Monks, Dinosaurs, and Creation

Posted: July 2, 2009 by Kristy Harding in ReEmergent Church
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Kristy Harding

Car? Fast!
President? Obama!
Pickles? Sour!
Music? Rocking!

One of my favorite games as a kid was the “Free Association Game” where one person said a word and then everybody shouted out the first thing that came to mind. There wasn’t much of a point, really, except to try (without trying) to be the most cool person in the room by thinking of the thing that was the most obscure. If ever there was a training exercise for scenester snobbery, that game was it–at least the way we played it, but it was still a great way to take the psychological temperature of a group of people. No matter how cool we tried to be, someone always slipped up and said what they really thought, which was often embarrassing and usually followed by said person slapping their hand to their mouth and turning red. Hello, Dr. Freud! Game over.

I was reminded of the “Free Association Game” when I read the Science Times section in yesterday’s New York Times. Of 24 articles, 2 of them were on the subject of religion and science–impressive considering 5 of the 24 articles were actually letters. Discounting the letters, this means a whopping 10.5% of the the science section (by article number) was on science and religion. Granted, it wasn’t the most popular subject. Depending on how you count it, the subject of health definitely took the cake at a hefty 6 articles or 31.5%.

What really got my attention was less the fact that religion was such a heavily discussed subject–we all know that the science vs. religion debate will draw a crowd, and it’s not, as if it looks like someone shouted, “Science!” in the NYT newsroom, and the reporters all shouted back, “Religion!” The thing that got me was the way that science and religion were presented in the articles themselves.

The articles in question were Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh and Tibetan Monks and Nuns Turn Their Minds Toward Science.

Just from the titles alone, you can tell what’s coming: An article about a group of purportedly ignorant Christians sequestered in a strange, ignorant ghetto followed by an article about Buddhist monastics adding the riches of science to their vast body of wisdom.

Sure enough. That’s what you get.

Is that picture representative (either of the whole church or of all Creationists)? No. But, frankly, is anyone really surprised that it’s the one that made the paper?

We can be as cynical as we want and blame whoever we want to, but the point remains: The New York Times free associated on Christianity and science and saw a little girl hanging out with animatronic dinosaurs, and it free associated on Buddhism and saw monks conversing intelligently with scientists.

Yes, I know, the message of the cross is foolishness and all that jazz, but we should still have something more nuanced to say about the whole subject of creation than:

“The world was created in seven days because the Bible says so!”

on one side and

“No, it wasn’t! You can have your evolution and be a Christian, too!”

on the other.

If I had magic argument ending powers, I would declare a temporary moratorium on debating the origin of the universe, and here’s why: If the first seven days or however many billion years of the world’s history are the only things that seem to occupy our attention, that has an awful lot to say about the God we’re presenting.

It says that God is only interested in getting us here, and God’s been hands-off ever since–especially when you add to that the fact that Christianity on the whole hasn’t registered much protest over some of the messes left by evolution’s parents and children (Francis Bacon’s vision of humanity’s control over the natural world, Bernard Fontelle’s doctrine of progress, Marxism, and capitalism) when, maybe, it should have.* In that vision God is also a sadistic and capricious God, who sets humanity up to fail by setting us a standard we can’t possibly reach and then abandoning us when we fail to reach it.

I don’t like that story, and I don’t think it’s true.

What about the God who has an intimate relationship with this world and is still creating, the God in whom we “live and move and have our being?” (Acts 17:28) Isn’t that so much more interesting? I think that God would make a much better story for the New York Times than a God stuck in a museum somewhere–and I don’t care if that museum’s at Yale or in Kentucky.

*Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth, xii

Special thanks to:

Tranuf for use of “A Monk Lifetime“.
Matt Callow for use of “Pinhole: Dinosaur“.

  1. Matt Horan says:

    Amen, sister. It’s these kind of articles that make Christianity look stuck in the mud. Sadly enough, Christianity makes the most news when some of it’s most famous memebrs (contrast with “faithful”) make a stink about homosexuality, creation, prayer in school or abortion.

    I have a good friend who learned most of what they know of Christianity from reading Dan Brown novels. Oh yeah, Jesus would be so proud…


  2. Kristy Harding says:

    *rolls eyes* Dan Brown. I took a Christology class in college, and half of my classmates had Dan Brown novels on one side of their desks and the Gospel of Mark or N.T. Wright or whatever theologian we were consulting at the time on the other, and they would compare them as if Dan Brown had written another Gospel, and they had to make sure Mark measured up to the Gospel of Brown.


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