When I was a kid, I loved reading big coffee table books. It was one of my hobbies, I guess. Since I didn’t have an innate desire for ponies or princesses (although I did have an outstanding Strawberry Shortcake doll collection). I loved reading those hefty volumes my parents posed on their bookshelves. They had pretty pictures and they seemed like just the kind of book that a big girl should read. I can still remember their photos vividly; the green garden spider on the web, the Alaskan tundra with the caribou spread out for miles, and the eye-popping treasures in King Tut’s tomb.
My absolute favorite book was about the origin of humans. It has all these fascinating fossil pictures and dioramas of people making tools and stretching hides (which would have been so cool to do in my backyard). It had all kinds of fascinating people, Australopithecus and Homo habilis and Neanderthals, and a branching diagram of when they all lived. The timeline stretched back for millions of years. And I thought it was the coolest thing to think of all the life that had gone on before and led up to where we are now. I was, and still am, in awe of the profound, patient evolution of it all.
It wasn’t until later on in life that I found out evolution was a touchy subject, and even a bad word amongst churchgoers. I had grown up as a preacher’s kid and didn’t think twice about it. But suddenly it was something that Christians shouldn’t ‘believe’ in, let alone have a coffee table book about. Evolution was put with words like amoral and evil; which seemed odd since it was just about a bunch of bones. What was the big deal?
Well, evolution is a big deal. To a lot of people; especially people who are concerned about what it means. It seems to be a threat to God and the Bible. Or at least it is portrayed that way. Some say that accepting a six day creation, some six thousand years ago is fundamental. People passionately lobby to change science books to include faith-based storylines. Youth groups take field trips to our local museum of Biblical world history. And when I hear what my Christian brothers and sisters are doing and when I listen to them, I hear what is at stake for them. That teaching strict evolution undermines scripture, that it cheapens life with its ‘survival of the fittest’, that it leads to racism and other societal ills, and that it contradicts God’s order and purpose. The ultimatum then seems to be that faithful people must take the Bible and its literal story of creation or leave it.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. This next weekend, February 13-15, 2009, over 900 congregations around the world will recognize Evolution Weekend. They will use it as an opportunity to have serious dialogue between science and religion. ( www.evolutionweekend.org ) Midway Presbyterian will have a forum Sunday, February 15 at 7pm. And many mainline faith organizations will support its efforts or take part: Catholic, Episcopal, United Methodist, Unitarian Universalist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and Reform Judaism to name a few. All full of faithful people who do not see a conflict between believing in a living God and accepting the science of evolution.
It is necessary for faith and science to talk. Faith becomes ungrounded without a little reason and science becomes heartless without considering its purpose. Both ‘sides’ are made of up of people seeking the truth. Both ‘sides’ are full of folks wondering at this cosmos. And maybe together we can all see a little better how amazing life is on this little blue planet. And we will be amazed at how persistently it has been shaped for years and years. We will agree how precious it is and how much we need to protect it. And it will humble us with its massive beauty. I, for one, feel inspired by God taking millions of years to create. It means God is still at work. It means God, who is endlessly patient, doesn’t give up bringing forth new, wonderful life.