@frostedechoes recently wrote an interesting post on Dunbar’s Number and the Church.
It’s worth reading on its own, but I initially misread the title as “Drake’s Equation and The Church.” He replied, “If I could figure out an angle, I would definitely post about Drake’s Equation and the church.”
Well, here’s an angle.
I don’t know the answer to this and I don’t know how to go about finding an answer, but:
Do any Church authorities grant the possibility of an infinite universe, populated by countless souls — perhaps even an infinite number of them — in need of salvation?
If so, there are three options to consider:
(1) Did Christ visit each of these infinite worlds sequentially, to redeem them? (This might explain why Christ hasn’t managed to return yet: He’s still working his way through the Andromeda galaxy right now and it may be quite some time before He gets back to us. But that’s okay, it’s an infinite universe, God has the time, and He’s playing the long game, right?)
(2) Did God send a separate Christ to each world simultaneously? (This possibility wreaks havoc with the already shaky concept of the Trinity, not to mention hopelessly complicating the Christological question of homoousios versus homoiousios — is each Christ the same Christ, or are they infinite copies?…)
(2a) And what is God to do when some of these visitations don’t “take”? Maybe the New Jerusalem is in full flower on the third planet from Altair, and on a few worlds in the Greater Megellanic Cloud, but here on Earth, it was a seed on stony ground.
(2b) What if we’re the only planet in the universe on which the program didn’t play out properly? How humiliating that would be!
(2c) And given the infinite timespan, will God try again later, like in forty million years? Did He try before? Were there dinosaur Christs?
(2d) And if God could send multiple Christs to different planets, why couldn’t He have sent several Christs to all the various societies on Earth; to China, North America, Australia, etc?
(3) Or!… Did Christ visit only once, and only us, — and not even all of us — and now it’s our job to get the heck out there and proselytize the cosmos? In which case, shouldn’t we be investing more heavily in STEM?
All this may seem rarefied and abstract, or glib, or even insultingly snarky, but it goes to how our theological assumptions inform our relationship to other creatures, and how we treat them. Do they have souls, or do only humans have souls? Do you have to have a soul in order to be treated with respect, kindness, mercy, love? If so, does that mean some humans don’t have souls?
What if we make contact with another species, one in which Christ has redeemed them all and they are hoping to convert us? And what if we can’t keep our fingers off the goddamn trigger?
And we don’t even need to imagine alien planets. What about dogs, dolphins, chimps? Do they have souls? And if so, shouldn’t we be trying to convert them? Or are they all living in a prelapsarian innocence? Or… did their Christ get the job done, and they’re now all living in post-parousian bliss? If so, will they at some point try to convert us?
And we don’t even have to imagine other species. If you are a bully or a thug, or you support bullies and thugs — how can you claim to be a person of God? How can you hope to face your god with a clear conscience, when you made no effort to live with kindness and mercy; with the humility to imagine that others may be more enlightened than you; without considering the possibility that you are fallen, and struggling to be upright and good; without even imagining that you could be wrong? And if you are incapable of treating others with respect, or kindness, or mercy, or love — or worse, if you simply can’t be bothered — maybe it’s because you don’t have a soul.
In other words, if you have no problem with that cruel meathead in the Oval Office, and the feckless kakistocracy he’s assembled, if it never crosses your mind that one of those kids in the cages at the border might be Christ Herself returned to test you, to judge you, to save you — then what the fuck are you doing calling yourself Christian? For that matter, how can you consider yourself human? Find your soul. Find your humanity.