Why Fundamentalists Cling to Genesis 1:1
Believers and nonbelievers alike often come to this site to ridicule and/or condemn writers they disagree with. If the scoffers on both extremes of the spectrum hang around long enough, they can see that among us there is a solid core of commenters who cordially accept other views than our own. We do try to reach out to the confused, and we often recommend our own viewpoints. We just don’t insist that everyone else should adopt them. We acknowledge that the important thing is for each of us to find a place to stand on solid philosophical and psychological ground, a place that provides a perspective for viewing the physical and social universe that makes sense to the viewer.To me a literal interpretation of Genesis makes no sense at all. The world looks all jumbled and surreal if I view it from there. However, I do not believe that people who see the world comfortably from that spot should be dragged away from it—only that they should be prevented from forcing our legal and educational systems to operate from their literalist perspective.This short essay illustrates my thinking. It is expanded and edited from a comment I posted to another blog, The Sensuous Curmudgeon.Retired Prof
Milton W. Howard, pastor of Kitchens Creek Baptist Church in Ball, LA, avers “The person who denies that ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ must deny everything else in the Word of God. . . .”
This is the pithiest and most straightforward expression I have seen of why the scientific study of origins (tagged as “evolutionism,” “scientism,” “naturalism,” or “Darwinism”) terrifies fundamentalists so much. Genesis 1:1 is their fixed landmark, their homing beacon. It organizes existence for them.
While attending a [non-ACOG] religious college I had a few dates with a fundamentalist. When she found out I was skeptical about the existence of her god, the first question she asked was “How do you explain that tree over there?” The next one was “How can you ever love anybody?” It was about that time when we each began to find other people more attractive.
Mr. Howard’s foundational scripture serves the function Wallace Stevens claimed for a physical artifact:
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
Having been lost in the woods occasionally, I know the terror of having no bearings. Once when a snowstorm hid distant landmarks and made my immediate surroundings unrecognizable, I got completely turned around. I had to trust my compass to point me back toward my hunting companions. The route led across thin ice on a pond choked with button-brush. It was either struggle straight across and dread falling through, or veer off course and risk wandering for hours through terrain that had become grotesquely unfamiliar. I finally spied my friends in their blaze orange coats and made my way over to them. They seemed to be facing the wrong way. I said, “I don’t know where I am.”
One of them said, “You’re right here, at the beaver dam deer stand.”
I said, “I know that, but I still can’t recognize it. It’s like I’ve never been here before.” They led me to the river channel where we had left our canoe. Immediately the slovenly wilderness surrounded that spot and everything made sense again.
So it’s not hard for me to see how fundamentalists would fear to abandon a comforting fixed reference point—the TRUTH of Genesis 1:1—considering that life in general can be way more bewildering than a river bottom in a snowstorm.