Rev Richard on the Relationship Between Science and Religion

1. I believe there’s no contradiction between Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. I love them both.  Blessed are the peacemakers who see creation as evolving.

2. Cosmologists, physicists, and astronomers are unable to identify dark matter. It’s there, it’s doing something. They know it’s there.  But they’re also prepared to be proven wrong because so much of the research on dark matter is built on algorithms and conjecture. Theologians know grace is out there. We know grace is active. We proclaim the reality of grace.   However, our best definitions of grace are limited by the brain’s ability to comprehend the idea we’ve defined as “God”. How prepared to be proven  wrong are we about some of our long held assumptions?  Are we that different?

3. Genesis isn’t a science textbook. Jurassic Park isn’t a documentary.

4. An intelligent designer would have excluded hurricanes. Seriously.

5. No matter how hard I pray, the island where I live will eventually be reclaimed by sea level rise. My church will be underwater. Perhaps it’s time to listen to science.

Advertisements

Do Facebook Debates Alienate People and Make More Atheists?

I learned long ago that Facebook isn’t the place for serious political, religious, or philosophical debate.  In our culture, Facebook debates are usually platforms for personal opinions and preferences.  The existence of this platform (and our 1st Amendment right to free speech) doesn’t mean we must become evangelical about every idea we hold dear.  Ideas rarely, if ever, are changed in over wrought, profanity laden Facebook posts.  Thankfully, those I followed this week were both civil and profanity free; a rarity on Facebook.  However, they were indicative of the former.

When we select a topic (seemingly at random) and invite others to a conversation where we tell others how right we are and wrong they are (under the pretext of open discussion), nothing good occurs.  At best, you’ve got hurt feelings, confusion, and misunderstandings.  At worst, people are alienated and friendships are destroyed.

Perhaps the greatest mistake other than having a debate on Facebook is having a religious debate on Facebook.  God and Facebook do not mix.  Take this week’s discussion on intelligent design vs. evolution.  Is a guiding hand “God” or is it just some intelligent force?  Are we talking about God or not?  I didn’t bring up God you did.  And so it went.

God is a touchy subject on Facebook.  Each time God is invoked in a Facebook argument, even obliquely, my job (as a pastor) becomes harder.  Let me tell you why.  Ordinary folk (our non church going neighbors) read these debates about God, evolution, creation, science, war, peace, immigration, homosexuality, and other hot button culture war topics.  They see different opinions being expressed by self-professed and self-identified persons of faith.  For the non-believer, the person not too familiar with religion, or the person who might be willing to give church a chance, this confuses them.  Do you have to believe these ideas, as expressed by the people who are debating in order to be a Christian?  Is this what all Christians are like, squabbling over the minutiae of creation and scripture to prove points that have nothing to do with our daily lives?  Many people walk away and say yes!  The stereotypes I see on television and read on the internet are true.  It’s being played out on Facebook right before me.  Why would I go to church if this is the kind of junk they’re going to talk about?   If I was looking for a church and this is what I saw, it would turn me away.

Christians make more atheists and turn more people away from Christianity with our desire to be right about things that have no bearing on anything related to Jesus Christ.  Proving God’s role in creation was never central to Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus never preached about human sexuality.  Jesus preached about loving our neighbors.

Our desire to win the culture wars is killing the church.   We’re committing suicide by Facebook.  With each attempt we make to stir the pot and have a discussion disguised as a diatribe, we’re doing more harm than good.  Each time I have one of those “no we’re not really like that” conversations it gets harder to do it with a straight face.  Why?  Because I wonder, am I lying?  Are we really like that?  Maybe we are.

A Short Dictionary of Misunderstood Words

America – a pre-existing condition in need of constant reassurance.

Belief – The idea that feelings equate to reality.  (See Truth)

Christ – Jesus’ last name.

Jesus – Itinerant weeper.

God – Head of a US based multinational corporation which invests in social networking applications, web based communications technology, and merit based wish fulfillment.  (See Mark Zuckerberg).

Truth – Any knowledge, information, or ideas yet to be deemed as “fake”.

Zuckerberg, Mark – Senior Pastor, First Church of Facebook (see God).

Does God Care If I Vote?

elections-vote

Does God care if I vote?  I think it’s a fair question.  Is God invested in my participation in the democratic process.  I’m not certain.  You’d be hard pressed to find an argument for democracy in scripture.  Monarchy, empires, and dictatorships are all through the Bible.  Nobody gets to vote for anything or anyone.  Individual liberty and freedom aren’t big ideas.  Yes, elements of what we come to identify as the “Judeo-Christian tradition” highlight aspects of personal freedom and individual choice.  When married to the pagan virtues of certain Greco-Roman philosophers, the notions which lead to the American system of governance become clearer.  At best, we are and have always been a mélange Greek thought, Roman practice, and Judeo-Christian aspirations.  Within this long and simmering intellectual reduction, where is God?  Is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; a God who remains silent on voting (and many other hot button issues) present to offer an opinion as to my participation in this year’s election?

Should God’s Testaments be read like an Originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution? If I interpret these words, as the late Justice Scalia would have argued, at face value, I can only come to one conclusion:  there is nothing in the Bible which compels me to vote.  Unlike the arguments for or against the church’s position on sexuality where actual passages about human sexuality are debated and their socio-historical context is argued; voting is nonexistent.

God is not invested in America’s election, Caesar’s hegemony, or Pharaoh’s reign.   If God were on Rome’s side, the empire would have fallen during Diocletian’s persecutions well before 476 and after the Constantinian conversion.  Egypt would have collapsed when Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land.  If we think America is God’s chosen nation, then I fear we’re Rome on the brink of collapse.

To read into a given Biblical text God’s interest in my voting is to add ideas into the Bible which aren’t there.  I am applying my cultural standard and placing my beliefs into the mind.  I’m confusing my will with the will of God.  I can absolutely say I have no proof that God cares who I vote for and most importantly, if I vote.  The evidence isn’t there.

Please don’t tell me I have a religious obligation to vote for anyone.  If I vote for anyone, I am leaving God at the door.  My vote has nothing to do with God.  I have built a personal wall of separation between the God, church, and the state.  God doesn’t tell me how to vote.  Why should God tell me who to vote for when there’s no record of God telling anyone else?

My vote doesn’t change my life.  However, my relationship with God and the work I do for the church changes my life each day.  After I vote, most aspects of my life will remain the same.  I doubt I’ll notice much a change regardless of who wins.  I’ll get up, got to work, see my kids, eat lunch, and do all those things I do.  But my life, the things that give my day meaning, my faith; that’s got nothing to do with my vote and never will.  It’s got to do with God and we’ve got fish to fry, people to feed, lives to help mend, and the remnants of a hurricane all around.

 

I’m Not A Big Fan of These Clichés

christian-cliches-950x250-960x350

Christians use some pretty lame clichés. We use them over and over again. That’s why they’re clichés . In certain church circles, it’s hard for people to put together a coherent sentence that’s not a series of clichés strung together. There are churches (and church meetings) where speaking “cliché” language is the defining mark of one’s Christianity. If you don’t speak this way, something might be wrong with you. What if we took these clichés and placed them into a slightly different context? Perhaps we’d realize how ridiculous some of them sound?

Krispy Kreme has a “heart for” doughnuts.

They are really doing some “good work” over there at the Waffle House.

We put the lawn mowers behind a “hedge of protection” just to the right of weed eaters.

Since my car died three weeks ago, “my walk with God”, has involved taking two buses and a cab to work.

The Holy Spirit has “laid upon my soul” a calling to evangelize the virtues of bacon to vegetarians.

After the bounty hunter arrested my contractor, his last words to me were, “if you need to close the bathroom door, open the window first.”