Evolved “family” relationships
A further exploration of the theme of family and environment relationships based on some texts from Francis of Assisi
Also something related to our common origins in the First Cause
In the first page of Humanity, in exploring the Genesis texts I indicated the biblical emphasis on intended family and good relations with the environment. This is a continuation of that theme.
From his own sense of being a brother of the Son of God Francis of Assisi gives simple glimpses of a theology of a familial relationship with God, each other and with the rest of creation. In his Exhortation to the Faithful he writes
A person is His (Christ’s) bride when his faithful soul is united with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit; we are his brothers when we do the will of His Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt. 12: 50), and we are mothers to Him when we enthrone him in our hearts and souls by love with a pure and sincere conscience, and give him birth by doing good. This, too, should be an example to others.
Francis uses the image of family to both link us to God and to the rest of the world. We experience much of the world first through our experiences of particular relationships to parents and later to those with whom we are bound by ties of affection. We experience what it is to be a child reliant on parents and may later experience the opposite as we may become parents. We may experience the closeness of immediate kin and then later the bonds of love in relationship to another who will become our spouse and mate.
These familiar and familial relationships have provided rich spiritual metaphors and images of relationships to the divine in which something of the same patterns is to be experienced and known and made present in order to create things in life that are to improve on what we already possess. Jesus himself used the image of God as His Father (in Aramaic “Abba” = Daddy). Then on one occasion when his family come looking for Him Jesus says that his family are those who are about doing Gods will in their lives.
The biblical and Christian tradition teaches that humanity is willed by God purpose to have a relationship with God in which God is conceived as like a Father and we are also to see ourselves as brother or sister to the Incarnate Son who is Christ, and like a spouse/partner to the Holy Spirit. Following this lead and from Francis we are like a mother to the Son of God when we enshrine and carry a sense of the divine within our minds and actions. There is delight in such relationships that are the necessary part of our being human. Although this ideal is addressed to those having such a faith there is no doubt that the divine intention has been that all humanity is welcomed to these relationships and it is their absence human beings are made lesser or even distorted by it.
One of the primary relationships of family is of course the relationships of father and mother ideally joined in a permanent relationship that enables the nurture of the infant to the state of independent existence. The specific pair bonding of human parents may have evolved with a specific advantage and made more important by developed cultures. Many cultures have come to honour and bless that particular relationship with an emphasis of marriage or similar bonds of relationship. There are frequent vows and commitment to a lifelong faithfulness. But this goes beyond biological needs. The vowed life of commitment between the husband and wife embodies higher aims of commitment to the development and support between the individuals as a form of union of lives. Common Christian rituals make promises such as a commitment to each other in joy and sorrow, wealth or poverty, health or disease. It also becomes a symbol of the divine relationship to humanity; the Word, the Christ is husband to the Israel and the church, the gathering of the faithful joined in union. God and humanity are spouses is committed union and intent.
Humans as ecological creatures, with an interspecies relationships
Francis further writes:
Every creature in heaven and on earth and in the depths of the sea should give God praise and glory and honour and blessing (cf. Ap. 5: 13); He has borne so much for us and has done and will do so much good to us; he is our power and our strength, and he alone is good (cf. Luke. 18:19), He alone most high, He alone all-powerful, wonderful, and glorious; He alone is holy and worthy of all praise and blessing for endless ages and ages. Amen.
There are several legends of Francis speaking to birds and a wolf and in his “Canticle of the Creatures” he calls all things his brothers and sisters. The physical things of the world and lesser creatures are also part of his family. They have come from God and glorify God by what they are and their being from God is part of the eternal glory. It links also back to those original biblical Genesis stories where humanity is given “dominion” that is to be the caring government over the world, based on God’s love for it, and where humanity walks in the garden of creation, enjoying it with God who also walks there enjoying it too.
While human beings have evolved within a greatly diverse world of life these fundamental connections that include family, abilities and responsibilities lift us up from simply being that evolved ape. We are more than just the ape that became intelligent. We are evolved to be the rational creatures developed in relationship and responsibility for our part in it. We may find many reasons why and how humanity evolved with those specific relationships but they in turn may lead us back to God who may illuminate more for us the meaning of these characteristics, benefits and calling to be more than we are already.
Various environmental crises and considerations of global environmental destruction have re-awakened many religious organisations to re-examine their religious heritage and the meaning of what we are called to be in connection with the world. Whatever our origins in an evolved context humans may become the greatest threat to every other form of life on the planet, or part of its salvation and redemption. Several Christian writers I have read in recent years, including Catholics, Liberals and Evangelicals have emphasised our calling to be the guardians and priests of creation. That in our study of the world, by our love for the world, we must re-order societies and political imperatives to safe guard the ecosystems of the world, both for our own sake but also because it is loved by God and right to do so. We must be aware of our environmental connections and our divinely given kinship with all life and find more sustainable and just ways of living our existence.
First Cause Origins
As writen elsewhere Duns Scotus argued for God as the First Cause of all things and we can extend this into the practical consideration ot all life in its purpose and origin in God. It is because we all come from the same source that God is “Our Father” or “our Mother”. We are related to all people and all things in our singular origin.
We live a world often so divisive in culture and ethnicity and sometimes violent nationalism, steming from inequalities of opportunities and resources. Our common origin from God, from the very same stuff of the original cosmic start should discourge any ideas of superiority and inferiority. Our our original being held in common with all other being should make us stop and think beyond our ethnically limited visions of ourselves and “our” people. Our singular origin is the basis of reaching for a better common order of relationships, the basis of human and civil rights, andf better love and understanding the environmment and all that exists to be loved and cherished and celebrated.
The goal of our relationships is committed union and fidelity, to raise our minds above and beyond our selves. Such faithfulness is rooted in the Divine love in which all relationships are to grow.
We are invited as spouses to God, in which our earthly spouses and loves find a higher and greater pattern and purpose. What relationship(s) do I have that are part of this growth in union?
How can you express our God given familial relationship to the rest of the natural world?