Today’s post is a continuation of our colleague Sean Martin’s reflection on his visit to the Creation Museum. Sean is a fourth year doctoral student in theology at the University of Dayton (UD), where he is researching Catholic Fundamentalism. Before doctoral studies, he earned an MA in Religious Studies, also from UD, and an MA in Philosophy from Georgia State University. Along with teaching duties at UD, he also works as an adjunct instructor in Philosophy for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana and this autumn will begin as an adjunct at Chatfield College teaching Philosophy and Religious Studies. Sean lives in Cincinnati, OH with his lovely wife, Beth, an adorable dog, and a disinterested cat.
While it makes sense that my visit to the Creation Museum produced anger at those who run the museum and pity for those who are buying what the museum is selling, upon reflection I realized that neither response is completely fair or helpful. While there is a place for anger at an institution that has been the cause of so much confusion and resentment toward Christianity as a whole, I am quick, eager even, to forget that I have an obligation towards them. In the words of so many vacation Bible schools, I remain, after all, a C, I am a C-H, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N.
While my understanding of Christianity, the Church, and her scriptures have changed me into someone no longer recognized by the museum as a Christian, the hallmark of my faith cannot be anger but love. Love, of course, does not preclude anger, but it does require prayer and faith. I have expressed my anger toward the museum and the damage that the ideology they push has done to me and many of those I love, yet I have not prayed for Ken Ham and company. Even as a liberal, evolutionist Catholic, I remain called to believe that God is drawing all things to God’s perfect self. Upon reflection, I have lately been willing to pray that this work be completed in even those who perpetrate the most evil sins against humanity, but I have (as of yet) failed to pray that God’s grace would change the hearts and minds of the folks at Answers in Genesis and their followers.
Secondly, my pity for those who have been charmed by the museum’s carefully crafted presentation, if I am being honest, only serves to demonstrate to myself how far I have come. “If only,” I smirk in my heart of hearts, “you were to become like me.” Further, it is this feigned concern that allows my pity to turn to haughty disgust in the face of climate change deniers, ardent supporters of President Trump, and the like. Reflecting upon the scriptures and Christian tradition, it would seem that my obligation, while maintaining truth and goodness, is to ask what deficiencies in myself and in the Church’s presence in the world foster this type of confusion, anger, and fear. I am angry at the museum for taking advantage of those who have not been equipped to see through their illusions. And then, in the same breath I express my righteous indignation against those same people for that very lack when it manifests itself socially and politically. The allure of a cleverly crafted Facebook meme almost always wins out against compassion, understanding, and the faith God is drawing the whole of Creation to Godself.
As I begin my own examination of fundamentalism in the form of a doctoral dissertation (Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me) it is crucial that I not lose sight of my conviction that, in the words of Laudato Si, “there is but one human community” and, moreover, that there is but one Church. My work as a theologian is against fundamentalism, but must always be for the good of the entirety of the Church. So much of my anger at the Creation Museum is not necessarily because of what it does to create division and confusion but because it reminds me of how much work remains to be done within me. “A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian.” And thus, it is my lack of prayers, and not my academic ability, that remains to haunt me. May God, who has begun a good work in me, be faithful to complete it.