Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Heart of Democracy redux

THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY
Rev. Kit Ketcham, April 10, 2016

We had launched our boat trip down the Grand Canyon at the Vermillion Cliffs, at Lee's Ferry, Arizona. It was about noon on that first day when we pushed out into the Colorado River and headed downstream, past the tall cliffs that mark the entrance to this 300 mile long geology lesson.

I've always been a person who likes diving down to the heart of things, in this case, the layers of rock laid down over millions of years of geologic history. Over the next three weeks, as the river took us deeper and deeper into the heart of the Canyon, our small party of boaters watched Earth's physical history revealed in the layers of rock that striped and colored the cliffs.

We had started out on the Kaibab Plateau, where the dusty white layer of sandy limestone looks much like a pesky bathtub ring, and during the next few days, descended through layers of time: the Toroweap Formation, Coconino, Hermit, and Supai layers, and the brilliant Redwall Limestone which is responsible for so much of the color that stains the walls of the Grand Canyon.

By the time we reached the Inner Gorge of the Canyon, we had traversed in our little rafts millions of years of Earth's formation and we still were far from the Center of the Earth.

Jules Verne, in his classic 1864 science fiction novel, depicted the Center of the Earth as a hollow place full of prehistoric animals and natural hazards, reachable through the interior passages of an Icelandic volcano.

This novel, "Journey to the Center of the Earth", written about the time that geologists were abandoning the literal biblical account of the creation of the earth, had the educational purpose of showing how the world looked millions of years ago, from the Ice Age to the dinosaurs, for Verne had carefully taken his explorers down through the layers of rock, showing the different creatures which inhabited each period in geologic history.

Humans have always speculated about the true heart of the earth and our scientists' investigations have revealed it as a molten core of liquid iron and other minerals, alive and acting upon the body of the earth keeping it in a state of constant metamorphosis, with earthquakes, eruptions, and other seismic events, affecting weather patterns through its effect on sea currents, and thereby impacting our lives every day.

All living organisms seem to have a living core which keeps the organism going, keeps its internal systems healthy, makes it possible for the organism to interact with other organisms and produce communities--of bacteria, of families, of forests and pods and gardens and the myriad of beings co-existing interdependently on the earth.
You and I have hearts as our living core, the most important organ in our bodies, for without it we die. When my brother was so ill a few years ago, living on the energy produced by a battery pack which he lugged around with him constantly as his own heart deteriorated, his family and friends became deeply aware of how essential a healthy heart is. And his heart transplant in 2008 has meant the return of his life. Without that new heart, he doubtless would be dead by now.

It's easy to see what keeps a living organism going---its heart is that mechanism which powers a body or a collection of cells which are shaped into diverse forms, from the smallest bacterium to the largest being.

It's not as easy to see what powers a living concept. Our theme today is "The Heart of Democracy" and I invite you to go with me as we follow the threads that lead us deeper and deeper into this concept which is so important in our lives, both as Americans on the brink of an election and as Unitarian Universalists who consider democracy to be a religious principle for us.

Our human bodies are the visible manifestation that something lies at our core. We feel, we bleed, we breathe, we think, we clearly are powered by some energy that is not visible on the surface. Our senses may go, we may lose much of our blood supply and even our intelligence but we are still alive. Even when we cease to breathe, we may still be alive. Even when our heart has stopped, it may sometimes be re-started.
What is the most visible manifestation of democracy? I would say that it is probably the vote, the expression of one's opinion in an election, when the majority rules, when the greater body of voters decides how issues will be resolved or which candidates will take power or what ordinances will become law.

Yet we all suspect, I'd guess, that there is more to democracy than voting. So let's look for the layers beneath that visible manifestation of one person, one vote.

As a sidebar, let me mention that it's a feature of our representative democracy that we do not vote directly on every issue that confronts us as Americans. We instead vote for our representatives, those women and men whom we expect to do their best to provide a stable and just nation for us to live in. We expect them to have the best interests of our nation in mind as they do their work. We are, because of that, a (small R) republican democracy.

Because we are at least one step out in the process for many issues that directly affect us, we can hardly consider our representatives in Congress to be the heart of democracy. They are a feature which makes it easier to get things done, like the kidneys or the liver, but democracy would not die without elected representatives.

 Going back to the idea of "one person, one vote" let's look more deeply at this feature of democracy. What is underneath this particular feature? It showcases the real or purported power and influence of one person and one person's conscience and ability to speak one's own truth. Where does this power come from? Is there a pathway here to the heart of democracy, like Jules Verne's passage through that Icelandic volcano to the center of the earth?

This powerful feature is right in line with our UU principles, particularly our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Yet we have seen the very public corruption of this facet of the democratic process. We have seen the immoral character of some of our representatives smeared across the headlines of our media. We have seen people accused fairly and unfairly of heinous acts. We have seen the votes of our representatives bought and paid for by corporate interests. We have seen individuals in our communities talked into voting against their own best interests by leaders who have only personal self-interest in mind.

So no matter how inherently worthy and dignified we may be as individuals, the truth is that our power and influence as individuals is limited in its sphere. We are free to vote as we will, but our influence and power are negligible unless we form coalitions and associations with others to strengthen our position.

The history of democracy is a checkered one at best. Non-democratic or quasi-democratic nations hold elections, yes, in lip service to the idea of "one person, one vote", but in reality, there is often no choice of candidates, no real way to effect change in the nation. There may be only one party of candidates. There may be threatened violence to dissenters.

There may be coups which overthrow one elected regime in favor of another. This is especially true in formerly colonized nations. And there is a great deal of controversy world-wide about how to bring about a better democratic process in non-democratic and quasi-democratic nations.

There is controversy in our nation about whether our voting process is corruption-proof and a good deal of concern about how to include every eligible voter, how to handle voter fraud, and how to increase voter participation. If "one person, one vote" is to be meaningful, every voice must be heard and counted. When millions of people face losing their vote because of faulty procedures or outright corruption, "one person, one vote" doesn't mean much.

An informed and fully-enfranchised electorate is not the heart of democracy, though we are making progress in our journey to the center of the earth, excuse me, the center of democracy.

 The layer beneath the electorate is conscience, I believe, a sure sense of right and wrong, a desire to speak one's truth and not to be "bought", not to be inveigled into wrong thinking, not to give in to selfish interests, but rather focused on the greater good.

Our conscience, at its best, looks past its own point of view, looks for what will maintain not only healthy humane life for all beings but health for communities as well. Conscience is aware of both one's privilege and one's responsibility.

But however keen our conscience may be, it is not easy to exercise conscience if one does not have the freedom to do so.

Perhaps the layer beneath conscience might be individual freedom and next to it, a recognition and acknowledgement of that freedom. If we are unaware of our individual freedom or if we are prevented from acknowledging it, like those in oppressed conditions, we are not free.

So freedom may be the heart of democracy, and recognition and acknowledgement of that freedom may be its activating force. Without individual freedom and awareness of that freedom, democracy will surely expire, as it has time and again in oppressive regimes.
Now, we may have dived down to the Heart of Democracy, but I don't want to stay there. An active and healthy body does not strictly rely on heart function.

It relies on the interdependence of organs, tendons, bones, blood, the many body parts which together make our bodies fully functional. Like our physical bodies, Democracy relies on more than individual freedom.

At a ministers’ retreat awhile back, I spent three days with my UU colleagues in ministry, a little R&R time for sure but also an opportunity to talk about how we are together, how we support each other, how we care for each other and for each other's ministries with respect and assistance.

Our purpose was to create a collegial covenant together and we spent hours talking about what it means to have a covenant. And this is where I want to draw our attention today because it relates to the heart of democracy.

A commonly spoken UU affirmation—which I have referred to in the past and have used in the service today— contains the word "covenant" as does the charter of the UUA. "This is our great covenant", it proclaims, "to dwell together in peace, to seek truth in love, and to help one another." And our denomination is founded upon principles that we covenant to affirm and promote.

A covenant is not a contract. It is not a business arrangement. Instead, it is an act of mutuality, of consent and promise, of obligation to one another, of shared destination, of shared affection.

It is living, renewable, sustainable, reciprocal. It empowers us to reach out to one another. It clarifies assumptions about our roles within the community.

When we created our mutual covenant as colleagues, it read like this: 
Mindful of our common calling,
conscious of our need for one another,
and faithful to our liberal religious tradition,
reverently we covenant to walk together
in a sacred manner—
nurturing one another,
honoring our diverse ministries,
and strengthening our capacity to serve.
This is a covenant among ministers. It says, in effect, that we will take care of each other, that we will cherish our time together, that we understand what it means to have a calling to ministry, that we are mutually committed to our faith, and that our relationships with each other are important and worthy of nurture.

Just as democracy is less than healthy if all its parts are not working well or are not working together, a community's health is enhanced by a covenant which speaks to our life together.

The late Unitarian Universalist minister Napoleon Lovely once wrote: "The bonds of love keep open the gates of freedom". A covenant based on shared affection helps to insure the freedom of all in the community.
When we are in a covenantal relationship, we promise to each other that we will care for one another, that we wish to live in peace with one another, that we will give and receive freely, that we will speak our truth with love and respect, that we will say yes when asked for help. These are all religious acts, spiritual disciplines, the promise of a covenantal relationship.

It is not always easy to be in a covenantal relationship, as those of you who have been married, who are still married or in a longterm loving relationship, can attest. Very few covenants, even marriage covenants, are written down anywhere but in our hearts, and the assumptions about the covenant between partners or in a community can be wildly inaccurate. Those of us who are no longer married can attest to that one!

A covenant is dependent on trust, on a shared sense of purpose, shared affection, and a mutuality of obligation. It is most successful when it is publicly affirmed and written down somewhere besides just our hearts.  And it works for the benefit of all within the covenant.

Let me end with a story out of my past experiences: 
One spring a few years ago, leaders in the Whidbey congregation became interested in taking a stand on an important issue in our world: the issue of torture and its illegality, its cruelty, and its uselessness. This is a First Principle issue, for torture degrades and abases human worth and dignity.

To determine the level of support in the congregation for placing a banner on our property stating "Torture is a Moral Issue", a poll was taken via email and many positive responses were received.

No negative responses emerged at that time, but after the banner went up, we discovered that several people in the congregation had not been aware that there was a poll and a few were unhappy---not because they believed torture was a good thing but because they felt it unwittingly sent an anti-military message and this was hurtful to our Navy families who also hated the idea of torture and would likely discourage new military families from feeling welcome here.

It wasn't immediately possible to resolve this situation but we vowed to do so as soon as we could schedule a meeting  and a couple of weeks later, 15 or so people met to talk about how to address the issue of the banner.

The conversation was respectful, passionate, and gradually a mutual understanding emerged: that the language of the banner was the sticking point, that a new banner's language would read: "Torture: End it Now!". I was in awe as I saw this happen. I hadn't known what to expect. I had hoped for a peaceful outcome, but to find this level of cooperation and understanding of other points of view was remarkable.

 I saw our dissenters speaking their truth in love. I saw our supporters of the original banner hearing the pain of the dissenters.
I saw the group striving for a mutual resolution that met the needs of both sides. I saw two sides come together in respect and affection. I saw people who had been uncomfortable expressing dissent speaking freely, no longer so afraid that their truth was not welcome.

I heard and saw love in the room, a caring for others, a desire for peace, a sharing of purpose. I saw a sense of freedom and of relief that we can create growth out of differences of opinion.

We affirmed our spoken and unspoken covenant together that night. And I was pleased. And those attending were pleased. And I believe the Universe may have been pleased as well.

Let's pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that we are here together in love, that we shape our lives by giving and receiving love, and that we share a common purpose, to increase love and justice in our world. May we find ways to do this in our everyday lives, in our work, and in our play. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.


Monday, March 14, 2016

What's Love Got to Do With It?

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Rev. Kit Ketcham, March 13, 2016
PUUF

Part I (After the offering/Spirit of Life)
            I was thinking about the sermon the other morning, getting ready to sit down and write, a little pensive because my own experiences with romantic love, at least, have been a little erratic, a little unsatisfactory, and quite a lot painful at times.  I bet I’m not the only one here in that position!
            And as I was reflecting that morning, I realized that though I may not have a lot of great romantic experience, I (and maybe we) have had plenty of experience with deep love, a wider love than romantic love, and an old hymn, written by George Matheson and published in 1882, popped into my head.  I’ll read you the words of part of it.
            O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee,
            I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow
            May richer, fuller be.
            O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee;
            I trace the rainbow through the rain and feel the promise is not vain
            That morn shall fearless be.”
            This is a very old hymn out of what I think of as the mystical tradition of Christianity, far removed from the literality of much of today’s traditional doctrine, and set firmly in a faith that recognizes the depth and breadth and universality of Love, linking to the depth and breadth and universality of Joy, its sister.
            I offer you this vision of Love to set the path for our reflection today.  We’re going to look at Love in three ways:  the way of our most intimate relationships with beloved individuals; the way of our relationships within this congregation; and the way of our relationships with the wider world beyond these walls.  And we’ll link it to Joy, its ultimate reward.
            I want us to look at Love---and Joy---as bigger than temporary romantic thrills.   I want us to look at these two life forces as essential to our lives as individuals, our lives as a community, and our lives as contributors to society.
            I invite you to close your eyes for a moment or two and let yourself think about the love in your life, particularly the love you receive and give to the persons and creatures in your life, now and back as far as you care to go.  (moments of silence)
            With your eyes still closed, answer this question either quietly to yourself or aloud:  “Who do you love?”  (say names silently or out loud, as you wish).  And then this question:  “Who loves you?”  (again, silently or aloud, as you wish)
            What are the features of that love?  Deep love may be physically intimate or not; it may be painful at times, it may be exuberant or serene.  It may be all of these things.  Much of it depends on the nature of our interactions with the persons or creatures we love.  It takes thought to express love in ways that the other person or creature can receive.
            How do we express our love to a dear person or a dear creature?  You notice I’m including non-human beings in my wonderings.  Many of us live with a mate but almost as many of us live with other creatures---pets or wildlife or growing things.  What tenderness do we offer to the living beings in our lives?  How does that tenderness and affection freely given enhance our life together?
            I don’t have a mate, at least currently!, but I have always had cats.  Cats who thrive on my attention and care, cats who purr noisily in my lap, who gobble down the expensive special diet food I spoon into their bowls, cats who  are sort of glad to see me when I come home, cats who receive the best care and affection I can give them.
 And what do we receive from those living beings?  We can’t order our beloved ones to treat us in certain ways; we generally have to learn how our mates or children or pets or other beings give love.
As my son grew up, his ways of expressing his love grew up too.  From a child who was openly affectionate as a toddler, he morphed into a teenager who walked 20 feet behind me in the mall when we went to buy school clothes but who produced a wooden plaque with the phrase “Cherish Love” carved into it for my birthday. 
As an independent adult, he has stood with open arms, laughing as I rushed to hug him as tight as I possibly could when he arrived for a vist.  Gifts were literal expressions of love, like the handwritten parchment on my wall saying thank you for a life of love.  He has learned to express love in ways that I deeply appreciate.  And he listens to me, which is a huge gift.  He doesn’t necessarily agree, but he listens and responds thoughtfully.
When we are in relationship with those closest and dearest to us, we usually make a strong effort to keep those relationships warm and rewarding for both parties.  It isn’t always easy.  Sometimes dear ones are estranged from us; sometimes it takes a lot of work not to throw up our hands in frustration and give up, especially when there are major points of disagreement or dissatisfaction.
But if it’s worth it, if there are many years invested, if there are others to consider, we tend to make the effort as long as we can, not wanting to let go of a love that has been sustaining in the past and might be again.  We are instinctively, I think, committed to love as long as we can manage it.
Our desire and instinct to love those closest to us does not die just because we are angry with each other.  It takes a betrayal or serious injury of some kind to discourage that instinctive behavior.  Chances are we have all been there.  Chances are we, right now, have a great deal of love to give the beloved ones in our lives, a great deal of love to give away.
One of our UU composers, the late Malvina Reynolds, wrote “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.  It’s just like a magic penny; hold it tight and you won’t have any.  Lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many they’ll roll all over the floor.”
And Fred Small, another UU composer, writes in his song “Everything Possible”:  “You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around, you can choose one special one, and the only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.”  With those words in mind, let’s continue with our service.
Part Two  (after Candles of the Heart)
            Let’s sit for a few moments in silence and consider what the experience of Candles of the Heart means to us (silence).  As we have listened to the joys and sorrows of our gathered community, I’m wondering what thoughts and feelings arose for you as our fellow congregants spoke of their lives.
            This time during our service gives us a chance to learn what’s going on in others’ lives, their struggles, their griefs, their hopes, their joys.  As we listen, we may have a myriad of varied reactions.
            We may feel compassion or sorrow at hearing of a loss, eager to help if we hear of a need, tickled by a triumph, joyful at a birth or achievement.  But Candles of the Heart is a snapshot, a bird’s eye view of  our Fellowship.  In these moments we have a chance to see the humanity, the much-varied lives of our fellow seekers.  It can feel sweetly sentimental or jarringly tragic.  But our lighting of candles at this time always invites us into a place of shared life—and love—with our community.
            We are reminded during this time of our shared life, of the losses we have faced and may still face, of the joys we have experienced and have yet to experience.  We grieve and rejoice together for a few moments during our service.  It’s important to know of the struggles and victories that we individually are facing.  The kind words and hugs that follow these sharings are one way we can help each other. 
            Our life experiences help to create the atmosphere of our community.  And just as in a family, discomfort and conflict can arise among us, just as a result of our own experiences and the challenges of being together as a community.
            If we are grieving, we may feel a bit cranky or short-tempered.  If we are rejoicing, we may be impatient with another’s grumpiness.  We can’t always understand where another person is coming from.  For example, if I am grieving some loss and am just trying to make it through the day, I may misinterpret someone else’s words as hurtful, when they are not intended to be.  If I am joyful about some event, I may not realize that my excitement may be seen as a slight to someone else.
            Life together can be complicated, can’t it?
            When I first went to Whidbey Island to serve that congregation, we both had been through tough congregational experiences.  I had made some rookie type mistakes when I was at Wy’east  and though we settled our differences amicably, I decided to move to another congregation after a few years.  The Whidbey Island folks had had to ask a disruptive person to leave the congregation and had lost members in the process.         
            We were both in need of some healing, and as we learned to trust each other, we began to use an affirmation every Sunday to remind ourselves of our ties and our commitment to the health of the congregation. 
That affirmation went like this:  “Love is the spirit of this
congregation and service is its practice.  This is our great covenant, to dwell together in peace, to speak truth in love, and to help one another.”  That affirmation became a part of our worship ritual and led  eventually, to the development of a Covenant of Right Relations, best practices for maintaining the spiritual health of the congregation.
            In voting on acceptance of the Covenant, members and friends were acknowledging how tricky it can be to get along with each other all of the time, especially in times of growth and times of decision-making.  Even the most serene among friends can get testy and crabby if their toes are stepped on, even accidentally.
            Here at PUUF, we are in a process of discernment:  we have grown more in the past couple of years than we have for a long time and we are apparently outgrowing this space, particularly when we are all assembled downstairs after the service.
            We have a Facilities committee that is evaluating this building and other possible locations for their suitability as we continue to grow.  A change of location can be a very stressful challenge for anyone---a single person, a family, a congregation.  We want to do this in a democratic way and there will be decisions to make during the next several months.
            This can be a difficult time for us and it is valuable to remember our unspoken agreement to stay on good terms with one another .  I say unspoken because we don’t have a written Covenant or even a ritually spoken one.  However, our daily behavior with one another implies that agreement; we want to get along. 
            Let’s consider these ideas as we move forward now in our service.
PART III  (after anthem)
            The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, president of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, has written:
Your gifts---whatever you discover them to be—
Can be used to bless or curse the world.
The mind’s power
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting,
Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.
Any of these can drawn down the prison door,
Hoard bread,
Abandon the poor,
Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice,
Or withhold love.
Choose to bless the world.
The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude,
To search for the source of power and grace,
Native wisdom, healing and liberation.
More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth,
The chorus of life welcoming you.
None of us alone can save the world.
Together---that is another possibility.
Waiting.
            How are we as a community blessing the world?  Let’s reflect silently for a few moments on this thought.  (silence)
            I noticed a church marquee sign not long ago, which stated “Do the Math!  Count Your Blessing!”  I think they might have left off the “s” at the end of the word Blessing, but I kind of like the way it turned out, because my reaction was “Yes!  My blessing counts, in this world!  I can bless the world, with my every action.
            Those of us who grew up in strict Bible-based churches might have gotten the notion that only God---or a clergyperson---could give blessing, that ordinary people were not “blessed” with that ability.
            But I disagree.  We are all capable of giving blessing.  Our every act of kindness, of giving love, is giving blessing.  When we raise our arms in an arch over our children as they leave for their classes, we are giving them our blessing as a community.
            When we offer love to any living thing, we are giving blessing.  When we take care of our own health and needs, we are blessing.  When we offer kindness to mates, kids, friends, we bless them.  When we care for the earth, whether by refraining from hurting it, whether by a garden or indoor plants or watching protectively for wildlife on the roads, we are blessing the earth and its creatures.
            So circling back around to the title of this sermon, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”, here’s what I think:  Love has everything to do with it.  Love is our super power.  It affects every aspect of our lives and can be used to heal or….if warped and maimed into falseness, it can be used to destroy.
            We can choose to bless or to curse each other, our community, and the world.  If we bless, the outcome is Joy; if we curse, the outcome is Despair.  What will we choose?
            Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION:  Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place.  Let us go in peace, remembering that the power of love is our power, our strength, our opportunity.  May we go forth in love to bless the world, to bless our community, and to bless all those we love.  And in so doing, may we reap the blessing of Love, which is Joy.  Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.
CLOSING CIRCLE


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Evolution Rocks!

EVOLUTION ROCKS: THE SERMON
By Rev. Kit Ketcham, Feb. 14, 2016
Last week, as I listened to Kjirsten and sat and talked with her during our social hour, I was struck by how much she and I have thought about the same things---the ways religion has shifted attention and understanding away from the philosophical ideas which originally undergirded many religions.  My thoughts today are somewhat connected to last week’s topic as the conflict between evolution and fundamentalist theology has underscored that divide. 
I’m one of the signers of the Clergy Letter Project, which I signed several years ago, I have spoken on the interface between religion and science a few times.  Kjirsten’s words have given me more to think about!
Let me start with a story from an earlier life.
     I wondered what my Dad was thinking as we sat side by side in the tiny theatre on the Linfield College campus, my freshman year. It was Parents’ weekend, and my folks had driven from Athena to McMinnville to spend the weekend with me. I was excited about the opportunity to introduce them to my college life, to some of my professors and my new friends, and to walk with them around our beautiful campus.
     One of the highlights of the weekend was to be a theatre production by student actors, so I bought three tickets and after dinner on Saturday night in the campus dining room, we entered the small space and found our seats.
     The play was “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee, a dramatization of the famous Tennessee trial, in which Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off over the state law which prohibited the teaching of evolution in school classrooms.
     I had had no teaching about evolution in my high school biology class. Somehow the creation of the earth had been skipped over entirely and we’d gone straight on to dissecting earthworms without considering where the earthworms came from.
    Every church in the county taught the story of Genesis as historical fact and I had never heard a dissenting voice on the matter. Nor had I heard any voice dissenting with the Genesis story.
     Or should I say stories? Because there is more than one Genesis account of the creation of the earth and its creatures. We’ll get to that later.
     But for now, I sat there oblivious, watching the play. I was more interested in the friends I had in the cast and how they were doing, than I was in what seemed to be yet another story about how we all got here. I was not a very adept theologian—or science student--at that point in my life!
     The characters sparred over Biblical references that lacked logic, with one character needling the other with questions like “where did Cain’s wife come from if Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel were the first humans?” and “what would happen if the sun stood still as it is written in the story of Joshua who needed more time to win a battle?”  The other would answer that he believed God had his own ways of making these things happen and that he believed firmly that these things were God’s will, even though he couldn’t explain them any further.
     I wonder what my mother thought as she listened politely, knowing that my father’s beliefs were being systematically questioned and deconstructed as we sat there.
     It took me long years to recognize how hard it must have been for both of them to sit quietly and not get up and leave the theatre. It may have been a relief to them that I was more interested in pointing out my friends in the cast than discussing the topic of the play.
            Of course, it looked like Genesis came out on top at the end of the play, as Scopes lost and the law won, at least temporarily.
    I didn’t realize at the time that “Inherit the Wind” was making another point as well: condemning the recently concluded anti-Communist investigations of the House Unamerican Activities Committee, headed up by Senator Joe McCarthy.
     The play was about intellectual freedom, of course, not specifically about evolution, but for my parents, it must have been a shock to see that the nice Baptist college they had sent their innocent daughter to was a hotbed of modernism.
To their credit, they did not yank me bodily out of school and make me go to Multnomah School of the Bible instead. They continued to help with my tuition, gave me encouragement at every turn and never criticized when I’d write home about all the exciting things I was doing.
     But somehow I figured out that my parents and I were on two different tracks when it came to the Bible and Christianity.
And I began to be very careful about what I revealed about what I was learning. I did my best to stay within the lines they’d drawn, at least at home. My dad’s health was an issue and I was afraid to upset him, for fear it would trigger a heart attack or other setback.
And I loved my parents deeply. I could not bear the thought of being estranged from my family.
     So I got adept at finding the metaphorical meanings of the scripture, rather than the literal meaning, and when we did talk, I thought metaphorical truth while they undoubtedly thought literal truth. The Genesis stories were metaphorical and mythical, not historical, in my mind, but I was not going to tip my hand.
     That metaphorical meaning of the Genesis account was underscored by my Old Testament professor in seminary many years later when he pointed out that there were actually two different stories of the creation in Genesis, not just one.
     The first story is the poetic tale of seven days of work, six days of separate physical acts of creation, and ending with a day of rest on the seventh day. This story runs from Genesis 1, verse 1, through Genesis 2, verse 6, and then seems to change and tells a much different version of the creation, with no mention of seven days and with an extended description of Adam and Eve and the life given to them in the garden of Eden.
     This version brings forth the ancient tale of Eve’s being created from Adam’s rib and describes the story of the serpent’s temptation and betrayal, resulting in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden for disobeying the order of God not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
     If you read the King James Version, which is all we had for centuries, you would miss the distinctions between the two stories; it would look as though the author simply took a different tack and decided to retell the story from a new angle.
     But Biblical scholarship over the past century has noted the use of two different names for God, one from Canaanite culture and one from Judean culture, two different emphases, (the first on physical creation and the second on moral issues), and two different orders of creation (the first naming plant creation before humans, the second naming human creation before plants).
     These differences led most scholars to believe that these are two distinct stories, written down centuries apart, by two different sources. One story seemed clearly to be the sort of tale told around ancient campfires, a way of explaining the existence of human beings, the creatures who lived in proximity to those humans, the usages that humans were to make of those living things, and the need for rest after many days of hard work.
          The second story is of moral importance, whereas the first is an oral legend of physical creation. The second story describes God’s relationship with his human creation; this story is of a parental figure who commands obedience, gives many gifts and requires discipline and resistance of temptation, temptation he has set before them. When his children succumb to that temptation, he punishes and curses them.
     The first story describes a benevolent creator; the second, a paternalistic, vengeful figure.
     Today, the Sunday nearest the date of Charles Darwin’s birth on Feb. 12, in 1809, 207 years ago, we are celebrating The Clergy Letter Project, founded by Dr. Michael Zimmerman, a professor at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, which has had as its goal, for the past several years, proving that science and religion are not incompatible, that thousands and thousands of clergy from all faiths understand the importance of science and religion in human lives and believe that the two disciplines do not have to be mutually exclusive.
     Dr. Zimmerman has written the following: Ever since the Scopes Trial in 1925, evolution has been under attack by those who think it is more important to promote their narrow religious perspective than to understand the natural world. In the immediate aftermath of the Scopes Trial, virtually all traces of evolution vanished from American science textbooks and evolution remained missing until the early 1960s, when Americans realized that Soviet science education was fast outpacing American science education.
     Creationists, in the name of religion, first outlawed the teaching of human evolution and then, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional, they began to use a number of ruses to promote their religious doctrines by claiming they were in favor of freedom of inquiry.
They pretended to turn their religion into science by calling it "creation science" and when that too was ruled unconstitutional they changed the name again and promoted "intelligent design." The U.S. courts also ruled that strategy unconstitutional.
        Despite all of these legal setbacks, creationists have kept up their relentless attack on evolution, the most important concept in all of biology. It has been termed a religion. It has been portrayed as nothing more than a "theory." And it has been characterized, by those with precious little biological background, as pseudoscientific claptrap.
     Despite the lack of intellectual and scientific substance to the attacks on evolution, the constant refrain from creationists that evolution is responsible for virtually all of modern society's ills has largely shaped the public's perception of the issue.…
     (The Project) purposefully brings attention to (an) issue that religious fundamentalists find most abhorrent. (Project) participants are not looking to deify Darwin, however. Instead, they are simply attempting to demonstrate that his ideas, reshaped enormously in the 157 years since he published On the Origin of Species, are important to a modern worldview and are fully compatible with modern religious teachings. By doing this, they are proudly taking active steps to publicly define religion in a positive manner.
     Other authorities support and amplify Zimmerman’s case. Paul Horwitz, a physicist turned education researcher, in an online article published by Education Week, says this:
     “My opinion is that creationism in all its forms, including intelligent design, is not science; and that it is vitally important that we not teach nonscience as if it were science… Creationism is not science because it introduces causes outside of nature in order to explain observations of nature… Theories like that do not foster inquiry; rather, they close off discussion…That’s why creationism shouldn’t be taught as science,  because it isn’t science.
     The intersection of religion and science has become a political issue, pitting those who would ban these scientific findings in classrooms against those who see it as an issue of intellectual freedom and a violation of the separation of church and state. Creationists tend to see the issue as a denial of God and often call their adversaries “atheists” and “heretics”.
      Charles Darwin himself had doubts about his faith, as he explored his findings and the conclusions they led to. He struggled with friends and family who tried to get him to set aside his work and cleave to a traditional faith. But he could not set aside his reasoning and his integrity in order to stay within the bounds of his culture and society.
     Charles Darwin was one of us, a Unitarian from birth, though in later life he attended Anglican schools. Eventually he married Emma Wedgwood, a strong Unitarian herself, who accepted his ideas but feared that his radical beliefs might separate them in the afterlife. (I guess she wasn’t also a Universalist, or she would have known better!)
    Though Darwin’s findings were revolutionary and controversial, they gradually found acceptance across the scientific community and even among liberal clergy in the Anglican tradition. Darwin had started out an orthodox believer, but after his voyage on The Beagle, where he collected much of his information and knowledge, he became an avowed agnostic and no longer attended any church.
    He died a wellknown, if not completely well-accepted, scientist and philosopher. He was wrongfully associated with the proliferation of such ideas as Eugenics and Social Darwinism, theories which invoked ethical concerns about treatment of the poor and sickly. He himself did believe that females were less eminent than males because of sexual selection, but a woman named Antoinette Brown Blackwell, the first woman ordained to parish ministry in the United States, disputed that claim eloquently in her own writings.
     In recent years, I’ve become more and more concerned about what I see as the creeping miasma of distrust of and resistance to science and other intellectual contributions to human life and understandings.
     It’s probably a good thing to be critical of science, to investigate for ourselves the claims of research and to be aware of the many temptations scientists have, as they scramble for funding of their research and deal with the promises of money in exchange for certain findings, particularly as our economy has been stretched tighter and tighter and research is often paid for by corporations, not unbiased regulatory agencies.
    But it feels to me like a place where Unitarian Universalists can contribute to a greater understanding of the scientific process, the findings of science, the ethical issues involved, the intended and unintended consequences of each new finding. It might be a possible topic for us as a congregation to present in community forums and dialogs about science issues, using instructors from Clatsop CC or other higher education institutions.  We did this one year on Whidbey Island, with some real success.
     It felt like a social action project of sorts, to offer to the community an opportunity to discuss with women and men who are deeply involved in their various scientific discipline, to ask them pointed questions about the ethics and consequences of their discoveries, and to dispel some of the suspicion which is so prevalent in society.     
     But, returning to the evolution debate, I am convinced that the issue for the fundamentalist community is one of fear, fear of changing beliefs, fear that the consequences of that change will be a crisis of faith for individuals and congregations.
     For after all, humankind’s understanding of the power beyond human power, which many call God, has changed radically as science has advanced our knowledge of the universe. Our little world was once considered to be the center of creation and we believed that the sun, moon, and stars revolved around it every day and night.   
     We were the most important place in the universe and under God’s special care. As our knowledge of the sun, moon, and stars grew, we began to understand that we were only one of billions of planets and solar systems, our sun only one of millions of suns, our world a speck in the sky to somebody else.
     Change is hard. Change is scary. And though I still wonder about my parents’ thoughts on that night in 1960, I am confident that, if there is any consciousness left to them after death, they have more understanding of it all than I do. I can only do my best to comprehend the mystery of creation and what it means in our world today. And I think that, if they were able to tell me anything today, they would tell me that they love me and trust me to do my best to understand and to serve the world with my understanding.
     Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.
As Tim extinguishes our chalice, let’s close with the benediction.
BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that Science and Reasoning are foundational to our religious life but that they are not deities to be worshipped. They are tools to use as we discover the meaning of life. May we be gentle with those who disagree with us and may we serve our world with compassion and strength. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.