I was having dinner with a pastor friend of mine from Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena the other night and he told me he had to get back to the church to officiate in an Ash Wednesday service.
Since when do evangelicals celebrate Ash Wednesday? I asked, leaving the pad thai noodles hanging from my open mouth.
Under Pastor Greg Waybright, this is the second year of the service, he said.
I was taken aback. I hadn’t had the black smudge on my forehead since I was a kid growing up in my local Roman Catholic church on Long Island, St. Raphael’s.
Then, a few days later, I got the following opinion piece from an evangelical pastor in Michigan, Ken Wilson, who asked evangelicals on his blog to apologize over the way they treated a fine man, Charles Darwin. More crazy stuff, I thought. Until I read on. About 180 evangelicals posted apologies. They repented. For Lent!
You can read the piece, I’ve posted it below. I’d love to hear what you of the evangelical community thinks. So far, Wilson had one ready post on his blog that he was a quote moron, unquote. In his e-mail back to me, in turn the other cheek fashion, Wilson wrote: “Glad to know the brothers are listening!”
Wilson was very interested in what people who live near Fuller Seminary think. I would add: Biola University, Azusa Pacific University, Talbot Seminary, etc Since we have so many fine Christian colleges and seminaries in our newspapers’ circulation area. So have at it.
Here’s his full oped piece which ran in the print editions Sunday March 8:
Evangelicals and biologists apologize during Lent
By the Rev. Kenneth Wilson
Lent is a time for repentance. But repentance comes in many different varieties, some of them, the best ones, surprising.
Would you believe American Evangelical Christians who for the last century have been in a culture war with evolutionary science repenting of their ways and evolutionary biologists who have been annoyed with said evangelicals repenting of theirs? To each other?
On Darwin’s birthday last month (Feb. 12) I posted an invitation to my fellow evangelicals to apologize for the way we have besmirched the name of a decent man, Charles Darwin. It seemed the decent thing to do for his birthday.
I suggested that Darwin’s dangerous idea wasn’t dangerous to Biblical faith. Darwin simply thought species were not forever fixed from the beginning, but that they changed over time by natural breeding practices. He called it, “natural selection” to contrast it with the artificial selection that pigeon, horse, dog and plant breeders practice.
I invited them to say, “I’m sorry for not practicing the love that my master bids me to practice – which requires that I listen to others as I would want to be listened to.” And they did – scores of them. I received 170 comments on my modest little blog, http://kenwilsononline.com/.
Many of the comments were from self-confessed evangelicals saying things like this from “another Mark”:
“I am sorry for being mean and not always giving science
the chance to speak and tell the story the way science tells the story … As an evangelical I want to learn more about our mother earth and care for it scientifically and spiritually. It matters. It is part of the story. I am listening…”
Or this from “Jack”:
“I do apologize! I simply did not embrace Darwin as a person. My murky conception of him would be something that had two horns and a tail. Thanks for briefly sharing about him from a compassionate point of view.”
It prompted expressions of gratitude from biologists and the spouses of biologists who have run into evangelical hostility from time to time.
And it provoked this e-mail to me from an evolutionary biologist from a secular university, who read the blog comments with wonder. He wrote:
“I also need to do a `mea culpa’ for my `tribe.’ One of my graduate students mentioned that his major advisor was criticizing him and his fellow graduate students for believing in God. Apparently this advisor has done so repeatedly and has caused a fair bit of stress among his graduate students. I know that there are others in `my tribe’ that do this, and I have to therefore apologize for their behavior. It is wrong to criticize others’ beliefs, but especially so from a position of `power’ like that of a major professor!”
The culture war is not over. It takes a long time to wind down a war. But the culture war is losing momentum.
Soon it will be a sideline skirmish on the landscape of American religion.
We just can’t afford it anymore. We have a culture that is frayed to the breaking point and needs to be repaired. It needs to be repaired by people of faith working hand in hand with anyone willing to get to work. All hands are needed on this deck at this time.
Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand! Lent is as good a time as any.
Ken Wilson is the senior pastor of Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, Mich., and author of “Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back.”