Proclaiming Pronounced Progress in the Progressive Church Family!

Column by Rev. Roger Wolsey on 23 May 2024 0 Comments

For decades, the United Methodist Church has been a notable outlier. With 7 million members in the U.S., the UMC is the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination and is by all accounts quite liberal and progressive on most matters - except for the matters concerning homosexuality.

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My neighbor keeps making off-handed comments she knows I find ridiculous—claims about the earth being “only 6,000 years old” and asking, “Why don’t people just read their Bibles?” I know she’s just trying to provoke me, and I don’t want to create a rift with her. What should I say?


Dear Daphne,

Well, you DO have to wonder about these people, don’t you? First off, I would absolutely agree with her that people just don’t read their Bibles. In fact, I’d suggest that, since she is *obviously* a big Bible reader (uh-huh), that you suggest the two of you read the Bible together.

Start at the beginning with Genesis 1 and 2 — and be sure to bring your pen and paper. Draw a line down the center of the page and put “Genesis 1” at the top of one column and “Genesis 2” at the top of the other. As you read, make a note in each column of the order of events in each version of creation. Write down what is created, when, and any other details you find interesting. Take special care to note the details of the creation of humanity.

When you’re done, appeal to your neighbor’s superior Bible knowledge and ask her a couple of questions:

  1. In Genesis 1, male and female are created together at the very end of creation. But in Genesis 2, Adam is created first. The woman isn’t created until after all the plants and animals. Which version is right?
  2. What is causing light in the first three days of Genesis 1? God doesn’t create the sun until the fourth day. Where is the light coming from? And without the sun, how are days measured those first three “days”?

That should be enough to convince your neighbor that reading the Bible with you is a bad idea.

Despite being confronted with the obvious contradictions between these texts and the artistic license taken by their authors, I reckon she will resist mightily any thought or suggestion of having to rethink what she’s been taught (versus what the text actually says).

But fear not, your task is not to convince her of anything. Your task is simply to poke a hole in her boat. It may be a small hole — and it won’t sink the ship of her unexamined faith anytime soon. But it WILL be a hole she’ll have to keep plugging or risk the entire ship going under. Who knows? If she’s a thoughtful person, you may end up being a part of introducing her to a kind of critical thinking she will thank you for someday.

So, congratulations! You’ve accomplished two things: 1) you’ve created a tiny and necessary wobble of disequilibrium in the mind of someone whose untested certainty is incompatible with adulthood, and 2) you’ve almost certainly brought an end to her unsolicited jeremiads about the state of other people’s Biblical illiteracy.

Let me know how it goes!

~ Rev. David Felten




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