- There has been a large dust up in Arizona about the science curriculum and evolution and intelligent design (creationism). Here is a short report on the story. It is sad that it is unnecessarily political, but that is the world that we live in. A United Methodist pastor was asked about the topic, and he had this to say. There is the background. So, before you read on, I want you to do so with the following four things in mind.
- I am not a literal interpretation type as it is currently understood, but I do believe in a literal spoken into existence creation.
- I do not believe that the mechanism that God used to create is an essential of the faith.
- I do believe that those who insist that the mechanism is essential do great harm to the faith.
- The point of the creation narrative is that God created, not how God created.
If you have not taken the time to read the links provided, I hope that you do. They are important for understanding. I am going to start my comments with the news story, specifically some of the comments made by those seeking the school superintendent position.
“I already put out there that I teach for Liberty University (a Christian school). I also teach for Grand Canyon University (a Christian school), so how do you think I feel about this question? The reality is I wholly believe it. So the reality is, it should be taught … ” There is a very troubling implication here, namely that if you do not believe in the literal seven day creation that you are obviously not a Christian. This is simply not the case. The second troubling issue is that he seems to think that his belief is all that is required for a thing to be taught as science. The reality is that the best scientific data we have points to some sort of evolutionary process, even if my thoughts happens to differ. The point is that God created, not how God created. The same person went on to say “Two years ago, three years ago at Walmart, it was not even allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ We showed that we, as Republicans, can change this world. We, as Republicans, can make this happen.” I really can not express how much I detest all of this boycott stuff over what ends up amounting to nothing. If you want to know the truth of the story, you can do it here. Republicans need to stop trying to claim the moral high ground when they support practices and policies that are not moral. So do Democrats. Republicans also really need to stop trying to claim a monopoly on the Christian faith.
“We used to be able to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ We used to be able to say ‘God bless you’ with no fear. I will tell you, should we teach intelligent design? Yes, definitely. There are teachers that do it. They’re the ones that shut their door and say, ‘Yes, this is our curriculum, but you know, we have more here.’ … Do I feel that science should be amply supported and looked at from both sides? Yes. But we’ve got a problem here in this state, and it’s reading and writing. Would I get rid of science and that subject area and focus all on reading and writing? No. But that’s something we have to look at in this state. These kids aren’t ready to go to college. Then we can look at how we’re going to intelligently insert God back into the classrooms, because that’s going to be a tough one. But yes, I think it should be done.” Where to begin…well frankly I still say Merry Christmas and God Bless without fear. There is no reason to have a significant amount of fear when saying such things at all. That said, the disturbing part is about putting God back into schools…that is disturbing because it requires a couple of beliefs that simply are not accurate. The first big problem is that the idea that God is not in a class room means that somehow a law of man kept Him out. i think a lot more of the power of God than that. My son’s classroom is holy ground. I know that because my son believes, and he has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so everywhere he goes is holy ground. There is also prayer in my son’s school because he prays. Look, God is in school. The reality is that we live in a religiously pluralistic society, so prayer should not be led in school as a part of the day, nor should theology be taught there. If you think that God is not in school, I dare say that reflects more on what you think of Christian parents than what you think of current law.
Now to the United Methodist pastor’s response. To begin, the overall tone is confrontational and frankly rather rude. It alludes to the commonly spread idea that somehow those who believe in the modern literal understanding of scripture are somehow less intelligent and less willing to look at facts and evidence that others. In my experience that, on the whole, is simply not true. “Today, a big chunk of American Christians attend churches that claim the Bible is inerrant (without error) and infallible (a safe and reliable source in all matters). I want to believe that most of them don’t actually believe this – considering that they live in the 21st century – but enough of them do believe it to make it a problem for the rest of us.” A problem? I am a problem? Now this particular pastor is at The Fountains UMC, and I personally have been a problem for him as I have written much about the poor theology taught there. In all truth, any orthodox Christian is a problem for the beliefs taught at The Fountains, but that is a different rabbit hole. My faith regarding creation is not a problem for anyone because I am in a faith tradition that does not require me to hold any particular belief other than God created. So does this pastor. He is describing his fellow Christians as a problem while at the same time preaching and demanding acceptance of his aberrant theology. I know the theology that The Fountains teaches, so I am comfortable saying this. “And you’ve got to feel a little sorry for them.” All I can think of here is the Pharisee that prays he is not like that sinner. To me this sounds like “thank God I am not like that literal interpretation guy”. Different words, same self righteous and sanctimonious idea. “As an outside observer of this phenomenon, it appears that they believe that “real” Christians are somehow spiritually superior for their ability to, despite evidence to the contrary, deny reality. Obviously, this has clear parallels in our current political reality.” Funny how this complaint by him describes exactly what he is doing. Here, if you are a literalist, you are completely disconnected from reality, and not only that, but also a political opponent. Democrats need to stop claiming the monopoly on Christianity as well. We all know Jesus was a Libertarian anyway. (That’s a joke folks, relax) “Here’s the problem: despite the very real and urgent societal issues challenging humanity, many literalists continue to fixate not on solving the world’s problems, but on “proving” the Bible is literally true. They are enabled by theological carnival barkers like Ken Ham, who wastes people’s time and resources on building a full-size ark in Kentucky (complete with dinosaurs to account for and then misrepresent the fossil record) – all to shore up their doubts and insecurities.” Assuming motivation is generally a bad move, as it is here. Assuming that a person who believes a literal creation, is unconcerned with the problems of the world is also false. This idea has surfaced that conservative Christians, and conservatives in general, are somehow less concerned with the issues facing the world and somehow less charitable is pure bunk. It’s slander really, and a pastor should be above such things. I am no fan of Ken Ham, but he has a sincere faith, though I believe he does over emphasize the importance of literal creation, and should be treated with respect for it. A theological carnival barker supports things like “I do believe that Jesus was divine, and that he’s the 2nd person of the trinity. Christians rightfully honor and celebrate Jesus as a unique and fully incarnate manifestation of God. I don’t believe that he’s literally God (at least not what most people tend to mean by that word). We live and move and have our being in God, so did Jesus. The trinity as a beloved Christian poem of who God is to us. But poems don’t literally define things. Like all art, and theology, they point to what is beyond them.” and this: “And it isn’t particularly necessary for Jesus’ resurrection to have been a physical one for it to be a real and meaningful one.” An actual theological carnival barker leads away from the orthodox faith, which the pastor in question does. Finally, “So, put Young Earthers in the same category with Flat Earthers, Vaxers, and those who believe the moon landing was faked: all of them people who, for their own reasons, have decided to live in a world disconnected from evidence-based reality. It would be funny if it weren’t for their attempts to try and impose their antiquated worldview on everyone else.” This is way out of line in it’s entirety, bit I am running out of space, so I will simply say this. I am not what is meant in the modern day, a literal interpretation type. Those who are love Jesus and know, at the very least, that He is more than a poem. They know He was bodily resurrected. They know the orthodox faith, though to be fair, some do try to add to that which is required belief. When your beliefs are outside that, and you teach, and allow to be taught things contrary to the orthodox faith, you should be more careful in throwing stones, because you are indeed in a house of glass. (Get it? Glass is super heated sand, shifting sand…I crack me up…especially when talking about glass houses and rocks…I’m done now.)
It’s two sides of the same coin in trying to force beliefs upon others, one through legislation and one through insults and bully tactics. Both are wrong in the approach. The big difference is that one actually knows the faith, and one follows something that has the appearance of faith, but not the power of it.