My argument in these last few posts is simple to state and hard to live: God’s Kingdom is non-Darwinian.
What I mean by “Darwinian” is a way of picturing, thinking and living that understands life as primarily or solely a constant struggle to survive. Humans are by nature vulnerable creatures who desire above all else to live and not die. The world is seen as a place of scarcity: there isn’t enough food, water, time, opportunity, safety, money or any of the resources needed to sustain life for everyone. There isn’t enough for everyone, just for some, and the way the life resources are allocated is through a competitive battle to survive. Thomas Hobbes, anticipating Darwin by around two centuries, characterized human life as “the war of all against all.”
While certain kinds of competition can be healthy and very beneficial, the reduction of life to a relentless competitive struggle to survive, to “win,” to be always and only “strong” but never “weak” is not a recipe for human flourishing, either for individuals or for communities. We humans are vulnerable to all the mortal shocks that flesh is heir to; we are designed for interdependence and community as well as for individual growth and achievement. As the ancient wisdom found in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, puts it, “It is not good for humans to be alone.”
So I think our modern world has constituted itself along Darwinian lines. Wherever we happened to live, we live within the Kingdom of Darwin. As we’re fond of saying, “when push comes to shove” this-and-so is what will happen. What we mean is that life will always and inevitably come down to “push coming to shove,” and when it does, the strongest “pushers” will prevail; only the shovers survive! Darwinian rules rule.
Jesus announced a very different kind of “kingdom,” a very different way of being and living, something he called the kingdom of God. One of the most striking features of this kingdom is that it is non-Darwinian. At the very heart of this kingdom of God, at the very heart of what Christians call the Gospel, the “good news,” there is a crucified man, what the Bible’s last book, Revelation, calls “the slaughtered Lamb.” So the very essence of God’s kingdom is the least “competitive” image imaginable: Jesus crucified. There is no “competence,” no dominance, no overpowering strength, no surviving of the fittest; the Cross embodies “loserhood” not “winnerhood.”
And God raised Jesus from the dead. A Darwinian world acknowledges Death as the final reality and ruler. The Good News calls a different world into being. Once Death’s ultimacy is defeated and undone, a Darwinian world begins to unravel. There is place and space in God’s kingdom, abundant place and space, for the weak, the small, the least, and the lost, as well as for the strong, the secure, the powerful. There is this place and space especially for the “least” because that is ultimately who we all are: numbered among the littlest, the least, the last and the lost.
Jesus said that the basic orientation of God’s kingdom is “Love!” not “Survive!” Jesus was clear and specific: we are to love God with all that we are and have, and we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including neighbors who position themselves as enemies. Jesus is neither a 60s-era hippie nor a twenty-first century “spiritual but not religious” therapist. He is a complete and total realist when it comes to human nature, but even more a complete and total realist when it comes to who God is and how God works. God works through death and resurrection, not Darwinian mechanisms of survival.
The scarcity-consciousness that is at the heart of a Darwinian way of life at first seems obvious and undeniable. There aren’t enough diamonds for everyone who might want a couple, so markets manage the supply-and-demand dynamics. There isn’t enough money or food or safety for “everyone,” so what better way to allocate precious and scarce resources than by competition: winners win, losers lose.
God’s Kingdom reframes how we think about “scarcity.” Maybe the fundamental, most critical scarcity is not scarcity of time, treasure, and talents, or of food, water and shelter, or of opportunity, fairness or justice. Maybe the real scarcity, the scarcity that turns the world Darwinian, is the scarcity of love. If love were abundant, overflowingly abundant, we might well discover that there is enough of everything for everyone.
The explosive truth of the Gospel is this: the only infinitely renewable resource in the cosmos is love.
Love is not infinitely renewable on a merely human plane. If you’re like me, your “love” is constantly running out of gas, many times in a single day! But God is love, and God is unlimited, so there is a love available to us that is infinitely renewable: God’s love.
But God’s love is precisely and emphatically love, not a product we can purchase or a technique we can master to ensure our success and survival or a quality we can “possess” and control. It is a love that embraces the cross for the sake of others rather than requiring others to die for the sake of me. It is a love that calls and invites us into living relationship with God and with our neighbors. Neither God nor neighbor can be used as a means to my ends. Love is renewed as it is freely given. God’s infinitely renewable love does not operate according to buying and selling, according to earning and deserving; it operates by giving and receiving, by death and resurrection.
Love embraces risk, risk that terrifies a Darwinian world. But once we know that Jesus has defeated Death, how much of a risk is it really?