Friday, February 4, 2005

Praise the Lord and pass the surf wax

Endless Conversation by Tony Evans

Tony Evans

A number of hands rose up in the Community Campus auditorium last week when a teenage surfing evangelist called upon members of the sell-out crowd to "Noah's Ark" to "wash away our sins in the blood of Christ."

"The resurrection of Christ," we were told, "is one of the most documented major events in world history." I declined to convert to whatever version of Christianity these "soul surfers" espouse, suspicious as I am of how religious dogma can be used to build political power, despite the presentation of a rather dark and ominous world situation, and the promise of everlasting life.

But I can't help feeling some envy for these people who carry an unfaltering 2000 year-old owner's manual for living, even as I drift from truth to truth on the post-modern sea of contingencies.

Can I be a good Christian without throwing out my education and belief in the objectivity of science? What are the implications of being "born again" in America? Can I be Buddhist, too?

I think of Henry David Thoreau's response when asked if he had made peace with God. "I am not aware that we ever quarreled, " was his answer. I hope I can be so self-possessed.

Literal interpreters of the Bible have been working to drive a wedge between spirituality and scientific discovery for some time, taking aim at the theory of evolution and requiring of us that we believe in a personal God. But is this necessary? Why can't mythological thinking and scientific observation go hand in hand in the educated mind—like peas and carrots. If either were ever absolutely certain, what need would we have of faith? And what value would there be in life experience?

A secular education provides an understanding of the history of ideas, the precepts of science and a healthy dose of metaphorical thinking in order to separate the literature of the world from the dogma. Raising a hand after an inspiring film can't change the fact that, ultimately we are all in it together, regardless of creed.

Surfing may well have turned Noah and Bethany and their friends into "born again" Christians, but it brought a great many more of us to a proper sense of wonder, love and respect for the natural world, and a tolerance for all of its cultures and creatures, regarding them as something more than a speed-bump on the way to the Apocalypse.

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