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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Where Do We Fit into It All?

Reverend Ryan Downing
Ryan Downing has been pastor of Faith UCC since September 2016. He has a passion for exploring faith, spirituality, and the common good with others, both in and outside the church.

Muscatine Living

A few years ago, in the deep darkness of the Minnesota Boundary Waters, my daughter and I gazed at the star-filled skies.

“How many stars are there?” she asked.

“More than we can count,” I responded, and we continued to watch as the speckled lights from millions-of-years-past made their way into our equally amazing pupils.

From the Milky Way to the most minute organisms, all of creation is a stunning, interconnected, and unfolding drama. How each of us relates to, experiences, and participates in this unfolding drama, however, can be as diverse as the stars are numerous.

Indeed, the question, “Where do we fit into it all?” has been asked under star-filled skies, around campfires, in houses of worship, and in laboratories throughout time. Thankfully, both modern science and the rich depths of religion can be drawn upon to help us begin to answer this and other age-old questions.

As the scientist Carl Sagan once wrote, “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”

Likewise, as Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, “Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.”

It is a false narrative that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, are antithetical to modern science. As history has shown, both religion and science have enriched one another and in so doing the ways we understand ourselves and our place in the universe.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” wrote Pope John Paul II. “And God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth.”

So, where do we fit into it all?

That is for each one of us to discover. However, in this age of mounting climate crisis, a friendship between science and religion is needed more than ever. Science, among other things, explains how everything from the most distant stars to weather patterns to our very own DNA are connected and impacted by one another. Religion, among other things, explains why we ought to care for both our neighbors and creation. Together, both science and religion remind us that we still have so much more to learn, understand, and love in this created world of evolving life, wonder, and awe, all of which are freely given every time the stars pierce the sky and remind us that we are all a part of something so much greater than we have yet to comprehend or imagine.

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