As many of you know, I attended a variety of schools growing up. It was intellectual boredom that took me out of the public school I had attended for 2nd and 3rd grade to try homeschooling for a year, and it was my social isolation as a homeschooler that led my parents to their next attempt to educate their smart and extroverted daughter. The compromise was a fundamentalist Baptist school—the only private school in our small town of 5000 in rural Ohio. I spent 5th-8th grades at Ohio Valley Christian School, wearing skirts past my knees, memorizing the KJV, and enduring those miserably catty middle school years. After OVCS, attending a secular private school in North Carolina was quite a change for me, and in fact, my hope that I could find a school that was academically challenging (like my 9th grade institution) and Christian led me to hop to a new school in 10th grade. But I quickly hopped right back.
This is the story I recalled as soon as I saw the “historical Adam” article in Christianity Today this month: my accidental foray into fundamentalism, my fear over my secular education, and my reassessment of Christian education (as a whole) on the basis of the pervasive anti-intellectualism I found at my latest institution of choice. Interestingly, the other day while browsing the grocery story and discussing these experiences with Jeremiah, it hit me for the first time that my persistent feelings of disinterest towards the creation/evolution debate were not, in fact, ever-present. I did briefly care about this issue: I specifically did mediocre on my 9th-grade Old World History test covering “pre-history,” since I thought, Well, I don’t really believe any of this anyway… I had just spent four years hanging out with KJV-only-ists, after all, so I knew that this evolution crap was all hog-wash. Why bother to memorize anything about “Lucy”?
But it was my supposedly enlightened Christian school experience in 10th grade that convinced me creationism was at least equally deserving of the b.s. label. I remember the hope and enthusiasm I felt about taking biology, in particular, in a Christian context. Oh how deeply I was disappointed! Our “unit” on evolution ended up requiring no reading and having no lectures, but instead consisted solely of a research paper. A paper that didn’t even require us to learn evolutionary theory, but instead forced us to gather up all the arguments we could use to refute it. This was at the jeans-allowed, NIV-permitted Christian school, but its utter terror in the face of science was hardly different from the fundies’. I remember dutifully assembling my paper, which I decided would just have to consist of other people’s arguments rather than my genuine opinion. Some of the “evidence” I found actually had to do with the amount of dust on the moon. Dust… on… the… moon… I could not believe I was having to waste my life on this paper.
By the time I returned to the secular private school the next year, these questions just didn’t matter to me. I had trusted evangelical creationists to have a decent hand of cards, but when I got a peek, I realized they were bluffing. There was a good reason we didn’t actually cover evolution in class—they had no arguments against it. No reasonable ones, anyway. I decided it didn’t really matter how God created the world, anyway—God was still God—and went into college with my faith bolstered by my recently discovered moderate evangelicalism (many thanks to InterVarsity Press, Baker, Eerdmans, Christians for Biblical Equality, and Mark Noll). I have felt decidedly agnostic towards evolution ever since.
To some extent that might be changing, however. My first year of seminary gave me some new and better ways of reading Genesis, and our buddies at BioLogos have helped erase some of the lingering prejudices towards evolution that I may have held. I am not a scientist, so I don’t believe I can make an intelligent case on this kind of an issue—I can merely trust what the (vast, vast) majority of scientists believe. But I do think that over the last three or four years, I’ve continued to drift even further towards the theological middle, a journey which has made me question whether I should continue to treat evolution as such a not-big deal.
Perhaps, instead, I should be awed that I did search for alternative viewpoints as a high school student who realized much of the faith she had been handed could not stand up to questioning. It is, in many ways, a miraculous journey, which makes little logical sense and for which I give God the credit. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. I do not doubt God’s ability to hold onto others or to chase others down, of course, but I do feel that perhaps by not intentionally making theistic evolution a more accessible option, we moderate folk are not doing our Christian duty. We are tragically failing to share truly good news with those already committed to science, and we are tragically failing to reassure many doubting Christians that this does not need to be an issue that causes them to lose their faith.
As I read the CT article, I was struck by the utter nonsense of some of the lengths to which more conservative scholars are now going in order to preserve a historical first couple. If this is what people are being taught, maybe it is time for me to go back and learn the science I never learned in high school. Perhaps the time has come for me to put my apathy aside once and for all, to better educate myself, and to get passionate about this issue—on the theistic evolution side.