Termites, Church and God

William Temple was one of the greatest Archbishops of Canterbury in my lifetime. On one occasion he wrote: “It is a mistake to think that God is chiefly—or even mainly—interested in religion.”

          For me, one of the greatest proofs of the existence of God is His interrelatedness, both with creation and with Himself—as shown in the Holy Trinity.

What is great about God aren’t the things about God nor His size or ability, but His interrelatedness.

Our average termite, on the other hand, is a stupid creature.

It is a whitish grub.

It has only rudimentary senses. It cannot really see where it is going. It can do only two things—crawl and chew.

But put a number of termites together and they will immediately start to build a home for themselves.

The mound that emerges is astonishingly complex. Really big termite mounds can stand 17 feet tall, and go eight feet underground.

Although every mound feels rock solid, it is actually an interlocking mass of rigid bubbles.

With up to two million termites in a mound, the mound must be engineered to exhaust all that stale air. So it incorporates its own air conditioning system.

When the sun heats one side of the mound, hot air goes through a complex network of internal channels, which in turn draws in cooler air from the far side of the mound.

The solar-powered heat pump circulates air through the entire mound, keeping the queen, her progeny, and all her workers, at just the right temperature.

And the termites do this with No direction. No blue-prints.        No planning.

No one termite – especially not even the queen (who is little more than a living ovary) —  has the intelligence to direct construction.

None of the termites knew what they were doing when they created it. But it is unquestionably real.

This is called an “emergent” phenomenon. It derives from the collective activity of those termites. But it is not them. It is more than them. More than a corporation, for example. Even a multi-national corporation is more than any of its individuals.         Rather like a church.