In the Spirit of Peace…
Today, the first Thursday of May, is the National Day of Prayer. Congress defined this day as a day when “all Americans, regardless of faith, are asked to come together and pray in their own way”. I think it’s very cool, in light of a few recent tragedies in this country, and given that I firmly believe in the power of prayer. I also think it’s a lovely way to bring together different denominations and even different religions, if it’s approached the right way. I see it as an opportunity to cultivate peace and unity.
Additionally, today is celebrated by many atheists, agnostics, and secularists as the National Day of Reason. Nationaldayofreason.org says this is “an appropriate response to the… annual abuse of the constitution (National Day of Prayer)”. In order to “effect positive change”, celebrators of this day donate blood. I think this is very cool because it’s a practical thing to do that benefits real people. You often hear people talking about their good will, but less often you see people actually demonstrating altruism.
Maybe you’ve noticed the new book I’m reading, The Language of God by Francis S. Collins. Collins is a born-again Christian, a converted skeptic, and as a renowned physician and geneticist, Collins was also the leader of the Human Genome Project (which was completed in 2003). His book has provided a fascinating perspective for me- raised as an agnostic, Collins didn’t develop any sort of religious belief at all until he was a med student and encountered a woman whose faith gave her hope even though her cancer would take her life in a matter of months. Collins became aware of his total ignorance on the subject of faith and decided to find out the truth for himself, eventually becoming a Christian. For Collins, facts came before faith.
Faith and spirituality have always been a part of my life. I was raised in a wholly Christian family, going to church every Sunday since I can remember. I was a ninth grader when I decided that ‘my parent’s religion’ just didn’t do it for me, and I sought out other faiths like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Wicca, ultimately coming to the conclusion that none of them filled the emptiness inside me. Eventually, after a period of hopelessness, I realized that Jesus satisfied that longing and suddenly He was my own, not just my parent’s. But science has never been something I’ve sought out. I’m a feeler more than an analyzer. For me, faith came before facts. But now I’m becoming aware of my staggering ignorance in most fields of science.
You see, Collins is a firm believer not only in Jesus and His work on the cross, but in the theory of evolution. Some of you Christians out there probably cringe at the idea, just like I did. The average Christian is raised to vehemently oppose evolution- Darwin is a name nearly on par with Hitler, and the man who expresses an adherence to his works is thought to be blaspheming. But Collins presents a good case for it and reconciles his scientific convictions with his spiritual ones in a way that is clear and sensible. Since when did Reason and Faith become mortal enemies? Why does there have to be so much enmity between Intellectualism and Salvation? How did Science and Theology become polar opposites?
In any case, I am done believing things because I heard my pastor or my dad or my Sunday school teacher say it. I don’t want to be an ignorant person, blindly staking claim on things I don’t understand, taking a zealous stand on things I’ve never even tried to understand. After all, the Earth turned out to be a round body which revolves around the sun. The Church was ready to throw Galileo in prison 375 years ago, but his discoveries are now undisputed by the religious and secular alike. I am a Christian and a reasonable person, and I intend to learn what I can so I can make informed decisions that are compatible with both my faith and my intelligence. As Collins puts it in Language, “A believer need not fear that this investigation will dethrone the divine; if God is truly Almighty, He will hardly be threatened by our puny efforts to understand the workings of His natural world.”
I didn’t realize this morning that today was the Day of Prayer or Reason, but I’ll be praying today (really, shouldn’t I be praying every day?), and I plan on giving blood, if not today then tomorrow.
Happy Day of Prayer and Reason!