Who’s the Monkey Now? Cynicism, Love, and Human OriginsPosted: October 18, 2011
|Don’t be an Organ Donor.|
Ever since the Scopes Trial, the American conversation about where people came from has been a bit heated. This conflict has only intensified as recent genomic discoveries – made by an evangelical Christian committed to the view of the evolutionary process as God’s tool for shaping the comos- have seemingly overthrown the possibility for the human race to have descended from a population of two individuals as the traditional reading of the biblical account would suggest.
NPR’s recent piece Christians Divided Over Science Of Human Origins highlights this tension well, and breaks my heart in the process. Please take the time to listen to it.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about this piece is not the debate itself – though the issues at stake on both sides matter deeply. Perhaps the real catch is that two well educated men who claim to love Jesus need to be refereed by a radio host because they are so eager to jump at one another’s throat on national airwaves.
Where is civility?
Where is balance?
Where is humility and a Christlike commitment to both speech and to silence?
It is a damning, sad indictment of both sides, that they cannot speak from a place of security in the gospel. One hears in both voices the tone of threat, the fear of losing face, the need to compete to survive.
It all feels rather simian, really.
And that saddens me.
It is frustrating to see my community make this issue about the issue, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to express the unity of the church’s calling in her relative diversity of belief. Both positions are consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine. Both can be exegeted from the text consistently with the highest views of the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible. Both have strengths. Both have difficulties.
I’m not saying that passionate opinion and debate related to this issue are not important. They are. But as followers of Jesus, we need to ask ourselves what the cost of this conversation is in the eyes of the many people who are watching, for whom we are the only representation of a community that sings “they will know we are Christians by our love.“
My personal views on the matter of human origins are complex, as indeed the question is. I do not believe the earth is young. I am extremely skeptical about attempts to revise science in light of fundamentalist interpretations of early Genesis narrative. In the end, I advocate patience in light of legitimate scientific inquiry, and holding the scripture in ultimate regard – recognizing that neither science, nor our interpretations of the Bible are divinely inspired.
We must hold these issues in tension, remaining committed to the Spirit that enlivens scripture and speaks in multiform ways to the people of God.
I recently heard Steve Garber say that “cynicism is simply knowledge lacking love.” It is far too easy to gravitate towards cynicism as the cycles of pride and ignorance perpetuate themselves in this conversation. It is too simple to write off both sides as myopic, self-centered, and Pharisaical. I reject that. I want to choose the way of love.
I want to forsake both the slippery slope arguments of head-in-the-hole fundamentalism, and the smooth patter of people too quick to hop aside when a long held doctrine becomes unpopular. I want to humbly listen to the best science that our society puts forward, holding my scriptures close and reading them with an eye that is savvy to biblical genre and good exegesis. But more than anything, I want to choose the hard path of genuine, robust love for the people involved in this debate.
In the big scheme of things, the most important question might not be “where did we come from?” It might be “where are we going?” The answer we find for that in the community of the Kingdom of Heaven may reflect the difference between men and monkeys more accurately then arguing about what tools God used to make us.
Neighbors, friends, let us love. Perhaps that is the most important evolutionary process we could discuss.