Friday, May 29, 2015

OMG! Change the Conversation!


     The first class I (co-)taught at the University of Denver was an honors seminar, titled (assuming my memory hasn't failed me) "Science and Religion".   My "partner in crime" was a biology professor, and a leader in teaching science teachers in Denver.  After some thought, we realized it probably should have been called "Evolution and Creation", since we rarely ventured beyond questions of human origins.  We didn't, for example, consider issues of morality (some scholars, such as Marc Bekoff, are raising questions about whether or not non-human animals have a morality all their own).  Nor did we take up the conversations between string theorists/quantum physicists and theologians.  No, we stuck to the ongoing debate between biologists and those religious folks who assert that the first few chapters of Genesis contain irrefutable scientific information.  In other words, the conversation was about creators/creation.
        What a small conversation!  I was reminded of this last week while when I overheard someone remark that "Creator" was only one possible attribute of the Divine. This person mused that "Redeemer" was an equally valid, and potentially more powerful attribute of God.  And that got me thinking . . . .  Why are many of our of cultural conversations about God limited to the question of "creation"?  in various parts of the US, school curricula are being challenged/changed to include creationism and/or intelligent design.  And many of the so-called "New Atheists" delight in pooh-pooh-ing the "out-dated" views of fundamentalists -- to the delight of the media, sensing a juicy battle.
        But I wonder, what if we DID add some other attributes of God to the conversation? Let's, for example, take up just some of Islam's one-hundred "Names of God".  What would happen if we spent time considering:  "God the All-merciful"?**  What might that imply:  "Oh, you mean we need mercy?"  Why would we need mercy?  What does that say about human nature?  Does science answer that question?  Or, "God, the Provider"?  What IS the source of all that we consume, from the air we breathe and water we drink and love we cherish?  is there a scientific answer to that?  Or, equally problematic for the "other" side, do religious people have a responsibility to preserve that which God has provided?  What about "God, the Guide to the Right Path"?  Along what paths does science lead us?
       And, that's only three percent of the names!

       I am certainly NOT one to mount a critique of science. My co-instructor and I saw the underlying points of our class from pretty much the same position (which meant the class didn't get as "exciting" as we may have hoped).  And I am not necessarily denying 
that there may be scientific "answers" to some of the questions I raised above.  I am only suggesting that, by limiting our cultural conversations about God to questions of "creation" or other biological issues (e.g., bio-ethical debates or gender/sexual controversies), we are avoiding some, potentially, much more useful areas of our lives and times.
       I think it's time to change the conversation!  We 
should all benefit!



*  "OMG" = "Oh, my Glory!" (Sr. Joan Chittester)
**   Al-Rahim
***   Ar-Razzaq
****   Ar-Rashid

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