Re: Creation- E.O. Wilson, I Am Listening
A Response to E.O. Wilson's "Letter to a Southern Baptist Pastor" in The Creation (2006)
Dear E.O. Wilson,
We have not met, but I feel like we have stood under the same stars and peered across the same oceans, and have probably climbed the same Live Oaks. I, like you, "went under the water" and answered the altar call (p. 3). Though I was not raised in the South, I have lived here for 19 years, and though I am not a humanist I understand your meaning of existence. I, too, believe that "life is what we make of it as individuals", and that our contribution is essential to the whole. Thank you for taking the time to start the conversation, with someone different-same than you; that already means a lot.
As I read your "Letter to a Southern Baptist Pastor", I cannot help but feel deep remorse. We, the evangelical community, have missed it. We have left you puzzled and disillusioned. We have claimed that we have all the answers and there is no mystery left to ponder. Our literal interpretations of scripture have left no room for discovery of the natural world and we are stuck with memorized explanations rather than marvel. Individual verses make up our clean-cut doctrine and we have little space for diversity or messiness. We have given you a cause and effect gospel that is filled with profit, power, and homogeneity and it is nothing like natural system you have spent your life studying.
Our reflection of God is trite and intangible, and for that I apologize. We have shown you a faith that is disconnected from the real world, and the universe we occupy. We have shut out people and organisms that are different than us, and have been unwilling to respond to the cries of scientists or species asking for help. We have pridefully elevated ourselves as better than other species in effort to claim our divinity and we have coveted towering forests and uncovered coal mines to increase our earthly mansions. Our “act” that air, water, and soil is only here to serve our needs is disturbing. Especially considering these non-living factors hold our lives.
You are NOT wrong! We have not been compassionate or hopeful to many species, and have fallen into "cruelty and despair" (p.6). While, I know you don't need us, and we have shown you that we are untrustworthy with the most precious elements of Earth, I am thankful that you have asked us to join the conversation. Your charge to "save life on earth" (p. 3) is truly God's greatest aim. And while we are often distracted with living the "American dream" or "alternative facts", your letter reminds us that God will use inanimate objects (like rocks and waves) if he needs to, to make love, peace, and joy known.
If we could restart the conversation all over again and begin back when you were a boy in Alabama, I would suggest that faith is like a salt marsh trail. It runs rampantly through pungent muck, and with every turn there is more to explore. Wild birds find refuge there, fish come to lay their young there, and children are fascinated there. It is a cushion against storms and hurricanes, and its nutrients go deep and wide. Rushing waters fill it steadily. After an hour of playing in it, little salts are left on your bare skin as a reminder of what "real living" feels like.
If that resonated, I would go on to say that Kingdom of God, or Church, is like ant colony. Teeming with activity and connectivity, intuitive communications happen daily. As the ants grow into their role they know more of the whole. Their entire existence is focused on the needs of the whole, and they never stop serving. They don't operate alone, but instead are listening to some deeper heart beat that drums throughout the day and night. It's autopoiesis is ever new.
As for GOD himself. I have no words. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, mystified and terrified is a fraction of the feeling. Jumping off a rocky ledge into a cool swimming hole is a fragment of the refreshing goodness. To me GOD is most like peering into a human cheek cell on a compound microscope, or gazing out on a dark moonless night and realizing that the scale of him is beyond language. It is overwhelming and yet enlightening. Space and time cannot hold him.
I know we have shown you little of this, so it might be hard to picture. But, I want to say, I have heard you. We are now here to help! We are sorry for the divide that has been between us, it is not natural or true. We are thankful that others: ants, termites, blades of grass, spring peepers, crickets, and constellations have sung you the story, in our absence. Could it be that each of us has half of "the words, but [together we've] got the music" (p. 128)? We are ready to bind together and save life on Earth.
Wilson, E. O. (2006). The creation: an appeal to save life on earth. New York: Norton.