© 2002, Creekside Press


--- a poem in four parts by Cranston Stroup


In the beginning God; and yet not God.
A void, silent, dark, and infinite
As nameless, quiet deeps of heavy sea.
There brooded ceaselessly a strong, blind power
With might incalculable, beside whose will
The puny force of suns, planets and stars
Is but a little thing, so weak it is.
And, permeating all, this perfect power,
Insensate, blind, mechanical, alone,
Quickened not in vain. For from its womb
Warm, creative, came the protons, fierce,
Electric; and the silent, pulsing, strong
Electrons, countless in number to create
A universe. They tumbled out on space,
These sparks of force, inchoate, blind,
Mating in wild confusion. Merest chance
Determined all their unions. Out of this
Fortuitous design the elements
Took shape and structure. But within the will
Of perfect power no recognition bloomed.
It looked not on its creature, and saw not
That it was good. And still from out the womb
Poured countless floods of force. And, infinite,
The mighty chaos spread and had no soul
Of consciousness.

.................................And there within the mass
Of endless and amorphous matter moved
Two laws alone: all things must change,
And nothing must be lost. The elements
Surged in constant restless movement like
The swinging sea. In quiet as they moved
They found affinities, and crystals formed,
And then were burned again in all the heat
Of forming. But the changeless law decreed
That nothing must be lost, though all things change.
And of these myriad crystal forms that were
Destroyed as elements again became
A burning liquid, all must be preserved.
And in that hour of flux ... mind was born.
And at its birth it had no consciousness.
It only was these resurrected forms.
Order it had, and firm within its sway
Was all extension and intention held.
And so form came to mould all mater. This
Was mind. Thus form created mind in God.

And hence it was that bits of matter clung
To others, and little by little worlds were formed.
And as the atoms and electrons all
Had orbits where by circumstance their power
Held sway; so all these orbits, registered
Within the mind of God became the paths
And larger circuits wherein planets, suns,
And stars might move. And thus unknowing God
From out his crystal mind had willed the course
Of all the myriad stars that grace the sky.
So, out of chaos, order came. And God,
The Unmoved Mover, sat in calm repose,
And on his tranquil pattern moved the arcs
Of suns. And Order bloomed. The racing suns
Were strangely held in leash by quiet power
From resurrected crystals in the mind Of God.

...............The planets cooled. More crystals formed.
And quartz adorned the earth; and garnets lay
Like flames set in amorphous stone.
And iron pyrites shone like crystal gold.
But here an oxblood ruby bloomed
Like those that eons before had found
Renascence in the Unmoved Mover's mind.
And emeralds held a promise not to fail
That someday grass would make these hillsides glad.
And sapphires dreamed of water and of sky.
While everywhere was tourmaline that sprang
From rainbows. Diamonds radiantly sang
Of the fierce creative heat that made the hills
And built the universe. But quiet still,
The lapis lazuli held in its heart
A song of life, and death that could not die.
And there within the Unmoved Mover's mind
Were all these things and more. The planets cooled.
As they grew cold the myriad crystals formed.
And God and Earth quiescent lay and still,
And brooded in tranquillity on change.

Go to Part II

To Part II, Part III, Part IV

Cranston Stroup, 1926

Commentary by Dick Austin

In his epic poem, "The Birth of God," Cranston Stroup attempted to bridge the widening chasm separating religion from science. Sixty years following it's composition the poem retains moral imagination that might yet be useful - for indeed the chasm remains. This poem and this poet deserve a wider hearing.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution seemed, to many Christians in the late 19th century, to challenge human identity as children of God. In 1910 a conservative Protestant counter-attack was launched with the publication of The Fundamentals, a laymen's tract that reaffirmed the literal truth of the Bible and key Christian doctrines.

In 1925, while Cranston was at Stanford University, the Scopes trial in Tennessee precipitated a media circus around this issue. William Jennings Bryan - once an inspiring populist orator and Democratic candidate for President - achieved a hollow victory for Christian fundamentalism by securing the conviction of John Thomas Scopes for violating a Tennessee law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. Nevertheless attorney Clarence Darrow - a famous defender of labor radicals, and an intellectual agnostic - won the media contest by ridiculing Bryan in courtroom examination and by reducing Bryan's biblical fundamentalism to confusion. After this trial conservative Christians tended to withdraw into a ghetto mentality, rejecting modern learning. On the other side, many educators and intellectuals arrogantly proclaimed evolution to be a fact beyond dispute, rather than a dynamic theory open to continual revision. They ridiculed religions that they knew little about.

There were profound ironies in this division. Willliam Jennings Bryan led the attack upon Darwin's biology because he had spent decades as a national political leader defending the rights of farmers and industrial workers against the "Social Darwinism" of capitalists who used evolutionary theory - "the survival of the fittest" - as a pretext for economic oppression. And although Clarence Darrow was also a defender of the rights of labor, his discrediting of Christian leadership left America¹s intellectual arena occupied by those wholly enamored of science and its technological applications. The tyranny of technology over humanity, a growing problem through the century, was facilitated in the 1920's by those who pushed religion to the margins of public discourse. It was also abetted by Christians who preferred retreat to dialogue.

Continues with Part II

Home | Books | Moral Imagination | Environmental Theology | Other Publications
About Creekside Press & Contact Us | About Dick Austin | Site Map & Search