.
If we wish to practice the evolutionary Christianity Delio describes, we must root ourselves in the fertile soil of love. We must be the fertile soil of love. Grounded in love, we find the seeds of our faith. Grounded in love, hope sprouts. Awaiting joyfully the fruits of our love labor, we may find ourselves sacrificing and even suffering as we patiently tend the soil and cultivate the seeds planted. From it may we harvest reconciliation. From it may our heart work yield wholeness.