Science and Religion

CSUMB campus pastor has faith in both

At a time when science and religion often are portrayed as being in conflict, the Rev. Clark Brown is a strong believer in both.

Brown, the Rev. Jon Perez and the Rev. Elaine Gehrmann serve as CSUMB campus chaplains, hosting weekly drop-ins at the Dining Commons and Student Center during the academic year. They also advise students privately and work with organizations. Campus chaplaincy is part of Health and Wellness Services.

They (science and religion) are very different, but I would say very complementary studies.
Rev. Clark Brown

“They (science and religion) are very different, but I would say very complementary studies,” Brown said.

Brown has a degree in biochemistry from UC Berkeley, and worked as a lab manager and researcher at Carnegie-Mellon University before going to divinity school.

“These things do go together, they are really not at odds. I don’t see any conflict in holding that the theory of evolution is true or that the creation of the universe through the big bang or something that is beyond my comprehension is true. Science helps us understand reality as it is. And theology points us at other kinds of truths,” Brown said.

portrait

Rev. Clark Brown

“How does our scientific thinking, and our understanding of that, impact our theological thinking? Today, a lot of spiritual teachers are talking about some of the theories that come from physics and similar studies, and how these things are very complementary with our understanding of the nature of God.”

Brown serves as the pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Monterey, while Perez serves as vicar for Epiphany Lutheran and Episcopal Church in Marina and Gehrmann is co-minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula.

Sometimes students just want to talk about ideas … spiritual or theological ideas, or political ideas.
Rev. Clark Brown

Brown said he sometimes talks with students who are concerned about conflicts between their faith and their studies.

Usually, though, students’ concerns “have more to do with just life, issues around parents or something like that. Sometimes students just want to talk about ideas … spiritual or theological ideas, or political ideas.”

Brown said that he has seen more students come to CSUMB with stronger academic backgrounds during his seven years on campus. At the same time, universities nationwide are dealing with more students who face mental health challenges – depression, stress, anxiety.

“Most pastors are not trained to provide mental health counseling. So when we provide pastoral care counseling, that only goes to a certain level. If we see someone who has more significant mental health issues … one of the first things we learn in our pastoral care classes is to refer.”

Another change nationwide has been the increased acceptance of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ lifestyles.

“In general, for young people, it is simply part of the reality. For my denomination, for Jon Perez’s Episcopal denomination, I can’t quite call it settled, but we are very accepting. And Elaine serves within a denomination that is very welcoming to LGBTQ people,” Brown said.

“So it just means that as chaplains, we can serve people on campus more easily, I guess, than folks from a more conservative religious tradition.”