Friday, January 20, 2006

And all of you have seen the dance

I find myself, as I attend a United Church of Christ weekly, increasingly gentle in my lack of belief. I have little patience for the directly Christian part of the service, but have yet, in a year or two of attendance, to hear them speak of the larger world, science, the universe, and man's obligation to his fellow man in a manner with which I can't agree. I find myself, much to my surprise, wondering if they'd baptise me on the basis of my beliefs. Would Jesus welcome someone who, while not sure of His resurrection, would follow His command to help fellow man?

There's the last Narnia book, where the Christ-like Aslan welcomes a virtuous non-believer, saying, anything good you've done you've done for me, no matter in whose name you've done it...
To look at this from another point of view.

My first year in Texas as a pastor, I was invited to participate in a weekend retreat to discuss new breakthroughs in genetics, and to craft a resolution which would be proposed to the UCC General Synod as a response.

The attendees were a mixture of laypeople and pastors. We divided into groups to attack certain assigned topics that would go into a proposed resolution: it s to be a mixture of theology and science, and I chose to work on the portion more directly theological, where God was directly mentioned and addressed.

The weekend culminated in a discussion meant to merge these disparate parts together into a whole. As the discussion around the table wore on, it became obvious to me that the language about God was being slighted in favor of a basically secular resolution that genetic studies were "good," and the UCC, if it approved the resolution, was "for" them. This seemed like both weak tea to me, and a poor statement from a Christian church; certainly a weak resolution to come out of a weekend retreat at a church camp called and held under the auspices of a Christian denomination.

And I made the mistake of saying so.

I still remember the pained look on the face of one of my pastoral colleagues, who may have been sympathetic, but who clearly wanted me to be able to take back my words, and simply to shut up. I had, in no uncertain terms, laid a bit of a turd in the punch bowl of the discussion, and no one wanted to fish it out. There was a pained silence following the airing of my complaint, which in substance was that this resolution, coming from a church, needed to be a bit more theological, and a bit less about how good science was.

Finally, a layperson spoke up; a doctor. He started slow, but built up steam. He disagreed with me, but more than that, he resented how science was constantly being bashed by the church, and he wouldn't be a party to any resolution that continued that dishonorable tradition. That, in toto, was the response to my statement: any expansion of the language about God and God's involvement in creation, was to be taken as 'science bashing,' and such "bashing" was not to be countenanced. There was, in other words, an ultimate truth, and it had to be respected. The rest of the room, especially the pastors, tacitly agreed, and no more was said about it.

The resolution, by the way, was not approved by General Synod; but that was more a matter of politics, than of content.

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