Sunday, October 07, 2007

Churched Stem Cells

You know those polls that separate out weekly churchgoers and Democratic voters? Or that distinguish scientists from folks that consider themselves spiritual AND religious? Well I break both of those molds. If you didn’t know already, I am a church attending, Democratic voting scientist. So shake of the surprise when I tell you that the other day I was sitting in church and the pastor opened his prayer with this statement: “The stem cell of worship is gratitude.” Often in times of public prayer, I usually zone out into my own way of meditating, but you can bet that this time I tuned in!

As a stem cell scientist (Oh yeah – I forgot to disclose above that I am an Christian embryonic stem cell scientist), I have taken full advantage of the metaphoric power of stemness. Believe me, there are plenty of opportunities for so-bad-you-can-groan puns and fantastic wordplay built into my field. Is your stem cell totipotent, pluripotent, multipotent or omnipotent? But from the pulpit?

Any good sermonette should have some numbered points. Let me make two reflections:

1) I am really glad that Pastor Dave (he officiated at my wedding, by the way) brought science into the sanctuary. Granted, this particular sanctuary is in a church situated adjacent to a large public university in liberal Seattle. There is a reason the Clergy Letter Project exists: there is the need to infuse science conversations into church life.

2) From my elementary understanding of theology, this makes sense. Think of stem cells as the progenitor. Whether worship is the act of expressing joy for your situation or it occurs as an activity to support yourself in the context of faithfulness, there is an underlying relationship with God that is dependent on the worshiper’s gratitude. If we approach whatever situation we find ourselves in – whether gifts or challenges – in the context of thankfulness, we may be able to more clearly approach our calling or purpose. This can happen with both corporate worship (as in Church), or personal worship (like when I ride my bike into work.)

I think it is the first point that got me really excited about the pastor’s use of the stem cell metaphor. If the language of science makes it into the sanctuary, can its ideas be far behind?


Beyond The Rim... said...

Are the ideas not far behind you mention invading the sanctuary the ideas of science?

Do you see a problem with that?

I find it interesting you chose the word invade, rather than something like inform. Was that choice on purpose or accidental?

Invade brings up the image of warfare, as if the sanctuary and true science are in fundamental conflict and one must conquer the other. Is that how you see it?

thomas said...

I looked pretty closely, and even employed the services of Microsoft Word, but could not find the word 'invade' anywhere in my little article. As you point out, it is not one that serves a constructive purpose in the attempt to reconcile science and religion.

You are the person that used the word invade! Where are you going with this line of reasoning? If you want to know whether I subscribe to a warfare thesis between science and religion, I invite you to read other articles on my blog - most notably this one.