09/10/2010 01:31 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Creationism, Burning the Quran and the Mosque Near Ground Zero: What Do They Have in Common?

Like it or not, in a democracy, everyone has a voice. What is said might be ignorant, inappropriate, or insensitive -- terms used to describe the recent events associated with creationism, the burning of the Quran in Gainesville, and the building of a mosque near Ground Zero -- but it's protected by freedom of speech.

There's been plenty in the news about the fundamentalist Christian congregation in Florida hosting a "Burn a Koran" party on Saturday. My own suspicion is that they will eventually decide that their 15 minutes of fame are all that should sizzle on Saturday. The debate about the mosque will linger longer, I suppose. Personally, I hope that the mosque is built on the proposed site near Ground Zero, and when fundraising begins, I'd be happy to make a donation.

Not that I'm a Muslim. Actually, I am a Christian.

But, I'd like Muslims to know that I don't hold them responsible for the incidents surrounding 9/11 any more than I hold Christians responsible for threats to burn the Quran by extremists in Gainesville.

The one story you may have missed is the one about the creationists who are celebrating the third anniversary of the opening of the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Because I live in Kentucky, I've been paying attention. I've never been to the museum, but I'm planning on visiting soon, as you should, too. You may not believe in the creationist worldview, just as I do not, but our economy could benefit from your visit, and I'm sure the hotel proprietors around the museum, as well as the restaurateurs, would love to see you, too.

They tell me that the Creation Museum is more fun than the Animal Kingdom at Disney World. More believable, too. I have my doubts about both.

Supporters of the museum, many of the same people who secretly admire the Gainesville preacher and are sympathetic to the "Ground Zero mosque" opposition, are celebrating the fact that more than one million visitors have come to northern Kentucky to see the place that depicts that era when dinosaurs and humans supposedly coexisted together.

I know most readers of this article don't take these people too seriously, but well you should. Their numbers are greater than you could possibly imagine. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the recent Glenn Beck bonanza and Sarah Palin party in Washington, D.C. was made up of creationists in a ratio of ten to one.

Here a few of the more common beliefs shared by creationists:

  • Creationists, most of whom are fundamentalist Christians, do not accept evolutionary theory. As a matter of fact, most of them would credit Darwin, and the people who accept the theory of evolution, for what is in their estimation a pagan and secular America. Further, evolution and those who subscribe to it are, according to creationists, among those responsible for the removal of Bible-reading and prayer in public schools, as well as the "failure" of public education itself -- all of which explains why many creationists home-school their children.
  • Creationists believe that the Genesis account of creation is a scientific and reliable treatise on the origins of the universe.
  • They believe that the universe is not billions of years old but only about 6,000 years old.
  • They believe that when the Bible says the universe was created in six days, it really means six 24-hour periods.
  • They believe that the dinosaurs existed with humans and that whatever caused their extinction spared humans because humans, unlike all other sentient beings, have a soul and were created in the "image of God."
  • Finally, creationists believe that despite carbon dating, artifacts and fossils are really not millions of years old but were created by God with the "appearance of age."

I am amazed at creationists for waging what is a losing war with science, mistakenly thinking their devotion to the Bible, their misinterpretation of the Genesis account of creation, and their awkward explanations of the origins of the universe will somehow make them successful. What I find most amazing is the fact that they would suggest that God created the universe with the "appearance of age." Doesn't that make God out to be the ultimate deceiver? Why would God try to trick people into thinking the earth is older than it is, if it really isn't?

But, there's something far more serious here that binds together all three of these stories. What is it?

It is a little monster called fear. Creationists may busy themselves trying to make the case that Genesis is as much a scientific explanation of creation as it is a spiritual one, and trying to blame Darwin for the moral demise that they see in America. Christian fundamentalists in congregations like the one in Gainesville defend their actions on the grounds that Jesus is the only way to God and that if they don't take a stand and try to convert Muslims to Christianity, Muslims are going to burn in hell. And the protesters around Ground Zero can say that their opposition to the mosque is only out of respect for those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers.

But behind all the rhetoric are frightened people, people who, instead of living by faith, from a place of trust, have chosen to let fear and its corollaries -- suspicion, mistrust, anxiety, and so forth -- overwhelm them.

No society can survive obsessed with fear. For people of faith, regardless of their religious tradition, to live in fear is to not live by faith. One of the principle purposes of all religions, Christianity included, is to free people from fear and so enable faith to flourish, God-realization to occur, and humans to get along in spite of their differences. You can walk into any church, mosque, or synagogue today and find a collection of people with very strong beliefs and convictions. But having a belief system neither makes you a person of faith nor a person who lives from a place of trust and confidence.

People cling to beliefs when they are uncertain and fearful. And the more fearful they are, the stronger and more intolerant their beliefs.

People of faith may live in great uncertainty and in much ambiguity, but they are at peace with themselves, with each other, and with this world. Whether fearful Christians realize it or not, this peace, which makes room for uncertainty, is the kind of peace that Jesus talked about. Faith is the way to peace. Fear is the way to mistrust, division, and, well, you draw your own conclusions.