Evolutionary evangelist to speak in Roseburg

Roseburg News Review

by Cara Palone 

Sample ImageFor the past six years, the Rev. Michael Dowd, 49, and his wife Connie Barlow, 56 have made a home out of their white Dodge Sprinter, traveling the United States and spreading the message that evolution and Christianity can peacefully co-exist.The evangelist will spread his gospel of evolution in Roseburg Wednesday when he gives a presentation based on his book, “Thank God for Evolution!: How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform Your Life and Our World.”Dowd, an ordained Christian minister and former anti-evolution fundamentalist, and his scientist wife are often stopped by people at restaurants and gas stations during their travels, who want an explanation for the two fish imprinted on their van. Red hearts float above the image of one fish with the word, “Jesus” imprinted in the hollow of its body kissing the other fish labeled, “Darwin.”Dowd said one man interpreted the fish as a great way to make everyone angry.In two sentences, Dowd said he explains to those wondering about the logo on his van that, “Science and religion are spurring each other to greatness. They’re in a love affair!”

Since April 2002, the couple have been on the road, moving across the United States, staying in people’s homes and preaching evolutionary theology — which views science as sacred — and the story of cosmic, biological and human evolution. “It provides a way of thinking of what mainstream science is offering, in ways that nourish our souls and in ways that call us to greater integrity, authenticity, responsibility — basically, a greater love,” said Dowd.By understanding evolution, we will better understand ourselves, according to the minister. His message rests in the belief that evolution has occurred with guidance from God, or a higher power.A handful of people gathered recently at the Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Church for a screening of Dowd’s Evolutionary Christianity program. The two-hour DVD explored Dowd’s approach to taking mainstream science and teaching it in a “God-glorifying way.”

He uses a quote of St. Thomas Aquinas to support his beliefs, “A mistake about creation will result in a mistake about God.”Jacie Pratt, a member of the church, was energized after watching Dowd’s program. “He hit on so much complexity. I was on the edge of my chair watching him show me the things I believe actually have a basis,” she said.Pratt learned of Dowd’s existence only days before the screening. She found his book on the top shelf of a bookcase at the church and has been immersed since, looking for what she calls the “bigger story.”Dowd’s appearance in Roseburg was arranged when the minister of Unity Church, Inge Tarantola, received an e-mail asking if the church would be willing to host the evangelist.

She said “yes,” only to find out later, after watching his program, that his message is aligned with her personal views. “I see no conflict between the creation story in the Bible when I take it metaphorically and metaphysically as the beautiful mythology that it is and a look at what science is telling us about our origins and the origins of our solar system and universe,” said Tarantola. “That, to me, is the essence of Michael Dowd’s message.”The minister said she is visualizing a full house at Unity Church tomorrow evening.Dowd too, is hoping for an audience. He said the only painful presentation he’s had in the last six years was in an auditorium with an audience of seven atheists and eight fundamentalists.“They were so antagonistic toward each other, every attempt at humor went flat,” said Dowd, calling it the “program from hell.”