The purpose of this project is for a pastoral theologian and a group of pastors to develop a pastoral theology of cancer as a disease of evolution.
The science on cancer is as clear and certain as it gets: this disease is one of evolutionary development. That is, cancers progress according to evolutionary principles when cells—“the very fiber of our being” in the language of a Novena to Saint Peregrine—go their own way and, thereby threaten the rest of that “fiber.” While religious perspectives, questions, and arguments abound in church and society regarding evolution in general, remarkably few struggle to make meaning of the evolutionary nature of cancer. Even rarer—and arguably more urgent—is practical theological inquiry into faithful understandings and wise practices by pastoral leaders and pastoral theologians in response to cancer as an evolutionary phenomenon.
In this project, a peer group of pastors and I will engage in collaborative inquiry into the pastoral significance of the connection between cancer and evolution for ministries of preaching, worship, religious education and pastoral care of church, society, and the world. In our considering best pastoral practices in response to cancer, our guiding questions will be these: (1) How may God be preached, taught, and, in pastoral care, understood if the development of life and the development of cancers are linked by evolution? (2) What does pastoral wisdom look like if cancers are something that, as evolutionary phenomena, sometimes can be changed and, at other times, cannot be? (3) What are faithful and wise pastoral responses to social and economic issues generated by and in response to the evolution of cancers? The provisional answers put forth by this ecclesial community of inquiry will initiate the development of a pastoral theology of cancer and evolution.