When young people are asked to engage the narratives of faith and science, they often assume that they must do this in an either/or fashion--either you choose to be a Christian and believe the stories of the bible to be factually or literally true, or you accept science and its theories and deny all faith in God. At times, it seems like the Western way of thinking is designed to force people to choose between polar opposites, when in reality, there are other ways to think and process information that go beyond simple binary categories.
One of the pillars of our youth program here at All Saints is both/and thinking. Both/and thinking is a way of holding the truth of different narratives while acknowledging the complexities of our individual and communal lives here on earth.
We have been taught to believe that faith and science are enemies and sadly, many people have bought into that story. By uncritically accepting that binary narrative, we have created a toxic culture that demonizes and rejects any idea or feeling perceived as "other." Our goal is to create a different narrative that perceives faith and science as dance partners, as two equal partners that both have something important to offer.
The innovation of the MRI, which allows us to see how the brain functions by measuring energy in different parts of the brain, has fundamentally changed not only the way we look at the brain, but even how we look at the idea of "self" and faith. We have seen the impact that healthy spiritual practices have on the physical processes of the brain and we also see how empathy, compassion, mindfulness, prayer and connecting with our greater self (or God) are all important parts of the human experience. In other words, practices that are regularly found in healthy spiritual settings are now being affirmed by science to be beneficial to overall brain health.
Integration, which is our ability to maintain and form equilibrium in life's tough moments (also known as resilience), is one of the main reasons people engage in spiritual practices. When I feel like I am being overcome by chaos and rigidity, I do my best to draw myself into the practice of mindfulness. Whenever I feel overwhelmed (and I become aware of this feeling) I begin to center myself with the Lord's prayer. Prayer, mindfulness, and meditation are all different forms of achieving inner peace, love, and compassion. Not just for ourselves, of course, but for everyone around us.
We believe that the kingdom of God is not something to look forward to when we die but something that we work towards here on earth. Sometimes my faith tells me what the kingdom looks like and sometimes science leads, but the ends are the same--love, compassion, empathy, and connection.