Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Little wisdom…

I saw a parody headline several years back that’s come to mind in recent weeks. Written above a picture of a young adult preacher on some fake news website, the headline read: Pastor Looks Forward to the Birth of His Second Sermon Illustration. Nice. Now that I’m a foster father, I plan to get in on that gig. But rather than clutter our pulpit with cuteness, I’ll expound here on some little wisdom the kid recently delivered.

We were driving near downtown, talking about everything God made. He mentioned the trees, and I said, “Yep, God made those.” He brought up birds, and I was like, “Them too.” He pointed out buildings, and declared, “God made everything.” I responded, “Well, we humans make buildings. We’re kind of like God in that way. God created the world. We create stuff too.” He pushed, “So God made you, me, every tree and bird, but not the buildings?” I decided to backtrack on my earlier claim, and replied, “Kind of. I mean, God started the process. Watched birds, animals and us evolve over millions and billions of years.” He was like, “Whoa! That’s a long time!” I said, “Yeah. Evolution was how God created, and that was very slow.” He observed, “God must’ve been being very careful. God didn’t want to make a mistake.” I answered, “Brilliant.”

And it was, amen?! I mean, I figured that wasn’t the appropriate time to mention natural selection and the extinction of Neanderthals. Evolutionary biologists certainly wouldn’t endorse an idea that we evolved in some linear, orderly way. That nuance aside, however, people of faith have long included in our idea of God the characteristic of Creator. However life came to be, we’ve claimed, God had a hand in the process, guided it somehow toward life.

Personally, I like to imagine God in constant partnership with life’s building blocks, nudging new combinations this way, then that way; allowing the chaos, brilliance and indeterminacy (a fancy word for Freedom) of ALL matter to work its magic. In other words, the notion that God had reality on puppet strings from second zero doesn’t fit for me. Rather, God’s always been improvising with our universe’s possibilities like Jazz musicians with the key of A major, discovering along the way what beauty emerges.

And what I find so insightful about the kid’s response to the length of that “jam session” (to use another Jazz term for what we boringly call Creation)- i.e. that God was being careful, not wanting to mess up- was his intuiting the purpose of it. I mean, we could imagine a god who created without concern for those things that were created. Perhaps making the world was a simple act of self-exertion, a cosmic showing off of, “Let’s see what I can do.” Indeed, many of the pre-Biblical Creation stories that the Bible drew upon and adapted thought of their gods in that way. Those gods had little care for humanity; we were play things, existed mainly to serve them. We were made for the gods’ sakes, not our own sakes, and those divinities couldn’t care less about us.

By contrast, the great religious genius of the Ancient Israelite storytellers was their understanding that within the created order was a plan for love, companionship and goodness. Others put it this way: There’s a moral reality to reality. We were created by and for Love. So the idea from modern science, that we evolved over eons and weren’t made whole in six days, adds an incredible dimension of depth to that religious insight. God took so long because life needed careful attending, patient development. We- life itself!- matter so much to God, God didn’t want to mess up.

Consider that the next time you hear the flawed claim that somehow religion and science are opposed. My five year-old foster child understood how the two can work in tandem, how religious folk needn’t be defensive when confronted with other methods of discovering truth. Indeed, if we were all as open to discovery and hope as children can be, the music we’d make together would sound much sweeter, the harmonies more true.

Grace and Peace,

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