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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Science vs. Religion. The 500 Year Old Debate. A Parent's Call.

Are we guilty of spreading humanism in Shangra La, our valley that time has forgotten? According to a phone call I received this week we may be. If so, the penalty is swift and severe. First, a knock at your door. This usually comes in the middle of the night. A car is kept running in the drive waiting to take you to the inquisition. From there you become a number in someone’s logbook kept in a dusty desk drawer.

The phone rang on Thursday. I answered. A kindly woman’s voice was heard on the other end. “I’d like to speak to someone about a concern,” she said. My hear rate increased. We receive compliments on a regular basis. I’m use to those. But complaints are a different matter. They are rare and when they surface my entire body reacts in a primal way. I’m guessing its in the genes. My glands pour adrenaline into my veins as I prepare to fight or run.
“Go ahead,” I answered, waiting eagerly to find out the cause of the phone call.
She explained that her 12 year old son visited the Center the night before with a group of home schoolers and did the mission ‘Perikoi’. He came home very excited and began telling her the story of the primitive planet with people that couldn’t learn science because the Gods wouldn’t let them. The Gods wanted to keep the people naive and stupid. He explained that they destroyed the Gods so the poor unenlightened people of Perikoi could study science and advance.
“I was shocked when I heard him tell this story,” the mother continued. “Who writes these stories?” she asked.
“I do,” I replied. My heart was beating faster. I knew where the conversation was going. I knew I was talking to a very religious mother who believed I was on some kind of public school crusade to root religion and its apparent numbing effect on the masses out of the children that visited the Center and replace their faith with the false religion of science.
“Is that what your son got out of the mission?” I asked.
“No, he had a great time.” she continued. “The message didn’t sink in but it could have. I’m wondering what the purpose of that mission was. You must understand that it seems your telling the children that President Hinkley could be a false prophet and using religion to take tithing from the people for his own use.”
I wondered why she was using President Hinckley instead of President Monson but I let that go.

My first reaction to something like this is to attack back. I explained to her that ‘Perikoi’ has been told to thousands of people, most of them LDS and not one complaint. Missionaries did this mission. So have church youth groups. All left without a complaint or concern. All had a great time.

After a few minutes I realized she wasn’t calling to nail me to the wall but to simply voice her concern that the message of Perikoi may not be the one I think it is. She listened cordially as I explained the plot of the story. I told her that from a religious viewpoint the story had a very good lesson - beware of false prophets. Aren’t we told that by their fruit ye shall know them? The ‘fruit’ of the false Gods of Perikoi was evident in the story. I explained that the story was one of greed and the abuse of a primitive people by others more advanced. It is a story of slavery, it is a story of European colonialism. In Perikoi the student astronauts liberate a planet from false prophets and slave traders.

Once again, she was very pleasant in voice and was kind enough to listen to everything I said. I told her I would consider her feed back. The call ended with both of us thanking each other for listening.

When I wrote Perikoi I had a gut feeling deep inside that someone may misunderstand its message. This happens whenever a mission encroaches into something controversial - be it politics or faith. But you realize that history is messy for it is an account of the good, bad, and ugly in humanity. History is something I can't change and it is best we face it head on and not skirt around its edges in fear we may not be PC or offensive to a segment of the population. Let's face the facts, Europeans were considered Gods by some of the primitive inhabitants of America when they arrived and abused that position of respect and worship. This story of the strong unjustly enforcing their will on the weak is as old as humanity itself. It is something our young people should understand.

I won’t change Perikoi. It is a good story with a strong moral; however I want everyone to understand that I’m not on a crusade to replace religion with the faith of science and Darwinism. I don’t think the God I worship would appreciate that and he is someone I don’t want to displease. Perikoi teaches students to respect and study science for what it is and can do for them. Science is a driving force for change and has both radically improved our lives and in some cases made life more difficult. We are surrounded today by the by products of science It is in everything we touch, see, feel, and smell. Science is our way of understanding the universe and that, in my believe, is the essence of God himself. I believe that science and religion need not be enemies. How can they be? To me they are one and the same. If they seem to be at odds then something isn't understood fully - and that can be something from both disciplines.

So, Perikoi continues to be told in its present state but with the acknowledgement that a few may misunderstand its message. I urge all flight directors to be mindful of their students. It may be wise to review the message of Perikoi with the leaders of religious youth groups and let them debrief the kids at the end of their missions. We should emphasize the true meaning of the mission - education can be a protection against devils in sheep’s clothing and that we have a moral responsibility to look after, support, and defend the weak.

Now, I’ll swab my front door with lamb’s blood and hope the angel of death passes me by in the night.

At the end of the day we will learn that science
and religion are one in the same.

Let’s have a great upcoming week. Do your best in school and work. Remember that much of your success in life involves three things: Imagination, Education, and Hard Work. And just as important are joy and salvation - the fruits of Faith, Hope, Charity and Love.

Mr. Williamson
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