Note-I really should be polishing up Sunday’s sermon, but sometimes the universe has a way of nudging us in a different direction. Woody Allen said it best, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
My boss at the NMDJ (non ministerial day job) and good friend Jim’s life was possibly saved this week by something that I never heard of before called a water flea. He had eye surgery the other day, and one of the concerns that came up beforehand was that he may have had a genetic predisposition against certain chemicals in the anesthetic they were going to use for his surgery; his body may not have been able to process it out of his system effectively. In other words he may have had the same allergy to the medicine that his mother had, and could have ended up with some paralysis, respiratory issues, or even a stroke.
But because of research using water fleas, which share similar genetic traits as us in terms of (evidently, and I’m no scientist here, so bare with me) the mechanism that gets rid of anesthetics in our own bodies, this potential major problem was avoided.
A “water flea.” a tiny something that you can barely see, and that on a molecular level we share similarities with, and because of those similarities my boss came out of surgery ok.
Wow, how cool, eh? How miraculous! Makes me think of faith the size of a mustard seed.
I was reminded of this today while looking at facebook. On one of the Progressive Christian discussion groups I participate in someone, probably of a conservative bent, posted this meme, more than likely to mock the idea of evolution. To say that the science is wrong, and it’s also probably a plot by liberals to disprove and/or deny the existence of God.
When I saw that, I thought of the sand flea, and realized that the troll on facebook failed miserably to prove his point. He was trying to say that since there is so much genetic similarity in everything, therefore (to his over simplistic understanding of the theory of evolution) we couldn’t have evolved from monkeys and therefore evolution is wrong. This person was “nyah nyahing” science by throwing a Fox News worthy stupefyingly simplistic understanding (or lack) of evolution at us to prove their “point.” I mean even reading this “Genetics for Dummies” explanation of what the theory of evolution really means should prove how idiotic his argument is.
The awesomeness of evolution and science is not that it denies God, but that it shows the magnificence of creation, and how on the tiniest of levels we are ONE with the UNIVERSE and EACH OTHER. It shows us that whatever created us (which many of us call God) made us all as Carl Sagan said so well (and Neil DeGrasse Tyson copied,) that astronauts have realized after looking at earth from space (as I pointed out in this sermon,) and countless mystics, both ancient and modern have experienced, out of “starstuff.”
That’s pretty freaking amazing if you ask me. This doesn’t diminish my faith in something greater than me, it expands it.
But what it does do, and I think that is what scares so many, like the person who posted that meme, is that it forces us to redefine GOD and remove IT from the tiny box we forced it into with our ignorance, pettiness and superstitions. We hold a definition of “God” in our minds that came from a bunch of people, who if they heard SIRI’s voice coming out of our Iphone would accuse us of witchcraft. We take our understanding of the ever expanding universe from people who believed that mental illness was demonic, that thunder was God being angry, that natural disasters were God’s wrath raining down on us, people who didn’t understand germ theory.
Who thought the earth was flat.
In the 21st century we still believe they somehow were “wiser” than us, and we blindly use their definitions to explain the unexplainable, fathom the unfathomable.
Our “definition” of God, needs to grow up with our AWARENESS. Science doesn’t prove GOD is wrong, it proves how much GOD GOT RIGHT, and we HUMANS got wrong in limiting our definitions of God to just those made by people with less knowledge and understanding than us, with less sophistication than us.
We shouldn’t be afraid of science and evolution because to me, it points us to how magnificent and how awe inspiring the universe is and, since we’re made of the same stuff as the universe, how awesome we are as well.
This is exactly what I’ve been working on in my own spiritual journey, here in my blog, this idea of a “Grown Up God.” The idea that we need to get away from these small minded superstitious views of God that is afraid of science, of new ideas, of new knowledge. The mindset that put it in a tiny box eons ago and refuses to let it out while the universe that God created continues to expand, as does our knowledge of it.
Defining something limits it. Putting a tag on you limits you, right? If I said I was a minister, that says only what I do to earn one of my tiny pay checks…But that isn’t all that I am, I am also an audio/visual specialist at a medical school, I’m also a cook, artist, vintage base ball umpire, homebrewer, friend, son, lover, brother, uncle, etc…even these labels don’t fully define who I am. Hell, some of these facets of me didn’t exist 10 years ago
If we can’t simply define ourselves and each other, then how can we easily define God? If we can’t even use a definition of ourselves from 10 years ago to sum us up, why would we expect to limit our understanding of “God” several millennia ago too?
And maybe even calling he/she/it/whatever, “God?” I’m not sure yet.
I’ve always been fascinated with the Dagara people of Burkina Fasso Africa, a people who are considered some of the most spiritually cognizant people on the planet. According to Dr. Malidoma Some, author of Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, they exist in a world where there is no separation between the secular and the spiritual and that the “Material is just the spiritual taking shape.” They don’t even have a word for God, just a “nickname,” a broad “concept.” They call it “Yielongura, The thing that knowledge cannot eat.”
The mystery, something unknowing, and unfathomable… Something you can’t put a box around. Like the universe itself, I like that. But something not threatened by knowledge, or by science, instead something made more awe inspiring by science, by knowledge.
If we open our minds to it.
I have never had a problem with reconciling the scientifically sound ideas of both the “Big Bang” and of evolution with Genesis’ story of creation. I have always believed that the Bible was an inspired work, written by divinely inspired men, who attempted to define the world around them in spiritual terms, but based on the limited intellectual knowledge and superstitions of the time it was written.
To me, the creation story as found in Genesis is an allegorical, metaphorical and poetic work describing man’s Spiritual Evolution, beginning with nothing, to the creation of the stars, then to the firmament (the substance that the planet formed into), the separation of earth and water, the development of plants and animals, into early (prehistoric, animalistic) man and concluding with the first moment where the “Breath of God” was felt by humanity- the first awareness we had of that there was something divine outside ourselves, who we called God that was responsible for the whole shebang. The first time we gazed out at the vastness of the universe, or the star lit sky and felt awe.
The “Evolution for Dummies” article also gives a great, simple understanding of what the word “Theory” means to the scientific community, and how those folks who seek to discredit it seem to also not grasp. The lay person uses the word ‘theory’ to mean an idea or hunch that someone has, but in science the word ‘theory’ refers to the way that they interpret facts.”
Because a great amount of data supports the idea of biological evolution through natural selection, and because no scientific evidence has yet been found to prove this idea false, this idea is considered a scientific theory. Because lots of evidence supports scientific theories, they are usually accepted as true by a majority of scientists.
If you want to understand further what a scientific theory is, this is a great piece.
The first time I watched Carl Sagan step out onto the cosmic calendar I got it. What the cosmologists, and astrophysicists, the scientists and the mystics all were saying was the same. Just in a different language; one with numbers, data, and big words like Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and one with poetry and language… And they are both in awe of it. But they’re both telling the same story all the same.
They are all saying that there is something amazing going on in an awesome, ever expanding universe. One where a tiny water flea could save a life because we are in some awe inspiring way connected!
FYI, if anyone who is not a friend of mine happens to read this, and you are in the metro Detroit area this Sunday, I will be preaching (for the first time since the fire) at the Unity Church of Royal Oak @ 10am. I’ll be giving my dear friend the Rev. Ric Beattie his first Sunday off since he got hired in 8 months ago. I’ll be doing my annual
cooking lesson I mean sermon entitled “Gratitude and Gravy” in which I explore the importance of Gratitude as a spiritual path through a metaphysical interpretation of my recipe for gravy. It’s a lot of fun. Come on out if you’re around. People who say they heard about it from my blog will get a free hug.