Friday, May 1, 2009

Evo Evangelists Barnstorm Texas

by Connie Barlow

Texas is always a big presence in the ongoing challenges to the teaching of evolutionary science in public schools. Not surprisingly, then, television news stations, radio talk show hosts, and newspaper editors in Texas found our evolutionary evangelism worthy of coverage.

Michael Dowd and I were in Texas for most of the month of February, traveling from Houston to San Antonio to Austin and Waco, delivering Sunday morning sermons, illustrated slide talks, and children’s programs in 18 events hosted by a dozen churches and one yoga center. For example, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (February 12), Michael delivered an evening talk provocatively titled, “Thank God for Evolution.” Sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Huntsville, the program attracted 105 area residents to the venue location: Sam Houston Memorial Museum (pictured above).

The reception was overwhelmingly supportive. Media reports, including VIDEO of an ABC News interview broadcast nationally, can be accessed at the “Texas Photo-Essay” link below.

A highlight for me of our time in Texas was the “Forum” discussion preceding Sunday service at Thoreau Unitarian Universalist Congregation, southwest of Houston. Because I was also scheduled to do a guest sermon there that morning (titled, “Evolution Now”), and because I had a cold, I was fearful that my voice would give out. So, I decided to center discussion not on my words but around an evolutionary parable I had written several years earlier and had posted on website (see link below). The parable I chose was a 4-part dramatic script titled, “Startull: The Story of an Average Yellow Star.” Although it is suitable for young children, because of the science and the values expressed (especially a celebratory understanding of the death of elders) this particular parable is ideal for adults and youth. Volunteers energetically recited and acted out their scripts. A good time was had by all, and the subsequent discussion was heartful as well as intellectual.

Other highlights for me in Texas were the two religious education classes I guest-taught at Bay Area Unitarian Church in Houston near the end of February. While Michael was presenting the sermon at both morning services, I was in with the kids: first with 1st through 3rd graders; next with the teens. For the younger kids, I presented the first 40 minutes of my highly interactive “River of Life” program (linked below) — with lots of illustrations, guessing games, and song. It is a walk back through time, through our own ancestors and the special ancestors (which Richard Dawkins calls “concestors”) that we share with other “streams” of life. Kids universally love it!

For the teens, I always choose to offer “Your Brain’s Creation Story” (linked below) — which speaks to the challenges that youth especially feel in initiating and maintaining romantic relationships and in saying “no” to influences and substances that can do them harm. A week later, I had more time to walk through these ideas with 30 teens at the First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City. As always, at the end of the program I offered free buttons and sticky labels with the brain chart emblem on them. The teens are always eager to take them — as an understanding of our evolved brain is intriguingly useful for just about everyone, and salvific for some.

We happened to be in central Oklahoma when Richard Dawkins gave a talk (to more than 3,000 students and visitors) at Oklahoma University. It was an amazing event. As Michael wrote in his blog,

“Connie and I made the long drive not just to hear Richard speak but to witness a rather unique phenomenon: a scientist/atheist whose presence on a college campus in the reddest of red states had a "rock star" feel to it—and had prompted a state legislator to introduce a resolution "expressing disapproval of the actions of the University of Oklahoma to indoctrinate students in the theory of evolution; opposing the invitation to Richard Dawkins to speak on campus."


» Michael’s blog, “RICHARD DAWKINS: Rock Star in Oklahoma”
» Connie’s PHOTO-ESSAY of the TEXAS events
» “RIVER OF LIFE” children’s program

Connie’s “Evolution Now” sermon:
» Audio

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