I caught this morning’s This I believe essay by Episcopal priest Richard Rohr. In his essay, Rev. Rohr explains that his “religious belief has made [him] comfortable with ambiguity.” He continues:
Whenever I think there’s a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say “only” or “always,” someone or something proves me wrong. My scientist friends have come up with things like “principles of uncertainty” and dark holes. They’re willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of “faith”! How strange that the very word “faith” has come to mean its exact opposite.
I read that as a more eloquent statement of what I always say: for me, faith is about the journey, not the destination.
Ironically, at the end of the essay, Rev. Rohr makes an absolute statement:
People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It’s the people who don’t know who usually pretend that they do. People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is — quite sadly — absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.
So, according to Re. Rohr, if you think it’s about the destination, not the journey, then you just haven’t had a ‘genuine spiritual experience.” This is where my belief differs from that of Rev. Rohr. I’ve thought long and hard about how a belief in God can mean such diametrically opposed things to different people. My conclusion is that there must be some reason that I can’t comprehend. For me, that remains a mystery.
Michael Zimmerman · 2006/12/28 at 23:09
I apologize for barging in in this way, but I think that the issue I’m raising is one that will be of interest to you and your readers. At least I hope so! (And you have posted on this general topic at least once before.) Thanks for reading on:
Celebrate Evolution Sunday â€“ 11 February 2007
By Michael Zimmerman
The Second Annual Evolution Sunday will occur on February 11th 2007. Your help is needed to make this day a success. This date is an opportunity for congregations across the country (indeed, around the world) to join together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. Evolution Sunday is being sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project, a collection of more than 10,400 members of the Christian clergy who have signed a letter asserting that Christianity and modern evolutionary science need not be at odds with one another.
In a two paragraph plea (reproduced below), these Christian clergy members assert that they â€œbelieve that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.â€ They go on to urge that modern evolutionary theory rather than any form of creationism or intelligent design be taught in our countryâ€™s public schools and conclude by requesting that â€œWe ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.â€
One of the main goals of The Clergy Letter Project is to demonstrate to the broad spectrum of Christian believers that, unlike what is being shrilly shouted by many fundamentalist ministers, a choice does not have to be made between religion and science. Because the two are compatible, congregants should feel comfortable accepting both. Additionally, the signers of The Clergy Letter want to go on record making it clear that those fundamentalist ministers are not speaking for the majority of Christian clergy.
Last year, in an attempt to further this message and to elevate the quality of the national discussion on this topic, The Clergy Letter Project sponsored the First Annual Evolution Sunday event. On this day, 467 congregations from every state, the District of Columbia and five countries participated by hearing sermons, having an adult education class or a childrenâ€™s Sunday school class, or joining in a lunch discussion group. While each participating congregation chose an event that made the most sense locally, together a major international statement was made.
Last year, Evolution Sunday received a great deal of very positive national publicity with articles in virtually every major newspaper in the country. Indeed, the one in the New York Times was the most e-mail article for the week it appeared. Additionally, it is clear the event hit a nerve with creationists: both the Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis issued press releases condemning Evolution Sunday.
The Second Annual Evolution Sunday event has now been scheduled for 11 February 2007. If you are a part of a congregation, please think about having it participate. It is only by broadening the base in this way that we will be able to reach out to a growing number of people and, hopefully, improve the understanding that people have about the interrelationship between science and religion.
Signing up is easy. Simply send an e-mail to Michael Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org indicating your congregationâ€™s desire to participate along with the name and location of your congregation and its leader. Your congregation will be immediately added to the growing list.
The Clergy Letter Projectâ€™s web pages provide more than 50 sermons delivered by clergy last year on this topic. Check them out at http://www.evolutionsunday.org. So, if you or a member of the clergy you know are in need of ideas, this is a good place to start.
Additionally, if you are a member of the Clergy and have not yet signed The Clergy Letter, please think about doing so. A note with your name, congregation (optional) and address to email@example.com will get you signed up.
Most importantly, please help by spreading the word about The Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday to others who might be interested in participating. Please forward this note to friends and colleagues and ask them to do the same. Please post this note on as many list serves as you can. In short, please help us reach more people as quickly as we can. Efforts like this will make a positive difference for both religion and science around the country.
Michael Zimmerman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology at Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana, is the founder of The Clergy Letter Project.
Visit The Clergy Letter Project on the Web at http://www.evolutionsunday.org
The Clergy Letter
Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible â€“ the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark â€“ convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as â€œone theory among othersâ€ is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among Godâ€™s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that Godâ€™s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
Signed by 10,418 Christian clergy member as of 19 December 2006
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