Hundreds of churches across the country will celebrate Evolution Weekend on the weekend closest to Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12. Evolution Weekend is the day when religious organizations from all across the United States representing a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. Through sermons, liturgy, discussion groups, Sunday School lessons, meaningful conversations and seminars, people will learn how religion and science are not adversaries, but rather allies in creating a loving, just and sustainable world.
There are many reasons that religious organizations across the country are observing Evolution weekend. Following is a summary.
1) Celebration - While for some people, the science of evolution may have initially made them uncomfortable about religion or science, upon deeper reflection, people see that evolution enhances their faith. In the light of evolution, people find they have more forgiveness, that they may appreciate Creation more fully, and that their hope is based on reason, not merely wishful thinking.
2) Education - One of the goals of Evolution Weekend is to provide evidence that evolution is sound science, that the science of evolution is central to the theology taught in most seminaries, and that the science of evolution poses no problems for people of faith.
3) Discussion - 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 bytes.
4) Witness - It may be incomprehensible to people who have grown up in a progressive faith where evolution and religion have never been at odds to understand the pain and confusion of those who grow up believing that one must choose between faith or evolution. Still today, millions of Americans think they must choose. And in this choosing, some lose faith in science while the others lose faith not only in God, but in theselves. While more and more congregations are observing Evolution Weekend, many more do not because they believe evolution is so obvious and a service to evolution would be irrelevant, like devoting a service to physics, chemistry or math. Furthermore, since Jesus never mentioned evolution, why should we? But Jesus did say that it was our responsibility to heal the poor, and that includes the poor in spirit. Are not the 20% of Americans who suffer depression at sometime in their life poor? Many of these are impoverished in spirit because of the false doctrine that evolution means God is a delusion, that religion is evil, and that life has no meaning or purpose.
According to Rabbi Zalman Schacher-Shalomi, the purpose of religion is to “orient people toward the cosmos in a way that they feel they belong.” People now realize that they are in a huge and evolving cosmos, and for many this disorientation leads to existential angst. Perhaps there are few more important worship services, than those that help people feel like they belong to a meaningful cosmos.
Evolution Sunday works in healing souls. One 70 year-old man, who had attended church most of his life, after reconciling evolution with faith, for the first time in his life, felt his prayers were truly connecting with God. He was no longer trying to reach out to a man in a long white beard. Another woman reported that he Evolution Sunday service healed some wounds inflicted in her youth. She was thrilled that children in her congregation would learn right from the start that evolution is compatible with faith.
5) Feed the Poor
Few in the United States know starvation for food. But that does not mean we don't feed the poor. Likewise, most in progressive churches do not know the pain of isolation from God because of the false doctrine that evolution means there is no God. Those congregations that accept the science of evolution have an obligation to feed the poor in spirit who are fed an information diet from both the radical minority of extreme religious and the those of radical minority of extremist scientists that evolution means that God is a delusion. It's time that moderates speak up!
Evolution Weekend is the offspring of a letter entitled the Clergy Letter which was begun by Michael Zimmerman, and now (as of December 2007, has over 11,000 signatures). See the contents of the Clergy Letter below.
In 2006 and 2007, Michael Zimmerman organized church leaders to observance Evolution Sunday. These events were successful on many levels: 1) These event helped many people understand how evolution is how God creates. 2) These events attracted many scientists from the community to attend this service. Many were astonished to learn that Christianity can embrace the truths of evolution. 3) Because this is such an unusual event, it had great press coverage. In 2006, the NY Times' article about Evolution Sunday was the most emailed story the following week.
In 2008, the name of Evolution Sunday was changed to Evolution Weekend to include those of religions that observe holy days other than Sunday.
Following is the text of the Clergy Letter.
"Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts."
"We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. 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 believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. 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. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth."
Following are links to resources that may help members of your religious organization experience a meaningful and enlightening Evolution Weekend.
- Sermon Ideas -
- Sunday School Activities
- DNA Beads - DNA is the language of God and is at the heart of biological evolution. In this simple hands-on activity using readily available materials, children of all ages can quickly learn the ABC's of DNA.
- Reconstructing Fossil Bones - One of he first clues that life had changed over time was the discovery of fossils from creatures that no longer exist. In this activity, students will put together "bones" from a creature that has gone extinct. This is a good opportunity to talk about caring for God's Creation and human's role in extinction.
- Epic of Evolution Beads - In this creative, hands-on activity, students will learn about the major events in the Epic of Evolution from the Great Radiance (Big Bang) to now.
- Tree of Life Poster - By seeing the Tree of Life, students realize show how all creatures are related. They will learn how how cooperation plays an important role in major events in evolution.
- Walk Through Time - In this easy-to-set up activity, people learn by walking about one of the most challenging aspects of evolution: deep time.
- Study Groups
- Thank God for Evolution
- Biology of Belief
- Call and Response
- Children's Time
- Bulletin Art
- Nurtured by Nature
- Lucky Little Seaweed: Cooperation in Evolution (thanks to Connie Barlow)
- Meet the Ancestors (thanks to Connie Barlow)