I’ve already told you about the Discovery Insiders Tour, headed for Israel this coming fall, September 8 to 17, 2019, and featuring Stephen Meyer, Michael Medved, George Gilder, and Titus Kennedy. The details are here. It’s nine days in the Holy Land, and an opportunity to explore the roots of profound debates in science, politics, and culture.
But it’s more than that. It is also very timely, as I want to add on a personal note, as a Jew. After the attack in Pittsburgh this past Shabbat, Jews around the United States are feeling vulnerable and on edge. At a time like this, it is a wonderful blessing to have friends, especially those in the Christian community.
A Continent Away
I learned of the shooting on Saturday morning from the security guard at our synagogue, who functions informally as a town crier. George is a Christian who follows the news on Saturday, whereas Orthodox Jews do not use phones or computers on the Sabbath. Beyond keeping us safe, which is enough of a service already, if there is news of special interest, he’ll often let us know as we enter the building. So from our friend George, we heard what had happened. The world is small, and the Jewish world is far smaller. A continent away from Pittsburgh, everyone was greatly distraught.
In this context, I’m reminded of my gratitude for the vision that animates Discovery Institute. Am I taking the occasion of a crime and a tragedy to promote a tour? Yes, and without apology. The Israel trip includes Tel Aviv, Galilee, Masada, Qumran, and Jericho, with outstanding seminars and discussions, and the Sabbath in Jerusalem. It is expensive, inevitably, which has to be admitted. But if you can afford it, you should go.
Not Despite, but Because
I think this is important to say. Discovery Institute, like the movement around the theory of intelligent design, is a big tent that includes Christians, Jews, and people of no settled views about faith. But it’s more than just a big tent that welcomes all. In ways that are both different and similar, Jews and Christians are pressed by hostile forces in our culture. One response might be to come together despite differences. And that’s a fine thing. This is the way of civilized people, and always has been. The only problem is that it can dilute the particulars of what we believe.
Another response, though, might be to come together in friendship because of shared if different commitments. Do you see the crucial distinction? This is something seemingly new under the sun — Jews and Christians united because of their faiths, not despite them. I’ve had some very interesting conversations with colleagues about this. It’s a vision characteristic of Discovery Institute, traceable to the outlook of co-founders Bruce Chapman and George Gilder. Of course I’m not saying this perspective is to be found only at Discovery Institute. But it’s something very precious, and worthy of your support.
Mind, Not Matter
The trip to Israel in September is an expression of this. With Michael Medved and Stephen Meyer, participants will see Israel as Jews see it and as Christians see it. These are different perspectives but the mission of Discovery Institute, by design, includes celebrating both. Why? You should read Discovery’s Mission Statement. It’s not the usual corporate talk you might expect from a committee. It’s from the heart. It begins:
Mind, not matter, is the source and crown of creation, the wellspring of human achievement. Conceived by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Christians, and elaborated in the American Founding, Western culture has encouraged creativity, enabled discovery and upheld the uniqueness and dignity of human beings.
This is a pretty good expression of the theme of the Discovery Insiders Tour, and Israel is the perfect place to learn more in detail about its meaning with Discovery Institute scholars. If you can go, you should. On a practical note, to do so you will need to sign up by January 1.