By Cathy Young
We have been bombarded with the elusive and fluid nature of what appear to be facts and the truth in news and reporting of current events . In news stories, it depends the version of the truth we hear greatly upon which source and platform we get our information from. Did anyone see the coverage of Hurricane Florence, and the memes resulting from the reporter who was standing sturdily and mightily in the face of ferocious winds, trying to report on the catastrophe? At least, that is how he presented himself on camera. Eventually, as the report was in progress, two people went strolling by, casually, and effortlessly behind him. These types of incidences, that cause us to question what truth is and what is fabrication, seem to be more frequent and in our face in this era of “fake news.” I don’t know about you, but I find myself being rattled by the idea that what I see plainly as fact, another person sees as an “opinion” that can be questioned.
Concurrently, people are also seeking authenticity in their lives. Their journey and search for faith and meaning takes them in many different directions.. It seems that the exploration takes people to many places from yoga, to various meditation techniques, and beyond…. But rarely to church. And I thought about that for a while. There are a lot of motives and explanations for why that is. Most recent studies and polls list a variety of reasons, including-“church and teachings from what I encounter seem rather shallow” , “the people are hypocritical”, and “the church is not a safe place to express doubts”, but the number one reason seems at this moment in time to be “the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world”, and a sizable percentage of people believe that science is in conflict with much of the Bible.
And when the subject of religion comes around and science comes up, it is no secret that there is uncomfortableness. I grew up Catholic, and science and religion were never mutually exclusive in my house. I was wondering recently how many people find that their knowledge of science and the Bible conflict? Are there any scientists out there? I don’t know if many of you know this about me, but my training and education is in microbiology, and more specifically, bacteriology, which is a specific subset of microbes. I studied back in the 1980’s time frame, and at the time, The University where I went was very current in my field. Now as I look back, I am amazed at how much of what I learned back in the 1980’s has been refined and rewritten.
Let’s look at how our understanding of the world has changed in the last few hundred years. Remember when we thought the sun revolved around the earth? Or that the world was flat? These ideas reflect what was once thought of as TRUTH and reflects the evolution of science.
This brings me to the Bible. I like to compare our evolving understanding of science in the world to our evolving understanding of the Bible. Some believe the Bible is inerrant. Some think that to allow for any “error” in the Bible, so the inerrantists claim, you might not be able to trust any of it? The answer to this challenging question can be quite simple ….Faith and the idea that God is still speaking and his truths are continually being revealed to us. We are all on that journey of faith, and we are all on different parts of our journey. I want to tell any of you reading or listening to this that you are always welcome here, no matter where you are on your journey.
I believe and propose to you that There is a Beauty of God in Science and in thinking and using the brain and intelligence that you were born with.
If that is too trite and corny for you, then just realize that if or when you doubt, you are not alone. Not everyone has an unshakable faith and understanding where everything is clearcut and they know the path. In fact, I would offer that hardly anyone really falls into that category. Most or many of us have doubt. Many question. Thank goodness for the questioning and the questioners, because that moves us all forward in our journey of understanding and faith.
Mike McHargue is a gentleman sometimes called “Science Mike”. An evangelical-turned-atheist-turned-Christian-once-again, McHargue, better known as Science Mike, has turned reconciling science and faith into a career. He hosts two podcasts, Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists, which together have hundreds of thousands of followers. His new memoir, Finding God in the Waves, outlines how he went from devout Christianity to atheism to something you might describe as scientific faith.
McHargue turned back to science to help him understand his re-emergent faith. He explored cosmology to develop a new understanding of God. He read about how the brain processes spiritual experiences. Drawing from both his mystical experience and scientific exploration McHargue tried to create a kind of system of faith⎯ten “axioms about Christian faith” that, he has written, form “a fence” against his doubt.
One of his ten axioms states “The Bible is AT LEAST a collection of books and writings assembled by the Church that chronicle a people group’s experiences with, and understanding of, God over thousands of years. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of the Bible, study of scripture is warranted to understand our culture and the way in which people come to know God.”
For many who value science over religion, the argument would be that, rather than answering questions about the natural world with “because God,” a scientist will work to find the answers. I think religion is just as much of a search as science is.. So…just as science has theories that it treats as more-or-less fact despite only being 98% sure and not 100% sure, religion prescribes certain behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs based on people’s lived experiences. Granted, there are people who take those things as unshakable fact, but I think that for most people faith is all about having faith in spite of not knowing, rather than believing one knows.
That is where I would say that Wisdom comes in. Remember the reading from earlier from the book of Proverbs.
“Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates
“How long, O simple ones,
will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel”…
One of the great attractions of tribalism, is that you don’t actually have to think very much. You only need “to know on any given subject… which side you’re on… A tribal leader calls the shots, and everything slips into place. After a while, your immersion in tribal loyalty makes the activities of another tribe not just alien but close to incomprehensible. It results from what he calls a “compounding combination of… differences into two coherent tribes, eerily balanced in political power, fighting not just to advance their own side but to provoke, condemn, and defeat the other.”
Andrew Sullivan wrote in New York Magazine (September 18, 2017) about a spirit of “tribalism” in America that has produced an “increasingly dangerous dysfunction,” one that also plagues people around the world. Of course, this is not new. The people written about in the Bible were constantly under this scourge.
We can contrast the redeeming truth of our Lord, the Good News of God, against this bad news of division we encounter so frequently in our time.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells those who would lay their trust in him: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” What another perplexing contrast!
Giving substance to this cross of self-denial can propel us into a reality more likely to transform the Us against Them sickness of our time into something more God-like.
Through the fundamental and essential nature of our faith, we can reveal in word and action a new Us/Them reality. What this can mean is taking up our crosses – in denial and love and giving – to reach a view of Us for Them. Us for Them.
Honestly and realistically, there will not likely be a corresponding Them for Us response – at least not at first. Therefore, it falls on us to show the world the way to overcome the tribalism of Us against Them by showing we are for them and all others, regardless of whether they reciprocate or not.
“Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, to know our place in it, and to marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by.” A. Aczel
“Everything is understood by God, and we try in our human capacity to touch it as best we can. The glory and holiness of God fills the entire world.”M. Bialik
“Science gives us fact. Faith gives us meaning”
Credits for quotes to Mayim Bialik, Mike McHargue (Science Mike) and Amir Aczel