by Maria L. Evans
All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew,
me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
calls my heart to be his own.
–“All my hope on God is founded,” #665, The Hymnal, 1982
I’ll let you in on a strange little secret. If I could be given free rein and the intelligence to do any mad scientist sort of activity, I’d clone a dodo.
Yeah, I realize all the “Jurassic Park” arguments. I’m pretty sure that cloning a wooly mammoth or a saber tooth tiger or a T. Rex or a velociraptor would be a really bad idea, since the ecosystem has changed so much since the time they were around. But the dodo has only been gone about 350 years, and it’s gone because it was easy prey for all the invasive species that sailors brought to their natural habitat, along with the fact humans scavenged and ravaged that same habitat.
You might ask, why a dodo? Why not a Passenger Pigeon, or a Carolina Parakeet, or a Labrador Duck, or for that matter, the Pallid Beach Mouse, or my favorite on name alone, the Syrian Wild Ass?
Well, I think it’s because the dodo’s so…well…legendary. It would be fun to see how much of the legend was fact, and how much of the legend was legend. Also, if it’s true that the dodo only laid a single egg, and put an egg-shaped stone in the nest as a decoy, it seems that it was a wonder a bird that doesn’t even recapitulate its own population managed to be around as long as it was. In a roundabout way, the dodo is a story of hope.
Hope is a strange critter. At first glance, it’s so delicate and oddly shaped, that one would think tossing it out into the air would simply cause it to plummet to the ground and shatter. Sometimes, that’s exactly what happens to hope–it’s a flightless as a dodo and appears, at times, to be just as extinct. I think that sometimes, like the dodo, we place a rock next to our eggs of hope as a decoy–because we certainly don’t want anyone to think that we really are investing in such a delicate species that is incredibly hard to rear in the hostile, invasive environment of war, poverty, and greed. It is, in some ways, also a wonder that hope has lasted this long.
It’s been said that Christianity itself is a dodo–mostly in the light of the statistics of declining enrollments of mainline Christian denominations. Part of the legend of the dodo is that it was a clumsy, awkward, unattractive bird–and honestly, the non-theistic detractors of Christianity have alluded that Christianity is, too. Well, frankly, if we only considered all the evil that has been unleashed on the world in the name of Christianity, its detractors have a point.
Yet, we are still here. Still standing. Maybe, our Christian hope is a little more like the large-billed reed warbler–believed extinct for over 150 years–but as it turns out, there are still communities of them, and the most optimistic folks studying them wonder if some of those colonies are just shy of being stable populations, despite their small numbers.
Interestingly enough, biologists have a name for species once thought extinct that turn out to be very much alive–they call them “Lazarus species.”
What part of our faith and hope this Easter season could stand a little cloning?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid