It’s really too bad that evangelical christians have, in so many curious ways, abandoned science, fled science, as if it were some monstrous enemy, full of threats and dangers and demonic fires.
It’s a long and tangled story, I fear, and now these evangelicals find themselves stuck in a corner, from which there is no gracious exit, other than saying, “We were wrong.”
So, there in the corner, like little Jack Horner, they sit, stewing and steaming, creating new stories about evil scientists and how glorious the Bible is as a source of fact on all things that count, and a lot of things that don’t, and never will.
I was just reading about a Methodist encampment of the late 1800s on the Monterey Peninsula, that was named, and still is, Pacific Grove. Chautauqua-like in style, lots of famous speakers, including scientists, and no booze - it seems the good Methodist Folk of Pacific Grove wanted to know the latest, which is not a bad thing at all, and thought that sobriety was a good thing, which it mostly is, but not entirely so. And with clear minds, they welcomed those who could teach them about the world, with a keen appreciation of science.
Though the latest news from science fails to serve the ego of those who prefer to think of themselves as the free-ranging monarchs of God’s creation, a creation put together in 7 days, 7 24-hour days, to be precise, maybe 8000 years ago, at most, if one goes by the Bible and its begats. Or if 8000 is a bit too stodgy, then maybe 6000 will do. What’s a few thousand years here and there?
Well, it’s too bad that evangelicals lost the Chautauqua Spirit - the spirit of inquiry, the longing to know something about the Great God Almighty, who created the world through the eons, and is still creating it, and then created Hebrew Poets to write so beautifully about it, with metaphors of light and symmetry - this world is not some higgledy-piggledy mishmash wondering who it is, but something with purpose - “let there be light” ... and then let things reproduce after their own kind, which never seems to be much of a problem for anything that lives and breaths and hankers after a little hanky-panky, now and then, which seems to be pretty much the center of things for most things. And, then, as all things must, it’s “dust to dust and ashes to ashes,” which disturbs us, I guess, but there’s not much to be done about it ... unless cryogenics comes up with some fancy ideas, but I’m rather cool to the idea myself.
Anyway, the Hebrew Poets, some mighty smart folks, I think, if hanging around Pacific Grove in the late 1800s, would’ve signed up for the latest Chautauqua Lecture Series on science and all things that delve into the deeps of life, with lots of questions and lots of delight ... it’s energizing to live in a world so large, so expansive, so old, so beyond our grasp ... yet giving life to us all the time, giving us second and third chances, and entertaining us with beauty and fierceness that swirl around us like the leaves of fall, or a cloud of gnats on a hot summer day in a Northern Woods.
Billions and billions of years ... staggers the mind, it really does. A mind staggered now and then, by big numbers, or maybe with a glass of Monterey Wine now and then, is a mind God can work with ... a mind staggered has lots of vulnerability to it, it’s pliable, workable, malleable and laughs easily, which, I think, most evangelicals are loath to do. The world is far too serious for them, and they miss the point of “making light,” which has to with our eyes, and with our sensibilities. If we can’t, or won’t, make light of things, I doubt if we can make light at all, which is contrary to the point of God’s good work - to make light ... “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for my burden is light” - not only in terms of weight, but in terms of delight and hope and wonderment, which led those late 19th Century Methodists to create Pacific Grove in the first place and learn a few more things about God’s great and very good creation.
I don’t know what will become of today’s corner-sitting evangelicals ... but who wants to sit in a corner all the time? Maybe one of these days, enough of them will get sick of their windowless room, turn around and see what a large and wonderful world they’re missing, and then, en masse, step out it with peace toward one another, abandoning the corner into which they put themselves a long time ago, eager to set out upon the road ahead, which never ends as it pushes on into the infinite love of God.
It’s good to live in a world so big, so old, so wise. On every turn of the road, when I’m laughing and when I’m not, I see what Isaiah saw in his smoky dream, the “hem of God’s garment,” swishing away, just over there, out of the corner of my eye, filling the temple of my brain and heart with wonder and joy and a very strange surpassing peace suffused with the aroma of love.
Billions and billions of years ...