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Embracing the Sacred Epic of Evolution
The Reverend Michael Dowd unites meaning with realism in the marriage of religion and science.by Diana deRegnierFebruary 1988, in a course taught by Albert LaChance, a cultural therapist, Michael Dowd heard the story of the Universe as a sacred epic and began to weep. "I knew I would spend the rest of my life sharing this perspective as great news," says Michael. "My evangelizing began shortly thereafter as an avocation wedged into the rest of my life… By no longer opposing evolution, but wholeheartedly embracing it as the 'Great Story' of 14 billion years of divine grace and creativity, I now have a more intimate relationship with God and a more joyful walk with Christ than ever before."
"We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins—star stuff pondering the stars!" – Carl SaganMichael Dowd relates the tale of his transformation to evolutionary evangelist in his book, "Thank God for Evolution! How the marriage of science and religion will transform your life and our world," Council Oaks Books, LLC, 2007.In the 1980s, Michael pursued an education in religion at Evangel University and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the '90s, he shifted from United Church of Christ ministry into interfaith sustainability work and community organizing. In the spring of 2000, Michael received a prophetic declaration from a friend who had taken him to a Pentecostal/Charismatic worship service. "I have a word from God for you…Thus sayeth the Lord, 'My son, I have called thee home to reveal thy true mission. Step out boldly with thy beloved and fear not. For I will bless thy steps and thy ministry more abundantly than thou canst imagine.'""Praise God! I'm ready!" Michael thought. Then, "I wonder why God likes Elizabethan English so much?" And, finally, "Whoa boy, did you hear that? God said, 'with thy beloved.' You'd better get moving, dude. You don't even have a girlfriend!"Several months later Michael met Connie Barlow, an acclaimed science writer and author of 4 books including "Evolution Extended: Biological Debates on the Meaning of Life" and "The Ghosts of Evolution." Michael and Connie were married in June 2001.Three months later, when the World Trade Center was attacked, the couple felt compelled to reevaluate their priorities. Connie had been scheduled for a meeting on September 12 in Tower I.In October 2001, they watched a PBS television special, "Evolution: A Journey into Where We're From and Where We're Going." Afterward, Connie turned to Michael and said "You need to be out there speaking to those students. You need to show how an evolutionary understanding can enrich one's faith!"Since 2002, Michael and Connie have traveled the northern continent in a van proclaiming the sacred story of cosmic, biological, and human evolution. On their van are 2 decals, one the Jesus fish, the other the Darwin fish – kissing. "Many passersby flash a smile when they see it, although disapproving responses are not uncommon. A retired biology professor in Lawrence, Kansas took one look at the decals and laughed, 'Oh great! Now you p*** everyone off!'"A playful approach to the serious subject helps the two maintain perspective. Far from a hardship, though, Michael and Connie enjoy their life on the road and "feel blessed to experience the stunning beauty of this vast continent." They are nurtured too by the invitations they often receive to stay in people's homes. Surely, the rewards are reciprocal."I see science and religion can be mutually enriching." Dowd says in the book. "We are in the early stages of one of the most far-reaching transformations into which human consciousness has ever ascended. Today's conflict between science and religion is the catalyst by which both will mature in healthy ways. Neither will drive the other into extinction. Rather, both are moving in remarkable, previously unthinkable directions."Michael further predicts that believers and non-believers will come to see "evolution is a gift to religion, and that meaning-making is a gift to science. As the religions come to embrace the science-based history of the Cosmos, each tradition's core insights will be accessed in larger, more realistic ways then ever before. Cultures in conflict will find common ground that today seems inconceivable."For churches and secular organizations, Michael presents the 13.7 billion year history of the Universe with vivid pictorials and dramatic speeches. His enthusiastic presentations inspire awe, delight and most importantly, a basic understanding of how evolution and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. In fact they present the perfect match for wedded bliss.In response to seeing posters of Hubble Telegraph photos at a presentation, Joyce Keller sent him a poem in which she says:Hot blue stars born out of the red glow of galaxies,a pulsating firestorm of fluorescent clouds,the obsidian sky of deep space.Spirals of comets, like swirling diamond necklaces.Black holes, exploding supernovas,a hundred thousand light-years away—endless, unimaginable.And I knew that, finally, I had seen the face of God.Among the five Nobel Laureates who have endorsed the book is Craig Mello, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine. Mello offers, "The science vs. religion debate is over! Michael Dowd masterfully unites rationality and spirituality in a worldview that celebrates the mysteries of existence and inspires each human being to achieve a higher purpose in life. A must read all, including scientists."See Michael Dowd at Unity in Marin on Sunday, March 30, 2008, 2:00pm. Download the entire book for free or watch the book trailer on ThankGodforEvolution.com. "Thank God for Evolution" is also available in bookstores and on internet bookseller sites. The trailer can also be viewed on YouTube.com.-- -- --Diana deRegnier writes the column SpiritLinks for UPI www.ReligionAndSpirituality.com and www.ScientificBlogging.com. Her articles appear in numerous Internet and print publications. Diana is also editor for SpiritLinksNewsletter.org. © Copyright 2008 by Diana deRegnier.