Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You can choose your enemies

A few years ago, I was invited to give a creationist presentation at Calvin College. I should qualify that, though. My presentation was part of a conference organized by an employee of Calvin College at the college's conference center. He personally sponsored and funded the conference. It was not sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise supported by Calvin College. The conference was intended to expose the Calvin College community to young-age creationism. Knowing what I know about Calvin (it's no friend of young-age creationism), I went to this conference with great fear and trembling, like Daniel into the lions' den.

When I got there, I met Steve Matheson, and it wasn't as bad as I expected. In fact, it was kind of fun. Granted, I rambled on and on for far too long on my presentation, but Steve seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing and asked legitimate questions. We definitely disagree about a lot of important issues (in theology and science), but I had a good time and Steve's a good guy.

Recently, he agreed to participate in a forum on the book Signature in the Cell with author Stephen Meyer. It was a very controlled event, and he only got to ask a few questions, but it seems he set off something of a firestorm of reactions. First there was this post which described and distorted part of the Q&A at the event. Steve replied in a series of posts (I, II and III). Then out of the blue, Richard Sternberg (whom I would also like to call a friend), posted what I considered to be a provocative rebuttal to an old post of Steve's. It really surprised me, since I'd never seen Rick post at a blog before. That post drew a rebuttal from Steve. Now lots of bystanders are piling on the mockery and scorn, and the situation deteriorates.

I wasn't going to comment on this mess (which I attribute largely to the unfettered, unedited, mostly uncivilized realm of the "blogosphere"), but I thought there might be some other weary bystanders like me who might appreciate a very simple observation. You can choose your enemies. No, you can't control someone else's behavior, but you can choose how you react.

I discovered that myself at Calvin College when I met Steve. In a debate where scoffing and derision are standard tactics, Steve is sincerely and genuinely interested in dialogue and moving towards a resolution of the culture war. He'll probably never be an ally of creationism, but he certainly doesn't have to be an enemy.

Make every effort to live in peace with all men.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.