What does it mean to live united? To create space for faith, science and to not only co-exist, but thrive together, each aspect of our lives as important as the next? This is the question that the PLNU Live United! team wants to explore the best way they know how: with the help of the PLNU community.
PLNU is one of four pilot schools in the country that have been given the opportunity to stimulate conversations about unity in faith, science and practice. The grant was awarded by Science, Theology, and Religion Initiatives (STAR) office at Fuller Theological Seminary and supports a year-long Live United! campaign featuring discussions, lectures, films and exhibits led by PLNU faculty and students.
The team spearheading this initiative includes biology professor April Cordero, art and design professor Courtney Mayer, marketing professor Michael Wiese, theology professor Mark Mann, communications professor Lisa Raser, and administrative assistant LeAnne Elizondo.
“Science and faith can be incredibly polarizing,” Cordero said. “Many of us are Christians and, even though we might not agree on a particular topic, like evolution or artificial intelligence, we should still be engaging in dialogue, we should still be trying to hear different perspectives and we should have a little humility because maybe we don’t know everything and we can learn from other fields of study.”
The program will include two main kinds of events: personal stories, where two faculty members come together to talk about their own personal ways that they integrate science, faith and their practice; and a controversial topic discussion, which asks one or two faculty members to take a topic that might be heavily debated, for example genetic engineering and designer babies, and explore the complexities of it.
On Nov. 12, political science professor Linda Beail was asked to lead a personal stories lecture alongside marketing professor Harry Watkins, focusing on how their faith and their professions and careers are not compartmentalized, but are, in fact, complementary.
“To me, it’s always been intertwined. I wouldn’t be studying gender if I wasn’t a Christian, because my feminism comes from my faith…part of why I’m passionate about what I’m passionate about is because of what I believe, and I think that’s so important,” Beail said.
Emily Jenkins, a PLNU junior studying environmental science, attended a discussion about CRISPR and designer babies led by theology professor Montague Williams and biology professor Dawne Page.
“Before I came to PLNU, I was not sure what to think about the intersection of science and faith. This topic was taboo in my church and my community,” Jenkins said. “These lectures have allowed me to ask myself how I can discover God through science and technology, as well as how I can use this knowledge to benefit those in the margins.”
The campaign is also dedicated to representing a variety of faculty and students from all of the different departments and fields of study, an aspect that Cordero points out as essential to the program’s success.
“Ultimately, I want this community to realize that there’s a spectrum of positions a Christian can hold, and while you may not agree with certain positions, you need to love and honor that Christian position,” Cordero said. “That has not been my experience for a large part of my life. As a biologist who accepts evolution, including human evolution, I have been yelled at by Christians and have even been told that I’m not really a Christian. That’s why this is so important: we can do this in a truly Christian, loving, caring, thoughtful, intellectual way. There actually can be unity in faith, science and practice.”