Whilst watching “Apologia” at London’s Trafalgar Studios earlier this week, I was struck not only by the frequent and deliberate use of religion in the dialogue, but also by a particular part of one of the closing scenes. Whilst in conversation with her son’s girlfriend, Kristin (Stockard Channing) confirms that her books are ordered chronologically and this is because deep down she identifies as an optimist, hopeful that humanity is indeed evolving into something better.
Such sentiments can sometimes seem a little foolhardy to those of us who profess to be well-practiced cynics. Perhaps we might see some improvements in the general wellbeing of those who inhabit this spinning ball of blue, but generally doesn’t it feel like things are getting worse, not better?
As an avid Trekkie, I’m nervously awaiting the arrival of the first aliens to make contact with humanity in the year 2063. Nervous because, apparently, we first have to endure years of nuclear war and the almost entire decimation of planet Earth and her inhabitants, human and otherwise. Regardless of whether first contact with the Vulcans is on the cards or not, history does tend to point towards things first needing to get catastrophically bad before they can get better, and it rarely gets better for everyone at the same time.
Whilst the conflicts of the 20th Century brought to get a united Europe, they also cemented divisions between that newly founded community with Russia and the developing Middle East. Human rights saw staggering leaps, with much of the Global North now celebrating equality in great swathes of previously marginalised groups, however this is often limited to areas of wealth and privilege, as well as adding fuel to the fire of the growing North/South divisions. The outlook for lesbians and gay men has never been so rosy with Australia now adding itself to the growing list of countries which support equal marriage, however Trans rights have arguably taken several steps back and right-wing publications continue to use their position of influence to spread harmful lies. There is growing representation of BAME communities in the arts, but a startling increase in crime against and within those groups. Women, who have perhaps seen the greatest advances, still remain underpaid, overworked, and victims of abuse; when their voices are found to speak out against these injustices, they are mocked and accused of weakness and deceit.
The list could go, and these handful of examples hardly do the current state of affairs justice. However, providing a snapshot of all that is yet still to be achieved is a humbling and startling process.
Whilst watching the new incarnation of the Star Trek franchise (there it is again), I’ve been delighted at the progression I’ve seen, not only in the aesthetic, but in the inclusion of previously underrepresented (or entirely unrepresented) minorities. The inclusion of characters who are disabled, LGBT, or women of colour (in command positions, no less) is a much-needed breath of fresh air into a franchise that has always endeavoured to look to a future in which the best of humanity has overcome the very worst. This week I found myself wondering how I might have responded had I’d seen a gay-relationship on my favourite series when I was in my mid-teens. Star Trek has truly evolved, and evolution is what we should all be aiming for.
Evolution, however, leaves people behind. Some watch Star Trek Discovery and lament for the brightly coloured bridge of the future-past, some see Trans and gender non-binary people fighting not just for their rights but their lives, and lament for the days when “boys were boys and girls were girls”, some hear of Black Lives Matter and ask, “don’t white lives matter too?”. Imagine if we took the same line of thought with the evolution of the human race: “don’t you just ache for the days of primate past?”, “honestly, wasn’t just life so much simpler for the Neanderthals?”
However, bettering ourselves is not only desirable, it is essential. Survival of the fittest does not need to be applied to our collective human responsibility; we can not only just survive together but THRIVE together, all of us regardless of our spiritual, physical or emotional fitness. It is absolutely essential that we see growth in our understanding, our compassion, and our knowledge, else we are doomed to fail in our Divinely-given command to “be fruitful”. Fruitfulness must not be limited to the biological act of continuing the species, it has to be more for us to live life “abundantly” as promised by Christ. And so, evolution for the twenty-first century follower of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with how we apply our theology.
In the last four weeks I have indirectly been on the receiving-end of two letters which I believe to represent the “survival of the fittest theology”: attacks on character, misuse of Scripture, and reactionary comments made in fear, to name but some of the content. These letters have not sought to increase the fruitfulness of anyone but the authors, and therefore have not only prevented me from living life in abundance, but likely themselves as well and most definitely those on the fringe of Christian community. These letters have been issued, not to seek evolution, a path ahead to the future, but to hide away in the safety of churlish adolescence and ensure the maintenance of the status quo so that the fittest can continue to survive at the cost of the weak and the marginalised.
As we approach the Christmas season at dazzling warp speed we begin to prepare ourselves for the coming of the God made flesh; the God who came not to ensure the survival of the fittest, but to live amongst and enable a collective evolution to abundance, the thriving of ALL of God’s creation. Where will our hearts and actions be over the coming weeks: do we want to survive or THRIVE? And if it is the latter, as I hope it is, then it must be for all, not just the fittest.