With the upcoming debate between everyone’s favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye and Young Earth guru, Ken Ham, I thought I’d do a post about the whole creationism vs evolution brouhaha. Originally, I wanted to say “I thought I’d do a post focusing on the whack-jobiness of the creationist side of the debate”, but that belies a smug and condescending attitude (of which I am often guilty) and is not kind to people who hold that belief. What broke through the smugness I was feeling was the fact that I know people who believe in creationism, even the “young earth” theory and they are decent, caring, intelligent folks who deserve better from me. I hope I can give it to them.
This idea stems from an article posted on Unfundamentalist Christians by Dan Wilkinson titled Creationist Ken Ham versus the Truth, Since it was published, Young Earthers have been having a fit because Wilkinson had the temerity to assert that maybe the Bible (Genesis, in this case) ought not be taken literally. They’re upset because, in calling the Genesis account into question, Wilkinson put the entire Christian faith in jeopardy. Take a look at these comments:
“If death came prior to Adam (evolution) then Jesus is not needed. We are not Christians. Its incompatible. We need Jesus as Savior BEcause of Genesis.”
“Genesis is compatible with Jesus. Evolution is not compatible with the need of a Savior. Death entered after Adam’s sin, not before. Jesus paid the fine Adam caused. The fine was death.”
There were plenty of others, but these two gave me an insight into why some people cling to creationism so tightly. There are a lot of folks who believe the Bible is inerrant, infallible and literally true in all matters, physical and spiritual. Creationism is rooted in that mindset and there’s the rub; because understanding the Bible this way requires every word to be literally true. As Rob Bell said in [ref]quite possibly one of the greatest book titles ever[/ref]Velvet Elvis:
“For some, faith is “a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for him is like an individual brick that stacks on top of the others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble. It appears quite strong and rigid, but if you begin to rethink or discuss even one brick, the whole thing is in danger.”
Seeing it from this viewpoint, I began to realize that part of the problem is something I mentioned earlier: my smug and condescending attitude. Everyday, the mental gymnastics required to embrace creationism get more complex and difficult to sustain. And, everyday, people question that belief and look around for an alternative. It is my job as a follower of Jesus to offer one. Mocking this belief doesn’t do that. In fact, it might cause them to cling to their old convictions even more tightly, because who wants to join up with a patronizing asshole?
So, how do I do this? By remembering how shattering it was for me to come to grips with my own cognitive dissonance. I was fortunate enough that, when it happened, someone was there who was compassionate enough to present another way in a respectful and loving way. And, stick around to guide me through the rough spots. That’s still going on and I am eternally grateful to those folks. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to do the same for someone else one day.