"For me, there’s no issue between affirming evolution and affirming that we are all creatures of God." -Marcus J. Borg

Randy Gragg: A lot of this discussion and a lot of your critique is about religion as a power rolling over the weak. Early on in the discussion, you did this very sweeping dismissal of liberation theology, which is all about empowering the weak. I’m curious about Dr. Bethel because certainly in many Portland churches liberation theology is alive and it’s certainly alive as you mentioned with Obama’s pastor. It has grown out of a completely different attitude towards power than most of this discussion has explored. I’m curious if Dr. Bethel has any thoughts about this.

Dr. Bethel: Well I certainly don’t want all of African American pastors to be characterized by what Jeremiah Wright says. But out of our experiences of what life has brought, going back to the way that certain songs were sung which gave birth to what we know now as spirituals, a lot of those spirituals contain messages. I give for example one song that says, “Oh Lord, I want to be a Christian,” which was traditionally sung by the Caucasian church. But it was always by the slaves we added “in my heart.” It’s saying, “There needs to be a change. You can’t just say this and treat me this way if it isn’t going to change.” So we sing, “I want to be a Christian in my heart” because it makes a difference then as to how I deal with people and how you treat me. So when we think about this whole thing of liberation theology, there is something that we have found to be liberating. We’re all creatures of God.

Hitchens: That’s something we know not to be true. It’s the one, almost the only thing that Paul studied and absolutely chose as not true. We’re no such thing, we’re the product of evolution…

Bethel: Do you believe that Adam and Eve were the beginning of mankind?

Hitchens: Who would make a statement that was more ridiculous than that?

Bethel: Okay, well do you believe that, did you evolve from some little species that finally got you into being what you are today? I happen to not believe that.

Hitchens: Ah I thought I’d catch you, finally! You are a creationist!

Bethel: Yes.

Hitchens: Most ridiculous reactionary belief that’s possible.

Bethel: I can give you your opinion.

Hitchens: You either believe that you are one of God’s children, creation, or you believe that evolution by natural selection and mutation occurred.

Borg: They’re not contradictions.

Hitchens: I knew it wouldn’t be wrong, we’re all God’s children.

Gragg: Christopher, let Marcus speak here. Let’s look at a different position.

Borg: I mean Creationism as I understand it is the argument that the Genesis, first three chapters of Genesis, are literally and factually true. That the Earth is young, 10,000 years old or less, and that things were created in six days and all of that and I utterly reject that, but to say that evolution is the way that things happened that’s absolutely fine with me and I experience no…

Hitchens: The question wasn’t to you.

Borg: Well, no I was invited into this.

Hitchens: Yes, you were to protect our congregant.

Bethel: Oh no, no, no you don’t have to protect me. I know where I stand and I’m always willing to hear what somebody else has to say and respect that.

Hitchens: Do you believe that we are God’s creations?

Bethel: Do I believe…

Hitchens: No slack card. Do you believe that we are created, we are God’s children?

Bethel: Yes, I believe that we are God’s children.

Gragg: But Marcus’s point was that they’re not mutually exclusive and I don’t know if he completely has been able to make that point.

Hitchens: I’m sorry. You either believe that or you don’t. The belief that it isn’t true isn’t very compatible with the belief that it is. I would say kind of exclusive, one or the other

Borg: For me, there’s no issue between affirming evolution and affirming that we are all creatures of God.

Hitchens: Well, you’re very easy on yourself.

Borg: Just like I stand against Biblical literalism which I think makes Christianity foolish, I stand against the judgmentalism that goes with a lot of Christianity and with other religions and with some forms of secular ideology. So we do stand against things and it’s not just that well I see things this way and you see things this way…

Sewell: I see you saying you’re either this way or that no grey area there. There’s so much that’s grey and undecided that we have to look into and I don’t see you acknowledging any of that. I see you saying, “Look it’s either this way you’re a Christian or it’s that way and you’re not a Christian.”

Hitchens: No, sorry perhaps I was wasting my time.

Bethel: But see I believe once you accept God into your life there comes a transformation in your thinking, in what you believe and it has an impact on your life. That makes a difference and each of us sitting around this table has made a decision based on whether there is God or not. And I happen to believe that you deny and say there is no God, which helps me prove that there is a God because how can you deny something…