Earlier this week, the Texas Board of Education held a public
hearing about the choice and use of textbooks in the classroom.
Boring stuff, right? Riveting for textbook publishers and educators, maybe, but for most Americans and even Texpats like me, this isn’t news.
It became news, of course, because the hearing resulted in a clash between proponents of evolution and young-earth creationists. Scientists argued to keep the same curriculum. A hodgepodge of Christians and Republicans demanded biology textbooks that taught a biblical creation perspective. And so CNN and every political blog in the country brandished photos and quotes from politicians, presenting the event as a real affront to education.
Whether or not anything comes of this, whether or not we’re just witnessing the last creationists in their death throes, I’m tired. This fight is old, older than the 1925 Scopes Trial. As a Christian and a Texan, I grew up on the front-line of the battle, and I’m ready for Christians to throw in their figurative guns (but literal too, while we’re at it) and surrender.
I say this as a person who takes his faith very seriously. Homeschooled till sixth grade, a graduate of a private Christian high school, I grew up among young-earth creationists. I’ll go ahead and confess that I was a young-earth creationist until college — which isn’t when I abandoned God and began worshiping Darwin. It’s just when I realized how little evolution affected my faith.
I’m tempted to say here that evolution doesn’t affect my faith at all. The mechanics of how life began and multiplied don’t alter my belief in God or view of God’s role in my life. If humans came about gradually through evolution or 6,000 years ago with a divine finger snap [Is that the assumption, creationists? Real question. The verses are a little hazy.], it doesn’t change the fact that I’m alive now; it doesn’t take away any existential angst.
But I need to admit that origins do affect my faith and my understanding of God — or misunderstanding, as it usually is. I believe in a God beyond the comprehension of the human mind, a divine presence immanent and active in this universe, operating within its laws, or perhaps even being its laws.
Evolution is a beautiful concept to me. Precious, single-cellular life originates on a harsh planet, persists against every elemental odd and procreates over billions of years into billions of distinct life forms, culminating in our present age. If this process reflects God, or is God as I’ve heard sometimes, I would say it reveals a patient, attentive and creative genius — if “genius” didn’t sound woefully inadequate to describe the divine. I would also say it reveals a much more complex and wonderful God than a literal reading of Genesis would allow, which was never the point of Genesis to begin with.
Having grown up in Texas, I know this fight is fought with good intentions. Christian parents worry their kids will abandon faith if the stories of Genesis are undermined. But having left Texas and worked with HIV+ children in Romania, befriended Haitian refugees and met survivors of the Kosovo War, I’ve faced global realities more hazardous to belief in a Christian God.
These are injustices worth combating. War, domestic abuse, and environmental degradation are true evils, and yet Christians are still arguing with biology professors, still founding private schools to avoid evolution. They’re fighting science and reason, which are losing battles to be sure, but I think they’re also fighting true Christian faith, which requires absolute humility when reckoning with the divine.
I can say with integrity, my faith is richer for my belief in evolution, not worse. So I’m asking, Christians, can we quit fighting this battle? Can we reevaluate what truly deserves protest and lobbying dollars? Can we abandon picket lines and consider what God looks like within science, not without it?