Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Few More Reflections on SinC

I spent three and half years working on Scientists in Congregations (or SinC), and after it was over, I naturally wondered if it made any difference. Was there anything that would continue? And does it matter?

Thankfully, there were several ways that SinC extended its reach beyond the grant period. 96% of our congregations confirmed that they would continue with religion and science ministries. And so it became part of the public face and outreach strategy. For example, I can’t help but recall the Facebook outreach of GC Science at Grace Chapel in Massachusetts, long-term bastion of evangelicalism combined with powerhouse scientists from nearby institutions like MIT and Harvard. Their goal? To have a larger presence than the leading atheists’ Facebook pages. In a couple of years, they expanded an outreach through Facebook into the hundreds of thousands. Specifically, GC Science today has over
535,000 “likes.” (Not to be overly obvious, but a "like" is a very powerful thing on Facebook because whenever GC Science posts, it goes to the Facebook newsfeed of over half million people.) All this adds up to technology in the service of science—somehow that seems right. 

I can’t help ending without a final thought for the ongoing importance of integrating science and faith. Sarah attended one of Bidwell Presbyterian's religion and science conference. After hearing me talk on how Genesis and evolutionary biology can work together, she rushed forward with great enthusiasm and posed a question that still rings in my ears, "Why don't I hear more of this in the pulpit?" As a twenty-something, Sarah's represents demographic in which 30% of her friends have left the church and checked the box “None” in response to the question “What religious affiliation are you?” When asked further, one of the top reasons for these “Nones” is the church’s lack of engagement with science. As a result, most (like 70%) see science clashing with belief. 

I just finished a very careful, scholarly article on “Beliefs About Religion and Science Among Emerging Young Adults in the United States,” by the eminently qualified team of Kyle Longest and Christian Smith. They offered this sobering conclusion, “The most definitive overall trend is that emerging adults tend to believe religion and science conflict, that the two are not compatible.” (For this reason, I'm now engaged in a companion grant project—Science for Emerging, Young Adults—that analyzes attitudes on faith and science among 18-30 year olds and what creates change.) If the church seeks a vibrant future, it must engage science. Indeed, for there to be a future Christian church that can connect with science, it seems to me this topic can’t wait

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