Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reactions and over-reactions

I gotta say, it's a pretty weird feeling pulling a magazine out of your mailbox and seeing your own face on it.  Perfect strangers suddenly know a whole lot more about me, but judging by the reactions I've seen, some folks haven't learned very much.  I'm fascinated by how individuals read into this article things they wanted to see.  Those who reacted best were those who already know me.  One person at church observed that it must have been a pretty slow news month to put my mug on a magazine.  He's probably right about that.

A few things I've learned from the reactions to the CT article and my Surrender essay:

1.  It's really, really, really hard to talk about this issue without insulting someone, even when we try not to.  I don't know that there's any way to get around that, because there's always going to be somebody who's miffed about something.  More importantly, I think it illuminates the fears and anxieties that drive many of us to our positions.  For example, I heard one person say something like, "I used to believe what Wood does, but now I can treat science with integrity."  I don't know that it's intentional, but I hear, "Wood is a person who does not treat science with integrity."  Underneath that insult is a genuine concern that accepting young-age creationism puts a person in a very awkward theological position regarding God's general revelation in nature.  Likewise, for those many folks who've summed up the CT article as "believing the Bible vs. accepting evolution," that's also insulting.  Underneath that insult is a recognition of vast differences between the accounts of evolution and Genesis, and a fear that they are fundamentally incompatible.  Resolving this debate will indeed require discussions of deeply insulting and hurtful things like "heresy," "incompetence," and "anti-science," to use the most extreme terms.  Those are the stakes of the debate: Is evolution incompatible with Christianity?  Is creationism incompatible with science?  If we can't discuss the challenges before us, our discussion will continue to be an even trade of insults.  So we'll all have to swallow our pride and face the issues as they are, potential insults and all.

2.  Speaking of issues, I'm amazed and amused at how many poeple know what the Real Issue™ is.  "The real issue is that creationists deny scientific reality."  "The real issue is that Christian evolutionists preach a false doctrine."  "The real issue is how to interpret the scripture."  Frankly, every one of those issues is a legitimate concern, but reducing this debate to one Real Issue™ is naive.  This is vastly complex problem, with scientific, scriptural, social, and psychological dimensions.  We need to face all of these issues with grace and humility not shoehorn the complexity into a one-size-fits-all oversimplification.

3.  A lot of folks may be too far gone to participate in fruitful discussion.  I understand, and I sympathize.  The insults have gone on for so long and have become so heated and angry that bitterness is commonly found.  I'd like to think that no one is beyond God's grace, but I also don't want to be naive about how stubborn people can be.

4.  There is hope.  Lots of hope.  Many folks wrote really thoughtful responses, both on the web and in emails.  Thank you for that.  I hope to be responding to some of those comments in the near future.  Maybe there's an actual dialogue brewing here...

Finally, one mildly irritated reader wanted to know what I actually thought about Tim Stafford's CT article, so here goes:  The first time I read it, I thought, "That's not bad."  Then I read it again, and I didn't like it.  I decided it was way too sympathetic to Darrel Falk and his evolutionary creationism.  Then I read it again, and I realized that there was just as much sympathy for me, and that would probably annoy theistic evolutionists.  So I liked it again.  Ultimately, since the article is supposed to present people rather than positions, my weird reaction is probably my own expectations of what the article should have been rather than what it was.  Same kind of over-reactions that many other people experienced.

The thing that bothered me the most?  I'm not a pea shooter.  I'm a shepherd boy with a slingshot!

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