Today’s letter-to-the-editor is titled Your faith may be the greatest science of all. It appears in the Oroville Mercury-Register of Oroville, California, a town famous for the 1881 lynching of Tom Noacks, who had killed an elderly pioneer, Jack Crum, by stomping him to death. Noacks had been known for punching oxen in the head, like Mongo in Blazing Saddles.
We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), so we usually omit the writer’s full name and city. But today’s letter-writer is a preacher — Rev. Peter F. Hansen, described as “rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church in Chico.” We’ll give you a few excerpts from the rev’s letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:
Feb. 12, 1809, was the birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. They affected the world in unexpected ways. They were both called fools, but today are considered wise. Which were they? Lincoln was not a Christian when he was elected our 16th president. In office his faith emerged, an anchor in a stormy time. Darwin was trained to be an Anglican priest. After his theory of evolution, his faith slipped away.
Problems emerge immediately. It’s very debatable whether Lincoln ever was a Christian — although like all Presidents, he included scriptural references in his speeches. Darwin, on the other hand, did indeed see his faith slip away, but it was the death of his daughter that triggered it, not his theory of evolution. Your compassionate Curmudgeon understands the rev’s motivation, so we’ll overlook what seems to be a bit of historical shading. Where is he going with this? That’s coming soon, so stay with us.
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Psalm 14:1. Using a scientific theory to get rid of a troublesome God is like holding your hand up in the sky to destroy the sun. It takes the sun from view, but your arm tires, and the sun is still there.
That was completely wacky. Let’s read on:
Lincoln freed the slaves and fought a bitter battle to save the Union. He led America through its darkest hours, watching half a million young men die.
Yes, we know. What does that have to do with Darwin? The rev continues:
At his second inauguration, he stood, a tower of faith, speaking to both sides: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other … ” [loads of bible stuff from Lincoln’s speech omitted].
Yes, there were many bible allusions in that speech. Come on, rev, make your point! No, we must be patient. The rev is doing this slowly:
This man’s heart broke under the terrible things he’d performed in office. No such task was thrust on Darwin, a man of the Age of Reason when science was supposed to solve all unknowns, free mankind from superstition, religion and mythology through science. Our schools teach his theory as fact: [the rev’s summary of evolution isn’t worth being copied here].
We think we see where the rev is leading us. Lincoln became a Christian and did great things. Darwin stopped being a Christian and did evil things. Yes, the pattern is emerging. Let’s see if we’ve guessed correctly. Moving along:
Evolution actually bolstered the racism that subjugated blacks in the same hour Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Hold on there, rev. That’s flat-out wrong — outrageously so (unless Darwin had a time machine). Ignoring indentured servitude, African slavery began in the US when a Dutch ship, bound for the Caribbean (where the Spanish had been practicing slavery for at least a century) stopped in Virginia and sold a few African slaves to the colonists in 1619 (see Slavery in the United States). That was 240 years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in late November of 1859, and it wasn’t published in the US until mid-January 1860. Civil War hostilities began at Fort Sumter in April of 1861.
Hey, rev — as long as you don’t mind anachronisms, why not blame Darwin for the Crucifixion? Ah well, here’s another excerpt:
One found God at a time of trouble. The other lost God in the details of his theory. Today, evolution’s proponents denounce God.
It must be very comforting to see the world in such simplistic terms. On with the rev’s letter:
Speak against the prevailing wisdom of our day and it may cost you dearly. Instructors across the country have lost teaching positions for even mentioning any origin except evolution.
There is science behind the theory of Intelligent Design that proclaims an intelligence behind it all. Our design delicately balances complex functions that, if even one of them was missing or altered, nothing would work or even make sense. The genius behind DNA, blueprint of all genetic order, was mapped by the Human Genome Project. Random chance cannot reasonably result in 3 billion pairs of chemical codes that, missing just one piece, won’t result in life at all.
Thanks for the science lesson, rev. Your humble Curmudgeon respectfully suggests that you stick to your theological trade. It’s safe. No one can ever show that you’re doing it wrong.
The rev isn’t taking our advice. In fact, his science proclamations become increasingly grandiose:
Every physical system makes our universe possible. It is nearly impossible, yet because of intelligence in its design, it exists. We’re not stupid to think God made this. Many scientific disciplines are coming to the conclusion: We are made of light. Don’t be ashamed of your faith. It may be the greatest science of all.
Yeah, okay. We’ll skip the rev’s T.S. Eliot quote. He concludes with this:
Saving the world from suicide is reason enough for us to speak as fools, brave the consequences, face the fire, and tell the truth.
Well said, rev! Great letter.
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