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Evangelists present evolution in a ‘sacred way’
Ludington Daily News
BY MARK STEIGENGA
Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd live entirely on the road.
The husband and wife team has been on the road since 2002 when Barlowand Dowd launched a traveling life as “America’s evolutionaryevangelists.”
“We don’t have a home,” Dowd, an ordained United Church of Christminister, tells audiences. “We don’t even have a storage bin. We livepermanently on the generosity of people who open up their homes to us.
“My wife is an internationally acclaimed science writer. We cametogether as the marriage of science and religion to preach and teach onthe road the marriage of science and religion for personaland planetary wellbeing.”
The preaching and teaching road leads the evangelists to People’sChurch in Ludington on Sunday, May 31, where Connie preaches the 11a.m. service and Michael leads a 7 - 9 p.m. workshop entitled “ThankGod for Evolution.” People’s Church is at 115 W. Loomis St.
The Daily News made cell phone contact with Barlow and Dowd last weekwhile the couple took part in a writing workshop in Maine. Connie Barlow began the conversation.
“For both of us, evolution has not only become our fundamental worldview and how we view the universe but also the source of comfort andsolace and inspiration and hope — all of the kinds of things thattraditionally come from religion.
“My coming from the science side and having never really embraced anysort of religious perspective, for me it’s just become a wonderful wayto have all the benefits of religion in my life.
“For Michael it is a way to hold on to the core concepts of hisChristian understanding while not having to wait for some other worldor some future in order to get the benefits. It’s all right here now.
“So the two of us got together, got married, got on the road togetherand have been living on the road ever since presenting in religious andsecular settings all across the United States.” Barlow calls the basisfor her message “The Great Story — humanity’s common14-billion-year-old evolutionary science-based sacred story of cosmicgenesis.”
To Barlow, the message is good news.
“It is a way to come home to who we are in the universe and feel goodabout where we’ve been, who our ancestors are and our perspectivejourney for the future.
“The Great Story is religious in nature because it puts us in accordwith the universe. It’s a way of helping us have an understanding, away to answer the basic questions that our children ask us.”
Much of Barlow’s work as an evolutionary evangelist is with children.
“Children are concrete literalists — they don’t appreciate myth andmetaphor in quite the way that adults do. When children ask how it allbegan, they want to know. They want the concrete answer without themetaphors put on there.”
“We Are Made of Stardust” is the name Barlow has chosen for her 8- to12-week evolutionary curriculum for primary school age groups.
“Literally we are all made of stardust,” says Barlow.
“The story of the stars is important for children to understand therole that death plays in the universe. Without the death of stars there would be no planets and no life. Without the death of ancestor starsand the recycling of their elements all there would be would be greatclouds of hydrogen gas and helium gas and you can’t make life and youcan’t make planets from that.
“We are the first people to have an explanation for how death came intothe world and we say, ‘Hallelujah.’ There is nothing wrong here.Without the death of stars there could be no planets.
“We are not just related to monkeys. We are related to the stars and Ihave yet to find any children who don’t find that to be inspirational.”
For Barlow, a humanist, preaching the Great Story alongside her husband, a theologian, has expanded her own vision of God.
“The old vision of God is trivial compared to the new version we cometo when we understand how vast the universe is, how old the universe isand how creative the universe has been throughout its entire14-billion-year story.”
To Michael Dowd, the Great Story of evolution is sacred and meaningfulin a way that can draw together people from a variety of backgrounds.
“People in different cultures use different stories and metaphors to speak about reality.
“What science offers is a collective intelligence that tries to determine the nature of really irrespective of our beliefs.
“Regardless of if you are a Jew or a Buddhist or a Muslim or aChristian, we all go around the big, bright ball in the sky. So, whatis it that is fundamentally true, fundamentally ‘Reality’ regardless ofwhatever a person’s beliefs?
“There is such a thing as reality with a capital ‘R’ and everything we attempt to say about that reality will necessarily be metaphorical inone way or another.
“God is always a personification of ‘Reality.’
“From that viewpoint, we are offering a way of thinking about the history of the universe from a place of deep inspiration.”
To Dowd, evolution compliments his own Christianity.
“Without an evolutionary world view it is very difficult to live in Christ, that is, to live in deepest integrity.
“You would not understand, for instance, why you are tempted by certainthings, why you fall to certain things, why your temper flares incertain ways.
“These sorts of things become very clear and obvious when you have an evolutionary understanding of our life.
“If you think it’s all about some ancestor who ate an apple, you arenot going to have the tools to know how to live a really driving life.
“Evolution offers a practical insight to the place there the rubber meets the road.”
“This is a cool story,” says Connie Barlow. “It is my story. It makesme feel good to be alive here on earth and to be a part of this amazing universe.