I never thought I would be saying thank you to Pat Robertson, the American Christian broadcaster, for one of his public pronouncements, but today I’m – well, it surprises me to say so – in basic agreement with what he said.
Of course Robertson and I agree on a great deal when it comes to Christian faith – that Jesus Christ is our lord and savior, for example – but occasionally, over the last several years, there have been some cringe-worthy moments when I wanted to distance myself as far as possible from him, a painful thing to do with a brother in Christ. (His comment that Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in and around New Orleans, was God’s judgment on American abortion policy was particularly difficult for me.)
But today I’m grateful for his courage.
On Tuesday night, in case you missed it, Bill Nye (known in the U.S. as ‘the science guy’) debated Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Ham (an Australian) is what is known as ‘a young-earth creationist.’ He takes a very literal view of the opening chapters of Genesis.
Let’s acknowledge up front that the debate was short on science and long on entertainment. Beyond that, the audience was decidedly on Ham’s side – not surprising given the venue – and seemed to be looking for applause lines whenever Ham spoke. The winner, if there was one, was more than likely the person you agreed with at the outset.
So, maybe the only question to answer in the end was not who won, but was the cause of Christ and his kingdom advanced in any way?
And here is where I find myself agreeing with brother Robertson who was quoted as saying, ‘Let’s be real, let’s not make a joke of ourselves.’ I’m afraid that what happened Tuesday night was a spectacle which portrayed the Christian faith in the worst light possible.
If I had guessed as to Robertson’s views, I would have thought he was closer to Ham than he turned out to be. But that’s just the thing: within mainstream Christianity today, there are many different ways of describing the origins of the universe. Some agree with Ham, but many do not. Some would describe themselves as ‘theistic evolutionists.’ Others subscribe to something called ‘intelligent design.’ And still others (such as the geneticist Francis Collins) would say that they are in basic agreement with the results of science and that faith exists to answer different kinds of questions – why, as opposed to how, the universe came into being. You would not have known from Ham’s comments on Tuesday that there was any discussion at all within Christian circles about this issue.
After the church’s experience with Galileo (it took only four centuries for the Catholic Church to acknowledge Galileo’s enormous scientific contributions), you would think that Christians would be a bit more modest in their engagement with the scientific world.
‘Let’s be real, let’s not make a joke of ourselves.’ And to to that I would add, ‘Let’s be more mindful about the ways we engage the culture around us.’
(Note: For the life of me I can’t find any exclamation point on this new European keyboard. That may be the kernel for a new blog post – and what it says about my host culture – but for now I feel just a bit limited in the way I express myself. There are other formatting peculiarities too. Please be patient. As with the train system here, it’s taking me a while to learn my way around.)