The title of the sermon tickled Static’s little secular pea-pickin’ heart: “Thank God for Evolution: How the Scientific Method is the Path to Salvation.” To be preached here in the buckle on the Bible Belt. In Southlake.
How’d that one get by the censors? Well, it’s a Unitarian church – mystery partly solved. But, even better, it turns out that the Rev. Tony Lorenzen’s planned Feb. 15 sermon at Pathways Unitarian Church is part of a five-year-old ongoing interdenominational effort by members of the clergy across this country to show that faith and science – meaning Darwin’s theories in particular – are compatible.
Literalists say the Bible is not open to interpretation. The Genesis story means seven 24-hour days, and forget the old “Oh, what’s a day to God?” argument.
But since 2004, about 12,000 Christian and Universalist Unitarian clergy and more than 400 rabbis have signed on to the Clergy Letter Project in support of the idea that the theory of evolution is not a threat to their religious beliefs. The project started as a response by faith groups to an anti-evolution initiative by a local board of education in Wisconsin.
The project was spearheaded by Dr. Michael Zimmerman, a biologist and university dean in Indiana, who went on to found Evolution Weekend, commemorating the anniversaries of Charles Darwin’s birth and the publication of his On the Origin of the Species, the book that literally let the monkey out of the bag. This year it falls on Feb. 13-15, and participating clergy will focus sermons on the idea that science and religion can coexist. Locally, Pathways in Southlake, along with First Congregational United Church of Christ and Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth, will be among those participating. On Feb. 12, Beth-El will show the video Kansas vs. Darwin, which takes viewers inside another state education board’s challenge to the accepted theory of evolution.
For Texans, Evolution Weekend couldn’t happen at a more interesting time. Last month our very own State Board of Education preliminarily approved public-school science standards. Fortunately, language proposed by Creationists on the board, regarding teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution, was not included – for now. But the Creationists, including chair Dan McLeroy, haven’t thrown in the prayer towel yet – there are additional hearings next month.
“Evolution is not something one does or does not believe in,” said Lorenzen. “No one ever asks if you believe in the theory of gravity.” Or whether the Earth revolves around the sun … oops. Seems that was another epic science vs. church battle, once upon a time.
Lorenzen also says that evolutionary science and hard-line biblicists can coexist. “But nobody’s religious beliefs should control how we teach science in our public schools,” he said.
What a concept. Or maybe, a theory.