I am thankful to have spent my elementary and middle school years at a private Christian school. I made some wonderful friends, experienced deep, personal relationships with my teachers, and felt free to express my faith without my classmates or peers judging me. We had “normal school things” like basketball and softball teams, detention for bad behavior, field trips, and rowdy lunches in the cafeteria. We also had some not so “normal school things”, like praise dancing as an elective (obviously I was an amazing praise dancer), a rule against hugging and coming into close contact with people of the opposite sex, Bible verse drills, and class prayers before exams.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Christian school. I feel like it provided me with a good foundation and moral compass, two things especially important for a 14-year old girl. I was definitely way less experienced than all the other kids when I got to 9th grade, in every sense of the word. In the hallways of my high school, which closely resembled airport terminals, I heard words I had never heard before. I saw things I had never seen before. Was that boy wearing makeup? Were those two girls kissing? Is it still cheating if the whole class is doing it? Was that teacher flirting with that cheerleader, (whose skirt was way too short by the way)? My private Christian schooled brain was in overdrive every minute of every day. I tried to make some friends, but it proved difficult in a school of 5,000 coming from my class of 25. There was that one gothic girl I befriended and invited to sleepover one Friday night. She went to bed with black lipstick on and her nose ring still in tact, and I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I stared at her massive body (she had to be near 6 feet tall) curled up on my trundle bed, praying she wasn’t going to wake up and murder me in my sleep. It was a rough first year of high school.
I have recently started taking college classes again and one of my current courses is Biological Anthropology. What does that have to do with my lengthy intro about Christian school vs public high school? A lot. Biological Anthropology is the study of humans from an evolutionary perspective. Same old stuff you’ve been learning for years, right? Nope, not me. Sure, in our Christian science classes we learned a very surface level explanation of what Evolution was, but only enough to make me declare to my non-Christian friends that “God loves me more than to make me come from a monkey”, or cringe every time I saw a Darwin fish bumper sticker. Creationism? I knew that story like the back of my hand. Evolution? I just knew it was bad, secular, and most importantly not true.
I’ll never forget one of the late night conversations I had with my husband before he was my husband, or even my boyfriend. We got on the topic of religion and evolution and I couldn’t believe he claimed to be a Christian, but believed in evolution. He couldn’t believe I was 100% certain that evolution was a lie. Of course I didn’t have the intellect or arguments formed as to why I felt that way, I just said “I believe the Bible and it says creation happened, not evolution.” Miraculously, we were able to look past the differences in our beliefs, and ended up falling in love a few short months later. We both probably kept a secret mission in mind: convince the other idiot that our belief was correct.
Since that night in 2007, I have had a lot of developments in my faith, beliefs, and who I am at the core. I am still a Christian. I believe in prayer in schools and keeping “In God we trust” on the dollar bill. I believe that having a strong faith and relationship with Jesus is important, and life altering. I also believe in equal rights and fully, wholeheartedly support same sex marriage. I know that fact alone makes a large population of Christians view me as a “purposeful sinner” and “confused in my faith”, and I’m at peace with that.
So for the first time ever, in my Biological Anthropology class, I am studying evolution in great depth, and after each paragraph devoured, I keep asking the same question over and over, “why are Christians so against evolution?” To me it feels like the equivalent of a massive, pointless debate. Like Dogs vs Cheese Sandwiches.
What? Why? They don’t really have all that much to do with one another? Both are interesting and notable, they can both exist in this world, they are not mutually exclusive. Why must I choose only one to believe in?
I feel a bit robbed. I feel confused. I feel angry and sad. I feel amused. As a kid, I remember telling evolution believers that “people don’t come from monkeys”, and “if that’s true, how do monkeys still exist?” I remember praying for my friends who believed in evolution– worried about their souls which were surely going to be damned to Hell. Oh sweet, naive Courtney. Evolution does not equal “we came from monkeys.” But my science teachers had us believe just that, and worse yet, cite it as a reason to be against evolution.
Today I spent 10 hours reading my anthropology lectures and lessons, and I feel compelled to ask every Christian I know why they don’t think creation and evolution can both be true? Is it possible that God, or whichever divine entity you believe in, created such a wonderfully complex system that adaptation and evolution were going to be necessary?
In fact, that is one of the main points that my professor keeps harping on. For one side to think the opposing viewpoint is 100% wrong is ignorant and naive. Evolution doesn’t mean we came from monkeys. Evolution doesn’t mean God and the creation story don’t exist. Evolution=adaptation, which we know is a thing!!
In reading today, I found this comment from the professor incredibly interesting:
It should be noted that much of the controversy surrounding evolutionary theory today stems from the fact that some of the early French theorists in evolution, that we spoke about, were alive at the time of the French Revolution and were outspoken atheists as well as scientists. And because they theorized about evolution as well, it was viewed by many to be anti-religious. Not all evolutionists are atheists, and it is partially due to this early controversy that the notion persists today.
Interesting. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, in fact I told Isaac earlier tonight that the more I learn, the stupider I feel because there is so much that I don’t even know I don’t know. I’m not trying to prove one theory is right in this blog post (hah, if only it were that easy), but I’m genuinely fascinated by the things I’ve already learned regarding evolution, and why it’s not mutually exclusive to creationism.
Why do you believe what you believe?