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How can we get conservatives to accept the idea that we are responsible?

Question & Answer


Q: By A Reader

I agree with you on evolution, homosexuality and more. However, I think we need to appreciate the fact that the conservatives” problem with evolution is based on more than Genesis. The premise of the Old Testament is that God does stuff on earth – lots of stuff. If God is not managing how life forms on earth are created, what else isn’t He (She) managing or doing? The notion that the messes we create on earth are not part of God’s plan and that God is not going to intervene and fix them is a scary thought. The question is how can we get the conservatives to accept the idea that we are responsible? Jesus showed us what to do. How can we get them to accept that now it is up to us to do it?

A: By Rev. Gretta Vosper


If I understand you correctly, you are attempting to pull the limited perspective you believe progressive Christians hold with respect to the concerns of conservative Christians back to see a broader picture; namely, that it is naïve to think problems evangelicals have with evolution flow simply from the anti-evolution perspective taken from a literal reading of the book of Genesis. You are arguing that their beliefs are grounded not only in the creation myths of the Hebrew Scriptures, but also in their belief in the ongoing manifestation of the works undertaken by the god called God throughout the entirety of the Bible. Recognizing that there have been a lot of hiccups along the way from then to now, many of them creating havoc in the lives or extinctions of various species on Earth – including humans – you note the challenges inherent in giving up the belief that all of that proceeds forth from God’s hands.

The notion that the messes we create on earth are not part of God’s plan and that God is not going to intervene and fix them is a scary thought.

That is a scary thought, indeed, if it is one that challenges your worldview; that is, if you have sincerely believed the biblical premise, “Good and bad each happen at the command of God Most High,” (Lamentations 3:38 CEV) and then lose faith in that premise, well, you’re not going to feel comfortable for a long, long time. If E.V.E.R.

Convincing a conservative Christian that it is we, all of humanity, who have the “whole wide world in our hands”, is about as likely to happen as convincing a seaside village to head for the hills when those who most skilled at predicting tsunamis see absolutely no sign of one on its way. Or, tragically, convincing a government that a new virus has the potential to trigger a global catastrophe, a pandemic. Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, died trying.

We ignore our fears on a moment by moment basis. Even when a threat does break free of our inner reflexes and responses and reaches our awareness, a healthy mind will often rationalize it away if it isn’t in keeping with one’s underlying worldview, resting as that does upon innumerable assumptions and inherent beliefs. An evangelical perspective provides a compelling interpretation for the devastations we see unfolding around the world. What we see is human destruction; what they see is God’s retribution.

Bishop Spong, after years of arguments with evangelicals about homosexuality, decided to refuse to engage on the topic. He had said what he had to say; those who had ears to hear did and those whose ears were stoppered didn’t. In moving on, he continued to be a remarkable catalyst for change. But a catalyst, remember, is not consumed by the reaction it instigates. Neither was Jack Spong. He simply shifted his focus and placed what he had to offer before those to whom it would make a difference, those whose hearts would be fortified by his words.

I encourage you to do this same thing. Find ways to inspire and engage those with whom you share a basic worldview. There will be sufficient convincing to be done there, I expect. “The notion that the messes we create on earth are not part of God’s plan and that God is not going to intervene and fix them” is such a scary thought as to invite the kind of break from reality that turns us away from what needs to be done rather than toward. But we must lean in; our weakness often holds our greatest strength within its folds. Share your strength; invite people beyond their fear. There is much to do and much, much more counting upon our doing it.

~ Rev. Gretta Vosper

About the Author
The Rev. Gretta Vosper is a United Church of Canada minister who is an atheist. Her best-selling books include With or Without God: Why The Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe, and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief. She has also published three books of poetry and prayers. Visit her website here.

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