[This Post is dedicated to Natasha Hefler and her witnesses, who last week chose to return love for reviling. God bless you.]
John Scopes was a substitute biology teacher in Tennessee in 1925.
So far so good. The problem? He taught evolution to his students . . . in 1925.
Back then, teaching the theory of evolution was against state law. So he was prosecuted in court.
His case became known as "the trial of the century," shining a national spotlight on the debate between creationism and evolution.
The courtroom drama centered around populist pope William Jennings Bryan, a stalwart supporter of creationism and Christianity, and Clarence Darrow, a devout atheist and crusader against religion.
The real issue, though, was not evolution but whether God or Caesar would rule in America.
It was about control.
Who would control the narrative taught to our children? Who would control the words we use, the beliefs we hold, the thoughts we share?
Bryan declared, "They came to try revealed religion. I am here to defend it.”
And thus was born "the most famous scene in American legal history," according to Edward Larson (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book about the Scopes Trial, Summer of the Gods).
Planet of the Apes?
William Jennings Bryan wanted to defend democracy and the bible’s account of man’s origin against the “evils” he saw in Darwinism.
When Bryan learned that state schools were using taxpayer money to teach evolution (which he believed undermined students’ faith) he encouraged state legislatures to pass laws to preserve majoritarian morals.
Charles Darrow, on the other hand, liked to challenge traditional concepts of morality and religion. And he disliked Christianity in particular.
So what does this have to do with anything?
All of us are either Bryans or Darrows, crusaders for what we believe to be "right," convicted that we are on the side of "truth."
The Scopes Trial is relevant today because it shows the ongoing societal and cultural conflict between religion and science, grappling with issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, curriculum, truth claims, faith, secularism, and the role of authority in deciding morality.
Disagreements do not necessarily lead to contention, but they often do.
(And ― thanks to Jerry Springer ― we all know who the father of contention is.)
How Do We Treat Those We Disagree With?
Most disagreements are over petty issues and do not elicit much emotion.
But when we disagree over something like politics, religion, or money (notice: things that deal with power and control) then our voices can get heated.
Here are some options when we fundamentally disagree over something:
1. We can challenge the other person to a duel;
2. We can shun the other person;
3. We can take them to court;
4. We can excommunicate them;
5. We can love them and bless them.
Now, let's see if Christ used any of these options.
1. Did Christ challenge Caiaphas to a duel? Did he go thirty paces and shoot? No.
2. Did Christ shun anyone? Instead, he allowed a prostitute to massage his feet in Simon's home (Luke 7) and conversed with a Samaritan woman at the well.
3. Did Christ use the tribunals of Jewish or Roman law to sue someone? Did he use the Sanhedrin to get his way? No. He said if anyone sues you for your coat, give him your cloak also.
4. Did Christ excommunicate anyone around him? No. He said to all, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
5. Did Christ love and bless those that abused him, disagreed with him, accused him, and murdered him?
What if Christ Had Appeared as a Witness at the Scopes Trial?
Having been deprived of human dignity at his own trial ― being spit upon by his accusers, having false witness borne against him, experiencing the injustice of no due process ― what would Christ have said about the proceedings at the Scopes Trial, seeing His children tear each other apart over truth claims?
How would Christ have conducted Himself if he presided over one of the Church's "Courts of Love?"
One of the lesser-spoken-of but core beliefs of Christianity is hospitality.
Paul said saints were to be "given to hospitality" (Romans 12:13).
1. What does it mean to "use hospitality one to another" (1 Pet. 4:9)?
2. Why is "hospitality" listed as a necessary qualification for leaders (1 Tim. 3:2)?
Joseph Smith himself taught, "If ye will not embrace our religion, accept our hospitality." (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, p. 162)
Entertaining Fire Worshippers
"A story tells the visit of three angels to Abraham, who asked him what he charged for meals; the price was only that the visitor "invoke the name of God before beginning and praise it when you finish."
"But one day the patriarch entertained an old man who would pray neither before eating nor after, explaining to Abraham that he was a fire worshiper.
"His indignant host thereupon denied him further hospitality, and the old man went his way.
"But very soon the voice of the Lord came to Abraham, saying: "I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonored me; and thou couldst not endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?"
"Overwhelmed with remorse, Abraham rushed out after his guest and brought him back in honor: "Go thou and do likewise," ends the story, "and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham."