Scientist, Pastor, Rabbi

Having served in the Interfaith world for many years, I look for these kinds of stories, the ones where diverse people find crossovers, overlaps, meeting space, common ground in facing life’s challenges.

This week’s column spotlights the intersection of Science and Religion, but more than that, it highlights human beings who actually participate in ploughing the fertile fields of our humanity.

An excerpt from the column to be published this Saturday:

Scientist, Pastor, Rabbi:  the Natural Sanctuary of E.O. Wilson

“While reading the concluding chapters to E.O. Wilson’s “The Creation,” the hostage drama at Beth Israel synagogue in Texas was concluding. Putting the book down to read an article on what happened in and around the synagogue, I read that Rabbi Cytron-Walker had recently said: “We are living through a challenging time … We don’t always know how to cope. . . . There’s a lot of fear and there’s a lot of uncertainty” (“Some People Just Don’t Like Us,” Washington Post, January 16, 2022). Later in the article I learned that local religious leaders gathered in a nearby Catholic center during the incident. Rabbis, priests, ministers and imams met with family members anxiously awaiting the outcome of negotiations. An evangelical minister described what he saw when the wife of a Muslim leader entered the room and embraced the wife of Rabbi Cytron-Walker. “It was just profound,” he said, “This is the reality. A Muslim and a Jewish lady embracing. This is how it’s done.”

The Post article ends with another quote from the rabbi who survived the ordeal: “What can we do? … The answer is — quite a lot! . . . In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, God asked the Israelites to face their fears and do something. . . . We are living in the midst of a different kind of chaos and uncertainty and it’s our turn to do something. . . . All we need to do is act.”

As I returned to Edward Wilson’s book, I was struck by the tone this eminent scientist assumes. Wilson frames “The Creation” as an open letter to a Southern Baptist pastor. Wilson, who died in December, 2021, was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in the Southern Baptist Church. After studying evolutionary biology at the University of Alabama, his worldview became more humanistic though he still felt connected to his Southern roots. Early in the book he presents his invitation to the pastor: “I suggest that we set aside our differences in order to save the Creation.” As a biologist and naturalist, Wilson sends an urgent message: “Pastor, we need your help. The Creation—living Nature—is in deep trouble.” With the loss of species due to the destructive behaviors of humankind, everyone must get onboard to decisively respond.”

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