Side by side
I wasn’t planning to comment on last week’s debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and Young-Earth Creationist Ken Ham. Quite frankly, the debate had little interest for me. But just this past Sunday a member of my church submitted an “Ask the Elders” form, asking us to comment on it as a church. This led to an interesting and informative e-mail discussion among the elders.
As a result of that discussion I’ve decided to go on this blog and make clear why I still feel that the issue, for the most part, has little interest for me. Neither my church nor my denomination, The Evangelical Free Church, has an official position on this subject. We recognize that, while Nye and Ham are the polar opposites, there are all sorts of positions between the two that see God in the process but don’t need to contort or deny all things science.
I suspect that, sitting side by side, there are people in my church that have different views on this issue. I am quite sure there are no atheistic evolutionists, people who believe that there is no God and evolution is simply a mindless process with no meaning or purpose. But that is simply because such a view would have a whole host of implications which would probably make everything we do offensive to them and they just would not want to stay.
I suspect that, for the most part, a lot of my brothers and sisters in church share my conviction that I just don’t think it matters. We don’t talk about it, not because it is a taboo issue, but because it is an unimportant issue. Put another way, where we stand on this has nothing to do with how we love each other or even how we love those outside the church.
Some might say that this is an important issue; that we need to take a stand somewhere along the continuum between Nye and Ham. Last night, as the elders talked, I had a strong sense that any one of us would be willing to spend as much time as it took to discuss this issue with anyone in the congregation who felt it was important. It would be important to us simply because peace on this issue would be important to them.
This is one of those issues where “compromise” is not really possible. If somebody believes that the earth is 6,000,000,000 years old and someone else believes it is 6,000 years old, it is not likely that they will compromise and say the earth is 3,000,003,000 years old. But they can agree that this issue will not keep them from sitting side-by-side in church.
More than sitting side-by-side I think we need to be happy to do it knowing the other person disagrees with you. We need to keep our list of reasons to shun other Christians, or for that matter, non-believers, to a minimum. I don’t think a church can be healthy if we have to keep our views silent to be accepted. This would apply to evolution, politics and a host of other issues. One of the great Kingdom of God adventures is to figure out a way to love each other when we have significantly different views on such interesting side issues.
Sitting side-by-side in harmony sometimes requires a tacit understanding that this issue is not worth talking about. We do this in our families all the time. If you have an Uncle Snedley who is sure that President Obama is in league with space aliens planning to take over the earth you probably still need to welcome him to the family dinner. But you might not want to discuss that particular subject at the dining room table. This is not asking him to stay in the closet; not pretending that you agree. It is saying that you want to keep focused on the more important things.
It is the same in our churches over the evolution/creation debate and a host of other issues. It is saying that you want to focus on more important things. Things like the fact that you are a family; and that you love each other.
What are the issues you feel we can differ on and still sit side-by-side?