I love the first line of this book (although the Zoo Expert in me feels compelled to point out that chimpanzees and gorillas are APES, not monkeys, but Ape Town doesn’t have the same ring, I guess).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of the bonobo exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and thought, “Dang it. If anyone wanted to make a case for evolution, they could start right here.” They act so much like humans, it’s ridiculous. And we share like 99% of our DNA with them. Squirm, squirm, squirm.
When I get to heaven, I am totally asking God why he made me SO STINKING SIMILAR TO A BONOBO.
Goodness, I’m already getting off track. Let me back up a little.
And breathe for a second.
You should know that I’m shaking. Literally. My heart is pounding, and my fingers are shaking, and I had to stop for a minute to pray. “God, help me know what to write.” I think I could fill a book with all the stuff I’ve been thinking/learning/questioning lately. But I have NO idea where I’d even start, and since Rachel has already put in the blood, sweat, and tears, I’m going to piggyback off her hard work.
In other words, there’s no way I can go into great detail about everything I’m thinking and feeling, but I don’t want to be vague either. I’ll be pretty upfront about where I agree with her, where I disagree with her, and where I just plain HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I THINK.
I ask just one thing of you: that you be kind and respectful of your fellow readers-along (and me and Rachel too). We’re all coming from different places, we’re on different paths, and arguing rudely or condescendingly isn’t Christ-like in any way, shape, or form.
No more stalling. Let’s dive in.
I remember the first time I heard someone (a Christian & member of my family) tell me they didn’t believe in a literal six-day creation. It rocked my world. In 30 years of life, I’d never questioned that. Like Rachel says, I thought that questioning it would inevitably lead to a crumbling of the entire Christian faith. Then I started hearing other Christians say things like, “Genesis 1 is written as Hebrew poetry. It’s not meant to be taken as scientific fact.” What the what?? Get out of town, people!! I don’t want to hear this stuff!
I’ll just tell you right now: I’ve developed ZERO definitive conclusions on this subject. I know one thing: I believe God created the world and everything in it. HOW he did it, WHEN he did it, HOW LONG it took him, how evolving species and such fit into the whole scheme of things, I don’t know.
And honestly, I’m too caught up in figuring out how to love the poor and do justice and show mercy right now to spend a ton of time worrying about the logistics of creation. It just doesn’t seem like it’s the most important thing in the world.
I do want to know what you think though (see question #1 below).
And I found it veeeery interesting that big-name Christian leaders like John Calvin “considered geocentricism so fundamentally true that he claimed that people who believed in a moving earth were possessed by the devil.” (19) How do we explain that one away??
I can totally and completely relate to the paragraph on p. 17 where Rachel says she used to be a fundamentalist. “…the kind who thinks that God is pretty much figured out already, that he’s done telling us anything new. I was a fundamentalist in the sense that I thought that salvation means having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith requires defending those opinions at all costs. I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose was wrapped up in getting God right–in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him too. Good Christians, I believed, don’t succumb to the shifting sands of culture. Good Christians, I used to think, don’t change their minds.”
For most of my life, I thought I knew God pretty darn well. Then in the past 4 years or so, when I started discovering his huge, huge heart for the poor and for justice (a word I never even thought about for a second really), it shook me. HOW DID I MISS THIS?? And WHAT ELSE AM I MISSING?? And have I been putting non-essential things above the really important stuff??
And AM I LIKE THE PHARISEES Jesus is always knocking off their pedestals?? Holy cow. I AM. I’m completely wrapped up in FOLLOWING THE RULES and I’m TOTALLY IGNORING JESUS.
How many “false fundamentals” am I clinging to, I began to wonder?? If I had been a Southern Baptist in the 1800’s, would I have argued the case for slavery, claiming that the Bible said it was a-okay? (I recently re-read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and my heart ripped in two at the “God-fearing Christians” who thought it was perfectly acceptable to enslave their fellow human beings.)
Not too very long ago, I thought that people who started questioning long-held beliefs were straying from the faith, turning away from God, and all that. The same thing the Pharisees thought about the people who started following Jesus.
Was it possible that some of what I’d been taught wasn’t what God had in mind when he inspired men to write the Bible? What long-held beliefs am I making idols of??
I love this paragraph on page 22: “No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions. I questioned what I thought were fundamentals–the eternal damnation of all non-Christians, the scientific and historical accuracy of the Bible, the ability to know absolute truth, and the politicization of evangelicalism. I questioned God: his fairness, regarding salvation; his goodness, for allowing poverty and injustice in the world; and his intelligence, for entrusting Christians to fix things. I wrestled with passages of Scripture that seemed to condone genocide and oppression of women and struggled to make sense of the pride and hypocrisy within the church.”
Wow, so those four sentences could take WEEKS to unpack. And this post is already over 1000 words (and virtually nothing has been satisfactorily solved).
Enough of me. Your turn. Answer one, two, all the questions. Add some of your own. Whatever you’re feeling.
1. What do you think about creation/evolution? What are you basing your beliefs on? Have they changed any over the years? (Go ahead. Rock my world.)
2. After reading the introduction, what is something you REALLY agree with Rachel about? How about really DISAGREE? (if every single thing about this book makes you deeply uncomfortable, that’s okay too)
3. What faith questions have you been asking recently?
4. Tell us a little more about your faith journey.
If you wrote your own post and want to link to it, I’ve created a space for it.
Let the discussion begin!
p.s. I forgot to give you the reading assignment for next week: Chapters 1 and 2.