Creationism- Stupiding Down the Bible

“Fossils are rather boring, because they’re piles of dead things.” (tour guide, BC Tours, leading a group of children through the Denver Natural History Museum.)

“BC,” in this case, as the children on the tour are forced to acknowledge- twice- stands for “Biblically Correct.” Working from a 6000 year old model of the earth’s age, these tour guides must cram scientifically verifiable facts about the earth’s formation and the evolution of life on the planet, into a space the size of their own brains. They ignore, for instance, a whole exhibit which explains the procedures and accuracy of radiometric carbon-dating, in favor of telling the children that the crafted depictions of dinosaurs and other animals which existed more than 6000 years ago are mere “artwork.” (Kind of like those pictures in their “Children’s Illustrated Bibles?”)

They drill the students to respond to evolutionist’s explanations of biology with the question “How do you know?” They do so in a mocking way, hoping- I guess- that those of whom the question is asked will be as stupid as they are about the “facts” they are presenting. I’m not using the adjective “stupid” loosely in connection with them, either. Watch their response to the interviewer’s questions about how many generations of humans with 800 year old life spans could fit into a 6000 year model. Ok..it may not be stupidity. I apologize for that. It could be flat-out lying.

It is beyond me why Creationists must make God fit into their own imaginations. And it is far, far beyond me why parents would hand their children over to adults who must take a jackhammer and cutting torch to God’s Creation in order to make sense of it. To me, it is like dynamiting the Sistine Chapel because it is impossible to take in all of Michelangelo’s masterpieces there at once. Or believing that France is not on the other side of the Atlantic ocean because you can’t see it from any shore in North America! (“How do you know?”)

The biblical account of Creation is not invalid; it is the best explanation available and understandable to persons of the Bronze Age about the origins of the universe. Telescopes, microscopes, the language of mathematics, and radiometric carbon-dating technologies have led to more elaborate and precise descriptions of those origins. In 4000 more years, there will be even more precise and calibrated methods of measurement available, too (if we don’t blow our own existence here away by continuing to believe God created the earth as a bottomless well of goodies for humans to luxuriate in).

Those, or any, new explanatory elaborations of geology, biology, physics, and astronomy will not invalidate today’s best observations. They will have been built upon them, exactly as the things we know today were built upon the ancient observations of genuinely curious and capable persons asking “why?” and “how?” Einstein will always have a revered place in the study of physics in general, and gravity in particular, just as the cave artists of Lascoux, France- 30,000 years ago- left behind a record of their observations which is still a valid part of present day biological studies.

To fear science because it might lead someone away from God is a genuine concern if one believes God must be able to be explained and understood by human minds. Personally, my understanding and appreciation and fascination with God expands with every snapshot taken from the Hubble telescope. Every time I bend over to pick up a 100 million year old ammonite fossil (of which there are millions in this area of Texas), I am struck again by the magnificence of, and my own ignorance of, God’s continuing, creating methodologies.

The Bible should be regarded as wonderful and intriguing words about God. When we turn it into literal dogma, as interpreted by tour guides who choose to ignore what they can’t understand, then we are insulting both God and future generations of curious children.

Death.. A Finch Takes Flight

When I went out front to get the paper and watch the sunrise this morning, I discovered this:

finch 2 finch 1

It’s a golden finch, frozen in lifelessness on the back of a lawn chair. Sometime yesterday afternoon or evening, it landed there, and died. It was not frozen to the back of the chair; it could have, had it chosen or been able to, gone elsewhere. But here, looking toward a live oak tree and a pile of firewood underneath, is where it landed, went to sleep, and died.

Yesterday, an unusual snowy day in this part of North Texas, was a feeding frenzy for finches in the front and back yards. I spread almost 25 lb. of sunflower seeds out during the day and all of it is gone this morning. The finches were joined by several cardinals in their hunger and inability to get at their usual fares of wild grass and thistle seeds, and the occasional mockingbird stopped by, too, though they prefer their meals warm and wiggly.

This is the first time I’ve seen a finch, or any bird, die this way. Had it been warmer, it may have landed, died, but then fallen to the ground in the grasp of gravity. But here, frozen in place, this one remains, eyes still open, stiff and posed in the posture of sleep.

I’m thinking, as I looked closely at it this morning: “What a great way to go!” I have no idea about the consciousness of death which a bird, or any animal, might have. I think we humans make the mistake of assuming that all animals besides ourselves go through their lives in a dull litany of pre-programmed instinctual behaviors that they have no control over, on their way to a death of which they are utterly unaware. Those assumptions, of course, are born in the prevailing human attitude that the universe, from microbes to galaxies, is a mechanistic, unthinking set of interrelated parts, adding up to a whole for the benefit of humans. Our own instinctual behaviors, in that worldview, are “negligible” in light of our “superior” abilities to evaluate, rationalize, and choose.

But I think, without a shred of scientific or spiritual data to back me up, that finches know a lot more about what they’re doing than we may have the calibrated instruments or divine revelations to even begin to understand. They certainly do not process, share, or make as many choices within that finch knowledge as our brains enable us to make. But their brains, like ours, have adequately developed for their needs now, in this particular epoch of relational life on earth. After all, this is the fourth spring in a row where some finches- not all of them!- have chosen to stop for awhile on their way north from Mexico, in this backyard, in this little town, on this little acre among the kabillion others in North Texas. Grandma and Grandpa finch must have had some information which they somehow passed along!?

And while finches may not have the ability to reflect on their own consciousness, they probably don’t spend an ink dot of time reflecting on the finitude of their lives either. Certainly, they do not live their lives in the obsessive dread of death that many of us do. Still, though, this finch chose to stay perched, on this chair, and wait in a way that it had never waited before. Without a single step to the left or right, it landed, sat still, slept, and died.

What did the finch know and when did it know?

What finch memories began to fade as the hours (or minutes) passed?

Is there a place within its flock that today is noticed by its absence?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I will come back to them for days. Join me in that speculation, if you’d like. Take a look once more at the pictures of that finch. In very real ways, I believe, it has taken flight once more.

And is flying around us all, right now.

Fundamentalism: The ‘Good Old Days’ of Jesus

Fundamentalist Characteristic #2: A Belief in the Supremacy of a Bygone Era

Question: How do you know you’re talking to a fundamentalist?

Answer: His mouth is pointing toward 1955.

Of course, if you’d have been talking to that same fellow in 1955, he would have been extolling the virtues of some pre-Roosevelt time frame-  before Big Government took over and the Welfare State had taken root, etc., etc., on back to whatever set of days upon which he could most comfortably project his own historical fantasies.

As Modernism began to push at the borders of ancient Israel, in the form of Babylonian hordes, the time and person of King David began to be touted as the pinnacle period of Jewish history. Everything good and worth preserving about Judaism was located in the reign of David, “a man after God’s own heart.” Oh yeah, Moses was still important, but King David was a fighter, a military man, a defender of the faith. And when encroachment is perceived at the borders, that’s the kind of leader who takes center stage in the hearts and memories of those who believe they are being encroached upon. 

The desire for America to “go back” to a time when prayers were rammed down the throats of schoolchildren, before Roe v’ed Wade, and when everyone went to church in real Sunday clothes, is one of the most prominent themes in fundamentalist preaching and political activity. The 1950s seems to be the magic time that those fearful of today’s perceived Modernism are pining for, although it’s easy to see that they really are speaking of a mythological time when you try to pin them down to specific years of their supposed Golden Era.

But, oh! The glorious memories of those days in the 1950s when we were still a Christian nation! Back when:

* African Americans still had to drink at special fountains, eat in the kitchens at restaurants, pay a poll tax, pass a literacy test to vote, go to separate and woefully unequal schools, and sit in the back seats of public transportation in most of the South.

*Women were at fault when their husbands beat them, had no control over their man’s urges to procreate, and were fed amphetamines  by family doctors to lose weight while they stayed at home working and waiting for their allowances.

*Men were not men unless they looked like every other man in gray flannel suits.

*Girls could look forward to being wives, nurses, or teachers.

*Boys had better be able to play football or baseball, or find a dark and lonely closet to hide in.

*J. Edgar Hoover could wear his tu-tu while he was ripping apart the careers and lives of countless thousands of people and casting aspersions and suspicions on hundreds of thousands more, while his Senatorial counterpart Joe McCarthy, was preparing the way of the Lord with sneering, drunken vengeance. 

Such a fat underbelly exists on any body of time, no matter how glorious the memory of that time may be. It is human, not prophetic or divinely inspired, to wax nostalgic. But it is evil to pretend that for one brief, shining moment Camelot was anywhere, or real , and then to legislatively, shamefully, and coercively force others into that fictional fantasy land.

The primary motivation of fundamentalists in this regard seems to me to hinge on their overuse, and blatant misuse of the word Christian. They love the adjective itself, while merely putting up with him from whom the word was derived. They have made Jesus, the Christ, into a caricature of their own dark selves: he is an Islam hating, W Bush supporting, moralizing, tight-assed and uptight prig in his present adjectival incarnation who is concerned above all else that is wrong with the world, that two people of the same gender might possibly be able to enjoy the legal benefits of a state-sanctioned, contractual marriage.

“Follow me,” Jesus said. When he said that, he could not have imagined the eventual transformation of his life into a set of rules, regulations, dogma, and doctrines preceded by the institutionally mandated imprimatur Christian. If he were here physically right now, I think he might even be looking about for a whip to drive the profit-loving, status-lusting, power-wanting, people-separating, science-ignorant, lust-suppressing , 1955 time travelers  from the portico of his Daddy’s Temple.

Which is what I think as many of us as possible to should be willing to help him do. You know- follow him for a while, instead of his self-appointed, self-righteous, self-perpetuating spokesmen.

Rumi – Why I love him..

A Teacher’s Pay, by Rumi

God has said Be Moderate with eating and drinking,
but never, Be Satisfied when taking in light.

God offers a teacher the treasures of the world,
and the teacher responds, “To be in love with God

and expect to be paid for it!” A servant wants
to be rewarded for what he does. A lover wants

only to be in love’s presence, that ocean
whose depth will never be known.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I love Rumi. It’s that simple. I know, I know: Join the bandwagon. But there’s a reason bandwagons exist, isn’t there?

There are those men and women who are able to reach far beyond the superficialities of gender, nationality, or even time, and expose that which is in themselves in such a way that it is begun to be revealed in ourselves. We are probably not- not yet– as eloquent as they are about what we have discovered in ourselves, through their courage in writing; but isn’t it thrilling to know that what they have uncovered strikes a chord within us- one that we are able to begin to hear?

I love Rumi because he makes my body sing.

He tells me why I can lose myself in the magenta of a swamp mallow, or in the flight of a heron from one side of the lake to the other. I look up at the sky and know almost nothing about what I’m seeing, but I love looking anyway. And I share that ignorance with everyone at some point in the depths of space- we are all a part of a Mystery whose depth cannot be known, yet we are attracted to it, bound together by our attraction to it, and each other, and all that is.

My curiosity is insatiable. Don’t tell me to put a lid on it or tear away at the edges of it! There is Light there somewhere and what I know is that the Light will lead to more Light, and that it someday will absorb me and on that day I will be a part of the symphony and I, and you, and the swamp mallow, and the heron, and you, too, will resound eternally.

Rumi tells me it’s OK to think that way. I believe him.

Connections

I wrote recently about my lack of enthusiasm for chicken-fried steaks.  I’ve gotten comments and emails from people in Alabama, Utah, Washington D.C., Louisiana, California, and- of course- Texas (El Paso, Dallas, Arlington, and just down the street), who all say that their CFS would change my mind.

So, besides the point I am leading up to, let me say this: have at it, you optimistic CFSers. I will take up you on your offers anytime we are in approximate vicinity to each other. Except don’t ask me to slather anything with white gravy. I just can’t do it.

OK, now to the main point. As I thought about those who made this offer to overturn my CFS bias, I realized that I am looking at a group of people who would, in the same room at the same time, enjoy each other to no end and come away from such an encounter with their circles of consciousness made wider, thus better.

What they all have in common, right now, is a love for good CFS (is that possible?) and some knowledge of me. They could bounce those two subjects back and forth for a few minutes as a dialectical means of establishing some community, but then..I know this is true..one of them would say something which would cause another one to say “Aha!”. The rest would lean in to hear what followed (because all of them know- I also know- how to listen), and a human explosion of thought would begin that would leave everyone there reluctant at evening’s end to go home. But everyone would leave nourished and grateful for another community of which they were a part, but which had also taken them beyond themselves.

Evolution

We all have the opportunity to make connections with people: between ourselves and others, and between others and others. In doing so, we advance humanity. I’ll go ahead and say it this way, so you know how important I think that work is: By bringing certain people together, we can change the world.

And, of course, that can be for good or for bad. At some point, in the late 1920s, someone said, “Adolph, I’d like introduce Hermann to you.” But for those of us with genuine concern for the world and all of its creatures, for those of us who feel the circles of our love straining for larger diameters, the opportunities to affect the ideas that could affect goodness in the world, are present almost daily. We all know people who don’t know each other who should know each other. We all know of synergy which is waiting to sizzle if only two or more special minds whom we also know, could be brought together.

At that’s all we really have to do. If we trust that our instincts and forethought are correct ones, the natural desire for creativity on the part of others will take over.  We, then, can sit back and be a part of the synergy instead feeling like we must lead, form, and guide it according to our own personal expectations. My group of CFS aficionados might not come from their evening together with a solution to end of world hunger in hand, but they might be ready to get together for a CFS cook off, from which there might emerge, in a generation a two, an idea for the speedy transportation of surplus foodstuffs from one nation to another. Who knows?

Which is the real point, I guess to all of this wondering: nobody will know what the potential results of such a meeting of like-minded individuals will be if it never happens. Each of us can be the estuary where new relationships, new community, and new ideas evolve from their present forms.

And there is no way to make white gravy palatable. That’s the only thing I will not allow on the agenda.

Update: 12-18-07

Here’s a picture of white gravy from a breakfast I attended this morning. The breakfast was wonderful. But I didn’t try the gravy..

white gravy

Build a Shelter of Light and Air..

I ran across this phrase, and it fascinates me:

shelter light and air

It is fascinating to me because of its Simplicity and Truth. And that Simplicity and Truth is found not only in the images or recollections which the phrase gives rise to in our imaginations or memories; it is the clean nature of the statement itself.

Build a shelter of light and air

Stated in the imperative, it is like a command that has been waiting to be spoken. It is a place which I am perceived to be ready for now- by whom?- and being invited to enter. But first- the imperative- there is work to be done, assembly to be undertaken.

The first task, for me, is disassociation from those things- things, stuff, material- that I have allowed to define me and, in the process, bend me. Because that is what stuff does, it bends the shape of the Image of God, the humanity in us, into the shape of whatever shiny baubles attract us. I have learned to feel my way in the dark with my wallet. I breathe in the smog of others’ desires for me to have the satisfaction that only they can sell to me. I am vulnerable and I have been injured, over and over, because I have traded too many times the security I was born with- the security of community with others- for the individual and illusory safety of bank account numbers and one more gadget.

I have forgotten so much about sharing. But I have remembered enough to know that holding my hands outward, toward others, is eminently more rewarding than holding them clenched and thrust within my pockets. I want to make room for the Image of God to be growing again, through the presence of others, and not stunted any longer through the weight of all my stuff. So it begins there.

The second task is to “let there be light.” Yes, that Light. The Light that comes not from the sun, and certainly not from any incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs; I want more of the Light the ancient rabbis called First Understanding. I want the Light of more Knowledge, yes, but even more than that, I want the Light of Appreciation and Acceptance of what I already do know. I want to spend less and less time criticizing, evaluating, deciding, and then second-guessing, than I do in feeling passionately about and cultivating the facts, ideas, and opinions that are already in me and that I know to be valuable. I want to continue moving from whatever is dark in me, toward that which is Light, and awaits me.

And then, to breathe. I want to breathe through walls which separate me from the pulse of the world around me. I want the Air, the lightness of being which surrounds us all, to be the only barrier between myself and others. I do not want to fight for air behind musty walls of tradition, or within stale spaces of ancient standards. I no longer want to gasp for air within the stench of dogmatic death.

I want to feel the ruach, the breath of God, always blowing against me, always being drawn into my being. I want to feel led by the Spirit into open spaces, and not pushed by the status quo against the brick walls of fear built by others.

I want to build a structure of Light and Air with others, for others, because of others, and live there, too.

That is the only structure, a structure of Understanding and Freedom, that will withstand the onslaught of those who live, instead, in forts, ready to fight and die for the beliefs they cherish and store within dark, thick, impermeable walls. It is the Structure of Light and of Air in which I will live and toward which I am moving.

I beg you to come along. We will need each other, to help each other disassemble, unpack, and even tear down some of what we thought, by ourselves, was precious. We will need each other to remind the other that the Light is sometimes uncomfortable but always illuminating, and that the Air is often harsh and cold, even as it is life-giving and clean.

We will build a structure of Light and of Air and we will say, “Welcome” to all who come nearby.