Sunday, December 14, 2014


For a long time, I was a mugwump. A mugwump is someone who straddles the fence on an issue, with his mug on one side and his wump on the other. Actually, the term was first used by Republicans in 1884 who broke ranks with their party and supported Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate for president, and it supposedly came from the Algonquian word mugumquomp, or war leader. But I like the apocryphal story better.

At one time I straddled the fence between creationism and science. By the end of my theistic evolutionist period, I no longer believed in a God who actually did anything in the physical world, but a personal essence (which I carefully avoided defining) Who gave significance to the world. This position may be scientifically inconsistent, but it was the best I could do at the time.

Mugwumps like to look for creative ways of blending things that are not easy to blend, like religion and science. They are not necessarily bad people; they just have a very frustrating job. They are the emulsifiers who break up big gobs of sentimental fat into little particles that can stay suspended in an aqueous medium of science, in which those sentiments cannot actually dissolve.

A couple of the students in my evolution class this semester were mugwumps. I’m okay with that; it is much preferable to them being hostile creationists. But they were able to find a scripture that I had never heard used in this connection before. They said that the Bible guided them into avoiding unnecessary conflicts about the past, which would include creation vs. evolution. Both of them cited Titus 3:9, in which someone writing in the name of the Apostle Paul advised someone named Titus: “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile.” While this does nothing to actually reconcile science and religion, it is, I think, a wise religious insight. Whatever may be true about the Christian religion has nothing to do with whether your chromosomes have ape pseudogenes in them. These students, and many other people, believe that the Gospel has nothing to do with whether creationism is true or not. Creationism, these students implied, is useless and futile.

So, is creationism a waste of time, even from a religious viewpoint? However that may be, it is far from useless from a political viewpoint. Here in Oklahoma, Republican politicians find it very useful. Whenever they want to get voters to think they are defending God against the Democratic spawn of Satan, all they have to do is to sponsor a creationist bill or two. This is much easier than actually doing any work. You would think that a Christian politician would heed the command in Micah 6:8: “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Or James 1:27: “Religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Isaiah 3:15 quotes God as saying, “What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the face of the poor into the dust?” But helping poor people is hard work. It is much easier to just spout off about creationism. You get more votes that way too. At least in Oklahoma.

Any of you who might encounter disputes with creationists—I have encountered remarkably few—might want to keep Titus 3:9 in mind. Maybe you do not consider the Bible to be an authoritative command from God but the creationists should.

1 comment:

  1. Titus is a book in the Bible? Sounds like I need remedial religious instruction. Nah, too late.