Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Confessions of an Animist Creationist

Creation of the World, Brueghel
Humans are not the only intelligent life form in existence. We are not alone in the universe. There are entities more powerful and intelligent than humans, many millions of them. And there is a glorious Creator who first imagined us and then created us, fashioning our bodies from the stuff of the earth and filling them with the holy spirit that animates all things. We were made—you were made—on purpose and for a purpose. 

In short, I am a Creationist.

The only other people I know who believe in the personhood of our Creator are evangelical Christians and Deloria-style animists. For a long time, I sought companionship in the evangelical church, but although my Christian friends shared many of my beliefs and values, animism is anathema to them and I never confessed to it. Slowly, I had to withdraw, both to maintain my integrity and because of disagreement with the politicized bible-idolatry that rules today’s evangelical community.

And so I am mostly alone in my thinking . . . but is there any shame in my beliefs? They may not be scientifically provable, but they make perfect sense. To think that this marvelous universe and all the wonders that it holds is an accident only makes a god of accident. To think that humans are the highest intelligence that exists is arrogant to the point of being comic.

Science may not be able to prove the existence of a Creator, but it sure as hell can’t disprove it. I have a right to my Creationism without being called a fool, the same way that others have a right to believe in the Big Bang, species evolution, or the existence of black holes and universe strings . . . none of which they can see. The evidence of science for its conclusions is no more compelling to me than the beauty, consciousness, creativity and complexity of the world that I can clearly see, and that gives evidence for the existence of a Creator.

Neither believers in a greater-than-human being nor believers in a secular, accidental universe can prove their point of view with scientific tools. No reproducible experimental results or mathematical formulas can disprove the existence of a Creator, and systematic observation, that darling of science since the 17th century, only serves to strengthen the Creationist side of the argument.

I’m not a fool. I’m not deluded. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s not biblical puppetry. 

I am a being who was first imagined, and then lovingly made by a Creator who knows me and loves me and has a plan for me. I am not alone.

Further Reading
Vine Deloria: Evolution, Creationism and other Modern Myths.
E.F. Schumacher: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Mary Midgley: Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Who Will Feed Our Spiritual Hunger?

The year was 1945. The war was just over and the religious right had started to cook in a way that this country hadn’t seen since the '20s. Youth For Christ, a teen movement initiated by Torrey Johnson and the young Billy Graham, was hot, hot, hot, offering up a stew for the kids made out of cozy conservatism, popular patriotism and a powerful elixir of spiritual gratification. The liberal journal Christian Century, after denouncing the bourgeoning fundamentalist movement, still had to admit that Youth For Christ was startlingly successful, bringing tens of thousands of young men and women into the fold each week. The fact that Youth For Christ “has gone so far as it has,” they wrote, “is proof that something close to spiritual famine exists among large sections of our population, including the rising generation, who are more hungry for faith than their elders. The churches are not feeding these starving people . . . they should do likewise, and better.”

That challenge was given to the liberal churches almost 70 years ago, but they failed miserably to meet it. Today’s liberal Christianity has become an exercise in niceness, its services intellectualized to the point of being secular. Seeking to ruffle no feathers and be the voice of reason and the champion of science, the liberal churches have lost their spiritual power and the power of the message they purport to speak. Christianity has a radical, counter-cultural potential, but liberal Christians have abandoned it for progressive politics and left the religious field to extremists.

A spiritual famine still exists in this country and in many parts of the world. We are hungry for meaning, since our work life and our community life have been sucked dry and bare by the capitalist machine. God is dead. Science is God. We hunger for meaning in a post-modern world of relativism, skepticism, humanism and deconstruction. What’s left of us and of everything but infinite crowds of particles floating about in an uncaring and meaningless void?

So, why are we surprised when extremists fill the gap? Leaving aside for now the rise of fundamentalism and violent religious extremism around the world, let’s just notice that here at home in the USA, those of us hungry for spiritual nourishment have been given a false choice: Either we can be secular and progressive or we can join the fundamentalist right. No wonder so many believers join the right! They want God! They want meaning and power and beauty and wonder. They want to be loved by their Creator. They want their lives, as one evangelical church put it, to be “on purpose and for a purpose.”

And today’s evangelical churches are punching their message home with a brilliant and vigorous new music, and with welcoming environments that give everyone who walks through the door a place to belong. It feels like home in these churches. They’re a spirit-pampering relief after the emptiness of the marketplace world, and if participants have to check their critical thinking at the door to get this relief, so be it. 

The challenge is still out there. The mission bells are ringing. Where is the alternative for those of us who believe in the greater-than-human and in something more than a materialist and meaningless reality? Where is the power of the life force to be found? Who will feed these starving people . . . without adding to their portion the poisons of bigotry and hate?