August 24th, 2008

Creation is a myth, but that doesn’t make it any less true

This morning, I talked to my brother. My brother and I have a sometimes somewhat awkward relationship; he’s a “Born Again” Christian (I suppose my mother didn’t do a good enough job the first time?), and I’m, quite obviously, not. I don’t know what I’d call myself, actually, mainly because if I could sum up my faith easily I wouldn’t be writing a book about it (but I can’t, and so I am). When my brother and I speak, we usually try to set aside topics of religion and politics so that we can, you know, smile at each other and mean it.

Over the course of catching up (Christmas might well have been the last time we spoke. If not, sometime in the early spring?), I learned that he’s shortly going to be teaching science, math, and history at a middle school or somesuch. I didn’t get all the particulars.

But I wonder: how can a born-again Christian possibly teach either history or science? I’m fairly certain my brother believes two things:

1) God created the entire universe, from scratch, in six days, and

2) He did so approximately 6,000 years ago.

Now, mind you, I have nothing against the story of Creation, and of Adam & Eve. As fables go, it ranks up there with Aesop in its simplicity, message, and ability to teach young’uns a thing or two. Personally, I tend to think that one of the things that can tell you most about about a particular culture is its Creation story. Many of the tribes originally on this continent believed that the world was born on the back of a turtle emerging from the mud. Pretty much every culture has its own.

The Christian creation story seems to be one of arrogance and domination. Man created separately from beasts and in the image of a deity, and then handed dominion over all the land (and we wonder that the environment is currently buggered). It’s very little surprise Bush considers himself a born-again Christian.

I wonder about the curriculum. Didn’t some Kansas school board vote a couple of years ago about whether to give equal representation to both the science of evolution and the story of Intelligent Design (about which there is nothing intelligent whatsoever; if God does, in fact, exist, God does so in a way that transcends such an adjective as ‘intelligent,’ anyway).

The thing is, I do think everything in schools should be given equal representation, just not in the ways most boards attempt to implement it. I think we should start teaching children about the nature of myths and stories early. Like, in kindergarten, or even preschool, and I think that, when we teach children about creation, we should tell them every story of creation we still have on record. I think children should learn that God created the world in six days and that it came into being born on the back of a turtle (to name but two creation stories), because I think in so learning, they will begin to understand the real origins and meanings of stories. I think it will make richer their relationships with each other, and throughout life.

And then, when they are ready to learn more about physics and evolution and biology and reproduction, they will understand the science of it but still appreciate more subtle meanings. The child who learns how science works in equal measure to why we tell the stories we value might just change the world.