Monday, August 22, 2011

Study the Creator or the Creation?

Flying half-way across the country has been bittersweet in ways that I would not have expected. Going over countryside, I get to watch as we pass over all kinds of different geological regions (not to be confused with geographical regions, although we are obviously going over them too). I get to see deserts, forests, rivers running down a steep hillside. I wonder at the obvious signs of streams in the desert. I see sharp edges next to curves. I see a cliff that drops off into dry canyon in such a way that it looks like someone took a giant shovel to it and formed it all at once instead of slowly picking it apart.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite college courses:  physical geology. I got learn about glaciers and fjords. We studied about the ocean floor. I discovered the origin of the oxbow lake. Our professor taught us about the shoreline processes that we would be able to see taking place on our bay all year long. Learning about our local geology was fascinating.  I also learned practical advice for the future like why I should never, ever cut out the toe of a slope. Never. And over the years I’ve been able to see where people have not listened to that advice. Oops. What fun it would have been to pursue this course of study further, although it would have meant more math (yuck).

What I also remembered was that I had been timid, weak, and undisciplined. The New Testament advises us to always have an answer when asked about the hope we have in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 3:15).  I don’t know that that verse was aimed at how to handle yourself in science class in 1990, but then again, maybe God had let the ApostlePeter see the future. What I do know is that having a firm testimony, even if I never spoke it out loud in class, would have made me feel much more secure in my faith when in the presence of non-believers. But I didn’t bother to learn the way in which God wanted me to speak the Truth. I wanted a nice little world like I had grown up in, where everyone believed the same thing and defending “The Faith” was taken care of by the older men in our circle. I wanted somebody to take care of me and make it easy to go out into the world with my Christianity. I didn’t want to be challenged or have to explain myself. How childish of me.

So… no science profession for me. The professors I had would rail and rail against the religious nuts. The first day or two of every one of my science classes in public college was spent on outlining all of the reasons that we should never mention Creationism or even the fact that we were a Christian out loud. I could tell that some of the professors were even offended that they had to have Christians in their classes (which they did because the course they were teaching was basically a foundation requirement for every degree).  In their eyes, because I believed in the One who created the earth, I should not be allowed to study the creation. It was an either/or proposition in their eyes. Scared little girl that I was, I let them discourage me.

I supposed I could have looked for a science program at a Christian college. Do Christian universities even offer degrees in physical geology? Can they be accredited for that if they are teaching Creationism? I know there are theories of “theistic evolution” going around, but 1) I’m not sure that is being taught in accredited geology classes anywhere, and 2) I’m not sure that I believe it even if I could get college credit for it.

I was so easily dissuaded and discouraged that I just gave up on studying the beauty of this earth in a scientific manner. I gave up on studying the many amazingly unique geological features of my beloved state of Texas. God had created all of this to share with us and He had seen that it was good. I had seen that it was good. But my faith in Him was so weak that I would not trust Him to be my rear guard when I faced the attacks of the atheists who were teaching me and studying beside me. I was so lost and unsure of what field of study that I wanted to pursue that I decided to quit wasting tuition money and just dropped out of school.

When I had about 2 years sober (which made studying so much easier), I decided to go back to school. I was participating in a government program that was helping to pay some of my school expenses, so I had to agree to a course of study that they approved. I ended up back at the junior college studying Public Administration. I then changed my major one last time to Social Work.  I transferred to a state university and ended up in a Social Work department where atheism was rampant.  Because I was also a student worker in the Social Work Department offices, some of the professors knew more about me than they did their other students. One professor used this knowledge to throw me to the wolves sometimes. She would wait until the class got into a particularly heated discussion about a topic, get to the point where the Christian bashing began, and then say, “well, let’s hear what the conservative Christians have to say about this. Carolyn?” I was then supposed to defend the whole Christian faith on matters including evangelizing to clients, single-parent households, abortion, drug testing, and those little brown lumps found in guacamole. Since class participation was part of our grade, I could not exactly say no without paying for it. So I would try to speak in a coherent manner on the topic du jour. If a student started a verbal attack on me personally, the professor, herself supposedly a Social Worker from the “can’t we all just get along” school of thought, would let it continue.

It was about that time that I decided (for many reasons) to transfer to a Christian Social Work program. I left one of the best Social Work Programs in the state to go to a school that hoped to model their program after the one I had just left. They weren’t there yet though. They were so impressed with where I was coming from that I managed to bring all of my credits with me – as a senior. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Even though I ended up taking out student loans that equaled my weight in gold so that I could attend a private school, I got to view my profession from two radically different points of view and I am a better Social Worker and person for the experience.

Here’s a little kicker for you, though. Because my new school’s degree program was set up a bit differently than the one I had just left, they wanted me to take one more science course. Really? More?*sigh* So I registered for Human Biology. The first day I approached the science building I saw HUGE letters carved in stone above the entrance. It said, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” (see pic here) This promised to be a new experience.  I settled in my seat and started to feel a little more comfortable when I recognized the professor as the wife of one of the Elders at the church I had visited the previous Sunday. Even a tiny bit of familiarity was helpful at that point. She introduced herself and said something to the effect of, “I think atheists have more faith than any of us do. It takes a lot more faith to believe that all of these varieties of biology evolved from an accidental big bang than to believe an intelligent being created it all.” Then she started to laugh uproariously.  The other students chuckled along with her, but I almost dove under my desk. I was sure that the Science Police were going to walk in and arrest her for blasphemy. Strangely, nothing like that happened. Even stranger (to me), the Texas Board of Social Work Examiners accepted that as a valid science credit and they gave me a License.

That was 13 years and what feels like a lifetime of experiences ago. My faith is stronger now, but I’m not in a position to be able to go study the geology of my state with experts. I’m not really in a position to dedicate too much time to it as a hobby. God is faithful to redeem me from my moments of weak faith, but I still wish I had stood up for myself back then. I would have liked to have been strong in my faith and able to study the Creator’s creation regardless of the objections of non-believers. Ah, well…regrets, but not recriminations. For now I’ll just stop typing and enjoy the view God’s green earth through the airplane window. 

And the journey continues…

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