In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. Sometime later, I was born a pastors’ kid.
The Church – that is, the capital “C” church – the sum total of all the churches – is full of internal debates. Denominations are fractal. They split into large groups – the Catholics, the Orthodox, and the Protestant. They split over the timing of the rapture – it happened on a Tuesday in 1855 – it will happen in 1980, and 2012, and 2016 – it won’t happen, it’s just American nonsense fueled by their persecution complex and disaster preparedness and the Left Behind series. Churches split over buttons. Some believe they are prideful things – ornaments that ought not adorn clothing. Others believe they are functional – useful for holding up trousers, with no spiritual connotations at all. Most of these debates happen at high levels. They are technical debates, best left to the experts, the brilliant apologists from both sides who share many beliefs in common, depending on how far up the Tree of Life their denominations underwent a schism, but need to sort out the problem of buttons once and for all. If you ask Joe Six-pack in the rank-and-file pews, he probably isn’t aware these debates exist. If he does, he probably doesn’t know which side he’s supposed to be on. He won’t be able to tell you whether he subscribes to the penal substitution theory or Christus Victor, not in those words anyway. Most of the time, churches expect this. The fiddly details aren’t important – they might acknowledge that no one knows the right answers, not in this world anyway. As long as they follow a few simple steps and believe a few simple things (differing, of course, by denomination), they are up-to-date on their fire insurance.
Creationism versus evolution. This debate, unlike most others, has penetrated pop culture. Teaching evolution is hurting our kids, or possibly the other way around – either way, we need to think of the children. Since the 1920s, when the Scopes Monkey trial craze swept the nation and turned men into apes and apes into men, it seems everyone has to have an opinion. Aimee Semple McPherson, the founder of my parent’s denomination, an active evangelist during the trial, said that evolution “is the greatest triumph of Satanic intelligence in 5,931 years of devilish warfare, against the Hosts of Heaven.” So that, in a nutshell, is what the Foursquare church thinks about the subject.
The Foursquare church, while we’re on the subject, is interesting. Taxonomically, it is a Christian Protestant evangelical charismatic Pentecostal church. It believes in substitutionary atonement and verbal inspiration. It’s premillennial and uses immersion. You know, standard stuff. It also believes, as it was founded by a woman who discovered she could really preach when she volunteered to substitute for a missing speaker at a revival rather than wash dishes like she was supposed to, and who became a huge celebrity in LA, the first one to experience the phenomenon of paparazzi, who led spiritual parades through the streets and mass faith healings, that women should have equal standing in ministry. For this reason, at our national youth convention one year, the Westboro Baptist church (a Christian Protestant evangelical Baptist church, kind of) picketed with signs to inform us that we were being led to hell. Thanks for the warning!
Growing up, I knew my parents were young-earthers – that is, they believe that the Earth was created in seven days about six-thousand years ago. They didn’t try to convince me of it, like some do with special textbooks like A Beka’s “Biology: God’s Living Creation.” They weren’t big on scientific explanations. The only one I heard was that maybe the Earth was created with age, just as Adam and Eve would have been created as adults. They wouldn’t have gone for some of the other non-science explanations, like maybe the devil created all the fossils, because the devil can only twist and corrupt the truth, not create. I did homeschool for one year with materials from A Beka, but second-grade science is more about washing your hands regularly than deep questions about where it all started. I know now that God does not want me to eat candy I find on the ground. The other subjects, like arithmetic, are the same no matter your creed.
My parents didn’t try to convince me, but I did try to convince myself. I read every book and website filled with pages and pages of secret knowledge. I knew the things scientists didn’t want you to know. You see, bones can fossilize much faster than you think. You see, before Noah and the ark, it had never rained on Earth. God separated water from water, and with the oceans below, and a big envelope of water above, man and dinosaurs lived together, where the warm humid air allowed dragonflies to grow to three feet and Methuselah to grow to nine-hundred years old. You see, we now are limited to one-hundred twenty years, because our DNA has been corrupted over time. You see, stories of dragons are just sightings of dinosaurs. You see, the dinosaurs missed the boat. I knew, as did the authors of those science books unfairly shelved in either the religion or fringe section, that scientists were either deluding themselves or being dishonest. I campaigned (some would say trolled) on Wikipedia as a thirteen-year-old, trying to get them to adopt a neutral point of view and stop labeling creationism as a pseudo-science. You see, with billions of Christians and Muslims in the world, who must believe in creation, they weren’t being neutral. (Catholics, a large portion of the Christians, have officially accepted evolution since the 1950s. There are many Muslim creationists, however, something the hard-core Christian creationist treats with grudging acceptance and as much tact as they can muster).
People have opinions about creationists. Some scoff at their ignorance. Some get actually mad at the misinformation. I don’t. Even though I don’t believe it anymore, I could still debate in favor of creationism and win nine times out of ten.