Voices of the Emerging Movement for Conscious Evolution
by Tom Atlee
Services at the biggest mega-church in America, Lakewood Church in Houston, inspired evolutionary science writer Connie Barlow to begin imagining what "evolutionary revivals" across America would be like.
She'd been quietly watching streaming videos of Lakewood's weekly services on the Web -- only to discover that the famous biologist E.O. Wilson -- a staunch advocate of evolutionary science -- also watches videos of preachers on the Web. Wilson says, "I can't resist the old-time rhythm, the music and the superlative performances." (He has just written a book addressed to evangelical Christians entitled The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. See the Washington Post's article "Science and Salvation".)
Significantly, Lakewood is not your stereotypical fire-and-brimstone right wing fundamentalist church. It is overwhelmingly celebratory, uplifting, and inspiring. 20,000-25,000 people show up every Sunday for worship with Rev. Joel Osteen in a stadium-sized church (it used to be a professional basketball stadium). Osteen preaches a gospel of personal empowerment -- and his sermons are filled with encouragement and practical advice. The superb spiritual music is alternatively worshipfully soft and shake-it-up rock, with professional singers and musicians backed by a large two-part rousing choir, with words projected on a screen so that even those far from the stage can sing along. Prayer is sometimes collective, but during the supportive "prayer partner" portion of the service, it becomes personal and intense, with members of the congregation -- divided fairly equally among white, black and Hispanic, old and young, rich and poor -- huddled in diverse pairs, which are poignantly caught on the professional videos. The whole service is incredibly full of life, connection and possibility.
Connie writes, "When Michael and I had gigs in Houston last spring, we went to a Wednesday evening service at Lakewood, and wow! I was standing and singing and swaying, arms raised in praise, with the whole rest of the congregation." Having been profoundly affected by the energy and music at Lakewood, she concluded that there is no reason evolutionary spirituality services can't be as vibrantly alive and engaging. She has begun to gather music that could be used in such a service, and for starters has gotten Peter Mayer to agree to a retrospective CD of 13 appropriate songs she has selected from his 7 CDs. For example, check out "My Soul" (featured in the poetry section of this issue of Evolutionary Life). They have been discussing his adapting his works (and writing new ones) to provide the sing-along possibilities so crucial for mega-church services and that result in ecstatic feelings of those who participate.
Connie says: "I see my preacher husband (Michael Dowd) as doing the Rev. Joel Osteen part, and finally being able to let loose his pentecostal, celebratory energy for praising evolution. In addition to our new, wholesome, inspiring, and healing evolutionary cosmology, we can also offer help and support with the troubles and challenges in people's everyday lives. Michael and I have been working for more than a year on some cool stuff in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary brain science, that helps us understand WHY we have these challenges, helps us accept our 'inherited proclivities', our 'unchosen nature' (Michael's phrases), and then, from that acceptance, being able to step forward and work with our whole body-minds to channel those energies in responsible ways. We have found that teens and young people especially tune into this part of our programs, as these are their new and frightening struggles. With the help of local liberal churches (talk about re-energizing mainline congregations!), we could pour a lot of energy into an amazing event that would be the template for doing more and better 'Evolutionary Revivals' all around the country -- which would be a new form of participatory concert for college kids, too!"
Connie has gotten Michael fired up by this vision, and he says to everyone reading this, "If you have passion for furthering this idea -- and especially if you have musical or other gifts, and/or organizational experience to offer in service of REALizing this vision -- send my assistant Mia Van Meter an email at mia_tgs(at)yahoo.com. Please do NOT email just to say you think it's a great idea. We know that. >smile< ... Sometime in the next month or so Mia will schedule a conference call for those of us who are committed to manifesting this vision -- so we can meet via phone, share ideas, and strategize next steps. In your email to Mia, mention where you live, how you see yourself possibly serving this movement, and what's your time availability and non-availability over the next month or so for a 2 hour conference call."