It isn’t necessary to shut others down, force them to adopt our own beliefs, or make them understand the beliefs we hold dear. Faith can be challenged by what some call facts, and it’s possible for science to validate the questions people of faith have about the world in which we live.
Recently creationist groups demanded “equal airtime” in response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS series, Cosmos. Leaders of creationist groups are expressing anger over Tyson’s description of scientific theories, such as evolution, because he fails to highlight opposing viewpoints based on literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis, which suggests the earth and universe are less than 10,000 years old and humans were created by God, not descended from other species.
“Equal airtime” is typically associated with politics. But who among us isn’t aware – at least a little bit – of the stories of Adam and Eve and Jesus Christ? It wasn’t long ago The Greatest Story Ever Told — a movie in which Christ’s nativity, miracles, death and resurrection are presented as historical fact — interrupted regular television programming every Easter, and it was nearly impossible to avoid the 700 Club any other day of the year.
I don’t recall scientists reacting with demands of “equal airtime.” In fact, there seemed to be a mutual understanding among us that science was taught in school and faith and values were taught in church and reinforced by family. Yet today everywhere we turn people are angry their faith, beliefs, and way of life aren’t taught and imitated wherever they go.
If you don’t believe in evolution, it may be because devolution is omnipresent. Freedom of speech is devolving into the freedom to berate, the right to privacy is morphing into a directive to force others to keep lifestyle choices out-of-sight, and the right to assemble peaceably protects people protesting the funerals of soldiers.
What’s next? Are we going to return to imprisoning people who don’t want to believe the earth is the center of the universe because it doesn’t sound divine? Some believe the idea of being a star in someone else’s sky is heavenly.
Just a few days ago scientists confirmed a fragment of papyrus declaring Jesus was married is not a forgery. They used carbon dating and a chemical test on the ink to verify the document is ancient, and determined it is most certainly a product of early Christians.
Whether or not one chooses to have faith in the validity of the document’s assertion is a different tale. The suggestion Jesus Christ had a wife challenges views many Christians have held dear their entire lives. But that’s the fundamental point of faith. If fact doesn’t challenge faith, or if faith has to be backed by facts, what is the difference between the two?
It’s time to get past the notion of agreeing to disagree. If we’d just agree, we don’t all agree it’d be easier to welcome challenges to our own belief systems — and to have more respect for those among us who do not concur with our own versions of truth. Instead we use our differences to limit whom people may legally marry, dictate how or if parents should plan their families, and even block varied attempts to address growing economic disparity.
Challenges appear to be less a test of faith and more of an affront to our God-given rights. That’s why the same prominent figures who want equal airtime to balance Neil deGrasse Tyson’s vision of the universe are worrying about newly appointed Pope Francis’ views.
As Robert Mickens, an American journalist covering the Vatican recently stated, “any Christian that’s not challenged — whatever you are, right, left, center, conservative, progressive — if you’re not challenged by Pope Francis you’re not listening.”
Which is exactly the point.
Those who want equal airtime don’t want to listen; they only want to speak. And they are often the same people unwilling or unable to reconcile science, faith, and views they oppose — simply because they choose not to.
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