I've been listening my way through a 10 CD set of Christopher West expounding on the Pope's Theology of the Body. I keep hearing humanity referenced as the "Crown of Creation". Does anyone know from whence that reference originates? I am sure that it has been around for a while, but the phrase is not to be found in the Bible. Is it used in some of the early Church Fathers? Or maybe some more recent theologians?
Part of what piqued my interest is that I have been thinking about euthanasia, especially of the perinatal sort. It has become so very common in our culture to commit prenatal euthanasia (aborting babies with birth defects) that even many who are otherwise opposed to abortion find nothing objectionable in this. It is often included in the 'hard cases' that also usually include rape, incest, and maternal health issues.
Indeed, much of the pressure historically to make abortion more readily available came about as a result of two historical events in the mid-20th century - the recognition that rubella was teratogenic, and the thalidomide disaster.
I think it was somewhat earlier that I mentioned that I grew up reading SF - and there are a lot of post-apocalyptic dystopias to be found in that genre. John Wyndham's 1955 novel Re-Birth (aka The Chrysalids) is the one I have been thinking about lately.
I haven't read the book for at least 8 years now, so some of my memories may be a little off, but basically it is about a culture sited on the North American continent, a long time after some kind of disaster (possibly nuclear holocaust) that has left humanity subsisting in a hunter/gatherer/farming mode. People live in small communities where the basic rule of life comes from a theological document that strictly defines what is and isn't human, based upon physical characteristics.
And God created man in His own image. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs: that each arm should be jointed in two places and end in one hand: that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb: that each finger should bear a flat finger-nail...."
"'Then God created woman, also, and in the same image, but with these differences, according to her nature: her voice should be of a higher pitch than a man's: she should grow no beard: she should have two breasts..."
"And any creature that shall seem to be human, but is not formed thus is not human. it is neither man nor woman. It is blasphemy against the true Image of God, and hateful in the sight of God."
"THE NORM IS THE WILL OF GOD, and, REPRODUCTION IS THE ONLY HOLY PRODUCTION and, THE DEVIL IS THE FATHER OF DEVIATION,"
Their culture is really a kind of dour theocracy. Those who are born with deformities are considered non-human and are abandoned in the wild. As not all deformities are immediately apparant, this abandonment could happen later and later in life - and I think that I remember also that women who repeatedly give birth to 'blasphemies' were also driven out. There may even have been some outright killing of the 'blasphemies' - but part of the background of the story involves the tensions between the 'civilized' village dwellers and the roving bands of 'blasphemies' living on the fringes. The story revolves around a small band of children who come to realize that their differences, while not physically obvious, are such that they risk being cast out should the authorities notice them. I think I was 13 or so when I first read the book.
Around that time, I also bought Jefferson Airplane's album Crown of Creation at the BX. I had some money, and the picture on the cover of a mushroom cloud was interesting. I didn't know that much about the San Francisco music scene as I was then living in the Boston area, so I didn't have any idea who Jefferson Airplane was - but I learned quickly. I taught myself to play some of the simpler guitar riffs from the album, and I listened to it so many times that I still have the lyrics memorized. The title song, Crown of Creation, kept popping into my brain every time I would hear Christopher West say the phrase.
You are the crown of creation
You are the crown of creation
And you've got no place to go
Soon you'll attain the stability you strive for
In the only way that it's granted
In a place among the fossils of our time
In loyalty to their kind
They cannot tolerate our minds
And in loyalty to our kind
We cannot tolerate their obstruction
Life is change
How it differs from the rocks
I've seen their ways too often for my liking
New worlds to gain
My life is to survive
And be alive
Paul Kantner based these lyrics on several phrases in the last pages of John Wyndham's book Rebirth , near the denoument.
From the Ballantine Books 1960 edition (paperback)
"Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking, will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled, they have nowhere more to go. " (p. 168)
You can imagine my surprise when, a few years after purchasing Crown of Creation I read those words in one of my re-reads of Rebirth.
As in so much SF, the author got some things very right and others very wrong. We do have a 'theocracy' of sorts that cannot tolerate physical or mental imperfections in human beings and wants to deny the imperfect the status of personhood. However, the God of this movement is not the God of the Judeo-Christian heritage. It is an idol, a false god. The religion is called many things - I would call it Eugenics except that eugenics is too narrow a focus for the impact it has had. The Pope and others have called this way of thought "The Culture of Death". The manifestations of this way of thought include abortion of babies with anomalies, active and passive euthanasia at all stages of life, and the fact that there is even a debate about withholding food from a severely disabled but not-brain dead woman (Terri Schiavo). John Brunner's 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar was in some ways even more prescient.
A reviewer on amazon.com said it better than I could:
"Discrimination and xenophobia have been mechanized with eugenics legislation",
in a culture where color-blindness could prevent one from being allowed to reproduce, where every pregnancy has mandated amniocentesis and forcible abortion of any anomaly.
Contrast this with Lester del Rey's 1962 novel The Eleventh Commandment. In this setting, "Be Fruitful and Multiply" is seen as the most important commandment. Once again, it is a theocracy, and a dystopia, but one that sees the only hope for the future as allowing as many babies to be born and to live, in the hope that God will sort out what is pro-survival and what is not (in the long run).
If man is truly, as claimed, the crown of God's creation, then what responsibility do we have back to the God who created us? What are we called to do with that gift - life and our soul? When we destroy that which is imperfect, what are we saying about ourselves?
When Jesus walked the earth, he healed the sick. He did not end their suffering through death, but through life. Yet He did not heal all who asked it of Him. He allowed His disciples to suffer - the apostle Paul is famous for having an affliction (the thorn in his side) that God refused to heal. He did not come down off His cross, and He tells us daily to pick up our crosses and follow him. ANd yet He tells us "The yoke is easy and the burden light" and I can only say, sometimes."Compared to what?"!
We are the crown of creation - but the song is wrong because we have someplace to go. We go to our Heavenly Father and rest in His arms. We walk with Jesus by our sides, and when things get rough, He will carry us if we but ask. We breath in the Holy Spirit and try our best to inspire others with the faith, the hope, and the love that comes from above. And when we stumble, we need to pick up and get going again.
(For an exhaustive treatment of the subject of post nuclear apocalyptic literature, see Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)