“Polls say that as many as 45 percent of Americans believe in creationism. Not intelligent design. We’re talking strict the-Earth-is-less-than-ten-thousand-years-old creationism.” –A.J. Jacobs, from “The Year of Living Biblically”
I spent much of November re-working a paper that I had written last spring on evolution and the god of Moses and human misinterpretation of, well, pretty much everything. The limits of language and the constraints and biases of interpretation really curtail our ability to experience a world beyond our already limited understanding.
We are really blessed in this day and age to have amazing ways to expand our vision and beliefs. Tools like the printing press, television, telephone and the internet allow us interaction with people from cultures, beliefs and even times different from our own, forcing us to step outside our personal zone of comfort and head-on physical view. We are, today, forced to use our peripheral vision to see what in days past may have seemed to be illusion or delusion, foreign or evil. In using our peripheral vision, what was lost may be found. Pieces of the puzzle that is humanity can be found and put into place to reveal a wider, truer understanding of who we are. Setting aside the narrow, concrete thinking of simply saying “I am who I am” and embracing the prospect that “I will be who I determine I want to be,” empowers us to think outside the factory made box that our culture too often dictates we “must” confine our thoughts in.
Trying to confine a god into a tiny box of one present moment from thousands of years ago, believing that the words, when translated, indicate a stagnant statement of completeness and immutable consistency, can be a dangerous thing to do. Wars are fought and minds and souls are lost over the human tendency to stick god in the tiny box of an ancient moment. Re-thinking that simple statement, “I am” into “I am becoming what will be needed,” a future, incomplete action, would open up possibilities for this limited, warring species called humanity. If we didn’t insist that there is only one way to be and instead focused on the myriad ways of becoming, perhaps we could strive toward lifting one another up to become and create in god’s image rather than try to deny the evolution of god and humanity and every piece of this beautiful, living earth from its magma center to its Mount Everest.
Perhaps, instead of living like this earth will always have unlimited, unchanging resources because it is created by an unmoving god, we could come to understand the beautiful, dynamic nature of earth and god, and know that as humans, we are stewards of the earth, responsible for her care and nurturing. We are her stewards because out of all of the amazing life in her web, we are the ones who have evolved to understand that in order to live, we must someday die, so that others may live. We understand the inevitability of our own death, and therefore should recognize ways in which to postpone the death of our living earth planet so our genes can continue on.
The idea of an unchanging god, perhaps, creates a belief in us that we can transcend death and if death is not real for us, then surely it is not real for this beautiful earth that is so much greater than our small selves in human minds, a physical transcendence and not just a spiritual one. Therein lies the danger: therein lies human disregard for the health of the earth, the lives of our perceived enemies and even our own lives.
Embracing an evolving god may, perhaps, allow us to expand our embrace of the idea of life beyond just a physical “I am” but to also include “I will be” a spiritual/psychological presence even after my body has returned to nourish the earth so that she may live yet a moment more in her physical form. We will be a presence of memory. We will be a presence of our impact upon the earth’s resources. We will be a presence of love echoing and spiraling out in gratitude form each pebble of kindness and joy that we tossed into the waters of humanity while our bodies walked the earth. And, perhaps, we will be a presence walking the corporeal earth in a form or a presence in some heaven or a presence when we reincarnate as a newt or as a bodhavista, or as a presence in the stomach of a worm in the stomach of a fish in the stomach of the earth within the planting of a stalk of corn within the stomach of a stag within the stomach of a human who carries the seed of a new generation in her belly. The possibilities are endless in the ways our lives can go on as a presence beyond this physical life, just as the possibilities are endless for the future of a god whose name is rooted in the present and future tense of “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”, “Adonai”. God as evolution itself.
(Even though what you just read is kind of what my sermon was about last weekend, none of that was in the sermon. But really, that’s what I meant behind the words in a round-about-analyzing-language kind of way.)