Darwin Goes to Church in Texas

by TFN

If you find yourself in a church, synagogue or mosque in Texas this weekend, you might just hear Charles Darwin’s name come up in the sermon (and not to label him a devil!). It’s Evolution Weekend again, and TFN is proud to join The Clergy Letter Project in sponsoring events in Texas congregations.

What is Evolution Weekend, you say?

Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic – to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.

More than 1,000 congregations around the world are participating, including more than 50 in Texas. To celebrate, TFN Insider is pleased to welcome guest blogger Rev. Jeremy Rutledge to offer his insights on religion and science. Jeremy is minister at Covenant Church, a congregation affiliated with the American Baptist Church and the Alliance of Baptists. Read Jeremy’s comments after the jump.

This Sunday our church, along with over 1000 religious communities nationally, and more than 50 congregations in the state of Texas, will gather to celebrate what we call Evolution Sunday.  This will be the third year that we have marked the observance, and it will be a special one, as this week marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.  Many of us in the religious community have found within Darwin’s life and work an extraordinarily beautiful and intricate account of the process by which life on Earth evolved in its innumerably varied forms.  I am struck, reading Darwin, with senses of wonder, reverence, and awe at the vast interconnected web of life.  My hope is that the children of our church, along with future generations of Texans, will be able to learn sound science in public school classrooms.  It is for this reason that I write.

The current battle over science curriculum standards at our State Board of Education is a cause for grave alarm.  Since Texas is such a large state, our education policy affects many neighboring states, and the standards we adopt will invariably play a role in the education of literally millions of school children for a generation to come.  It is incumbent upon us, then, to lobby those who represent us for the highest scientific standards in the classroom.  I have signed on with the Clergy Letter Project, an interfaith group of clergy who believe that science and religion are partners in the search for truth and meaning, not adversaries.  Over 12,000 clergy nationwide have now signed a letter that reads, in part, “We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as ‘one theory among others’ is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children…We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.”

I write to encourage Texans of every religious practice and tradition, as well as those who do not identify with religion, to join me in raising our voices for the teaching of sound science in the public schools.  The science standards currently up for review will be voted on in March.  I can’t imagine marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth in a timelier way than ensuring that his theory of evolution by means of natural selection, as well as the most recent biological disciplines that confirm it – including biochemistry, genetics, and developmental biology – are taught to the next generation of our children.  What’s more, as a person of religious faith, I find my own search for truth and meaning informed by the great evolutionary story of life on Earth that Darwin has helped us to understand.  When I consider the beauty of the lilies or the intricate variations of Darwin’s finches, I find myself held in a narrative much greater than my own.  I urge my fellow Texans to contact their representatives and the members of the State Board of Education and ask that the teaching of evolution be protected in public school classrooms and textbooks.  A generation of children stand to gain a deeper understanding of their place in the family of life if they are taught proper science.  Let us act with their interest in mind.

Rev. Jeremy Rutledge
Covenant Church