Eight years at a conservative private Christian school in Atlanta, GA provided me with plenty of stories about the world of Evangelical Christianity. I’m sure one day they will all be published in a best selling non-fiction tell all, but for now there are a few anecdotes that come to mind when I think about my education and Woolly’s upcoming production of A Bright New Boise.
I was always a science kid growing up. One of my favorite things to do in Atlanta was to visit the Fernbank Museum with my family. They had giant dinosaur skeletons in the atrium, an IMax theatre that played movies about volcanoes or dolphins, and exhibits with mummies from Egypt. It was nerdy little kid paradise. One of the best parts was the Walk Through Time in Georgia, where you got to tour the geological and biological history of our state. After watching a video about Pangea separating out into the different contents, you were introduced to Life, and got to walk through it’s evolution in Georgia. Evolution, was part of how the world worked, it was just a fact, I walked through it at Fernbank, and this fundamental reality of the universe went unchallenged until 7th grade.
The curriculum for my 7th grade earth science class was pretty standard, we learned about volcanoes and the water cycle without any theology, aside from the occasional test-day-prayer that “God help these students to remember all the knowledge they have carefully studied,” until we got to The Theory of Evolution. The keyword being “Theory.” For the first time my school’s literal approach to Biblical interpretation came into conflict with how I saw the world. The Bible, if read literally, lays out a history of life on this planet that is in direct conflict with Mr. Darwin’s “theory.” So wanting to provide us with the best possible Christian education, my school decided to teach us how to debate Evolution with those who might try to tell us this theory was anything more than theoretical.
Through some pedagogical miracle, the approach to debunking Evolution for our little 7th grade minds included a lot of scientific information about Evolution. We learned about the difference between Micro and Macro evolution. They told us about gaps in the fossil record. The argument was even made, that since Evolution can not be repeated, it can not be proven with the Scientific Method, and therefore must always be considered an unproven “theory.” The goal of providing us with the tools to argue against the secular world ironically required that we all understand the Theory of Evolution. So despite my teacher’s best efforts I walked away from that class still believing in Evolution, but I also learned something about the way my school really worked.
I could believe whatever I wanted. God could have created the world in seven days, God could have made Evolution, there could even not be any God, but when test day came, I would need to know about those gaps in the fossil record. There were a lot of tests along the way towards graduation at that school, and as I started to develop into the liberal atheist and out gay man I am today, I carried with me the lessons of 7th grade science. On some largely unconscious level, I knew to keep to myself just how different a person I was from the conservative heterosexual Christian young man my school wanted me to be. All thanks to Fernbank and 7th grade science.
~ Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant