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Official, professional site for author, speaker and blogger Karl Giberson. 



Filtering by Category: Writing

My New Year’s Resolution coming out of its coma

Karl Giberson

I resolved at the end of 2011 to blog about writing every day in 2012. I also resolved to lose some weight. I did about half as well in both categories as I had hoped. I was coming off a great couple of years writing—I published 3 books in 2011 and had 2 scheduled to appear in 2012—and I wanted to put some of my experiences as a busy, active writer in print. I was also teaching my first writing course at Gordon College and wanted to share some of my “insider” experiences with my students.

I am officially awakening my writing blog after its summer slumber, inspired by my great class of writing students at Stonehill College, especially those who promised to carefully read any comments I put on their papers.

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The Joy of Writing

Karl Giberson

(I am doing a terrible job with posting daily. Somebody needs to start paying me.)

Saving Adam is a huge sprawling book that is pushing me far outside my comfort zone. I have been reminded of that this month as I have been working on a chapter dealing with material that I literally knew nothing about six months ago—nothing that is, beyond the fact that it was relevant to my topic.

The disciplines into which we compartmentalize our knowledge make it hard to think clearly about certain types of problems. The question of Adam and Eve is one such problem. On the one hand the topic is profoundly Biblical. But is Biblical in Christian, Jewish, and other ways. And it is historical. By the 17th century some people were becoming convinced that Adam was not a real person.  It is cultural and we can’t really talk about Adam without Dante and Milton.  It’s political. Nineteenth century southern racists used a twisted version of the Adam story to justify mistreating African slaves. It’s scientific.  Our knowledge of genes and fossils is forcing us to invent all kinds of very different Adams to make sense of the data.  Adam is even psychological—I know a lot of really smart people who are psychologically attached to the idea of a first man and woman, often for reasons even they cannot explain.

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My Literary Children

Karl Giberson

Someone once compared writing books to having children—you spend a lot of time with them at first and invest much of yourself, but then they go off on their own and you hear about them from time to time.  This has been a week when several of my children have been on my radar screen in various ways.

The Big Project now is Saving Adam, and I am now spending a few hours on that almost every day. I have sent off the first two chapters to my editor at Beacon for a review, and am working on the chapter now where I have to explain the incredible significance of St. Paul’s “Second Adam Christology” to a secular audience. This is a fascinating theological concept but it is not immediately apparent why protecting it is so important to evangelicals. 

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The Big Bucks: Part Three

Karl Giberson

Saving Adam, that I am working on now, will be a trade book with Beacon Press, in Boston.  And while, I have worked with agents on two previous books, this was the first one with a more or less standard approach to the process of getting a contract.

Once there are two or more publishers interested in a book, the agent’s job is to get the biggest advance for the author and—since the agent takes 15% commission—that also means the agent gets the best deal for himself.  Our interests were mutual—no conflict of interest here.

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On the Radio

Karl Giberson

Unlike today, which I spent outdoors writing in my gazebo, yesterday afternoon was spent indoors on my phone.

It started at 1 pm with a call from Beau Underwood of the DC project Faith in Public Life.  I had never heard of this organization—or maybe its name was so generic sounding that I didn’t remember it—but the director, Rev. Underwood, had emailed me asking for a time when we could talk on the phone.  Someone had given him a copy of The Anointed for Christmas and he loved it.

Faith in Public Life is a pro bono shop that promotes scholars from faith traditions that are not out of touch with reality or constantly at war with all forms of progress. Needless to say, their clients don’t often appear on Fox News.  They are looking for people with valuable insights to share with reporters and talk show hosts about how religion functions in America’s public life. Although The Anointed was an analysis of religious dysfunction in American life, Underwood thought that Randall and I are the sorts of voices they would like to promote. Faith in Public Life seems like a classy shop so I said I would be interested in working with them. We will see what comes of that.

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God Bless Rachel Evans

Karl Giberson

I spent much of today dealing with the “echo effects” of being a writer.  These are the things that go with publishing books and articles but are not connected to the writing process itself.

I was greeted this morning by a nice stroke on facebook that generated a bit of humor. Rachel Held Evans, author of the delightful coming of age memoir Evolving in Monkey Town, recently blogged about “15 reasons I left the Church.”  Unknown to me, for the past three years Rachel—who I consider a friend— has apparently not been attending church which, in Dayton, TN, probably means she is the only person at home watching Meet the Press on Sunday morning.  Like the 8 million other 20-somethings that have left evangelicalism in the past few years, Rachel feels like the church has stopped trying to nurture her faith in a meaningful way. I understand her concerns and am aware of many of my more thoughtful college students over the past few years who have left the church for the same reasons.  Although it has been decades since I was a 20-something, I share the concerns.  The institutionalized church seems to have become obsessed with protecting a small number of social structures and conserving its power and money, rather than addressing issues of social justice, a central concern of young people. 

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The Curse of Ham

Karl Giberson

(I am doing a terrible job with posting daily. I must do better.)

Sometimes I think the culture war between the “trust only science” demographic and the “trust only the Bible” demographic, is simply not resolvable and will eventually lead to “two Americas,” one educated and populated by demoralized liberal Christians and secularists, and the other fundamentalist and populated by anti-intellectuals working hard to avoid thinking. To a degree Randall Stephens and I outlined this trajectory in The Anointed.

I was reminded of this today when I open my email to discover that Ken Ham has attacked Randall Stephens in a piece titled “What does this Nazarene University Professor Believe?” This piece, a response to our recent article in Religion Dispatches, is interesting for several reasons:

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The Big Bucks, Part Two

Karl Giberson

(I am not doing a very good job with posting daily. Hopefully that will improve now that my life is settling down a bit.)

There are many steps between an expression of interest from a publisher and a signed book contract.  For Saving Adam, there were a few small details. For starters, you have to be OK with the advance on royalties. Such advances represent two things: the best guess from the publisher about how many copies of the book they can sell and, closely related, the commitment the publishing house is prepared to make to you. Publishers have to think hard about this.

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The Big Bucks

Karl Giberson

Today’s mail brought my first of three checks from Beacon Press—not to be be confused with Beacon Hill Press!—for my forthcoming book, Saving Adam. Although I knew the check would arrive eventually, it was still nice to get it.  I am amazed though, at how long it took.  It was back in the late summer—August 11— when I got the email message from my agent that Beacon Press had made me an offer.  Here is how it worked and why it took so long.

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Do Teachers Matter?

Karl Giberson

What difference do teachers make?

I have always wondered over the years how much I mattered to my students. Certainly students learn a lot in college and leave way ahead of where they arrived. And they learn things while taking your classes. But they would learn many of those things anyway. I recall some of my classes that were taught by uninspired deadwood, or incomprehensible Olympians, where class time was spent wondering why I was there and all the learning happened at my desk. For practical purposes, those classes were taught by the authors of my textbooks.

On the other hand, there are professors who motivate students to learn by inspiring them, or putting challenges in front of them that they would not embrace otherwise. Whatever role I play in the successes of my students, I take pride in their achievements.  So I want to give a shout-out to Dave Hicks for getting an op-ed published in the Washington Post; my role was a bit of encouragement and some editorial input. 

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The Underbelly of Writing

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 27-2-12

If your name is Stephen King, JK Rowling, or John Grisham, the writer’s life is the life of a writer. If your name is something else—Karl Giberson, for example—you have to pause regularly to do other things. I feel like I have been paused for a month now and need to get back in the writing saddle.

In addition to my three-week trip to the West Coast, I have been working on two other projects that, if they succeed, will help me actually be a writer.

The immediate project is the grant that I have been working on—the one I mentioned in my last blog. I have asked the Templeton Foundation for a stipend to support me to spend one full day per week, for three years, writing blogs for places like the Huffington Post. I am estimating that I can produce at least 30 blogs a year.  I think it took me more than 100 hours to complete this grant. Grant writing is a tedious but necessary part of the “non-bestselling” author’s life—at least for those authors who are trying to make some money.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have had grants or other funding (all from the Templeton Foundation) to support me and provide some assistance in the writing of almost all of my books: Species of Origins, Oracles of Science, Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, Quantum Leap, The Anointed, The Wonder of the Universe, and the book coming out this fall from Paraclete, working title: And God Saw that it was Good.  All in all, these various grants probably paid for 2-3 full years of salary for me over the past several years, maybe more.  The only books written without support were my first book—Worlds Apart, and the one I am working on now, Saving Adam.

I used most of the grant money to purchase releases from my teaching and pay me for working over the summer. And I hired a zillion students to do all kinds of things from tracking down references to creating indexes.

 So now I have written yet another grant but one that I estimate is way more cost effective than any of my book grants. Books like Oracles of Science rarely sell more than a few thousand copies so the grant money often amounts to a subsidy of several dollars per book.  I calculated that the grant for blogging subsidizes the articles to the tune of a half-cent per reader—very cost effective.  If the reviewers agree, I will have some support to help pay my bills. If not, I will greet you at the door of Walmart.

Do I have millions of readers?

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 52-2-12

I have been working on a grant that requires me to estimate how many readers my blogs on the Huffington Post have. Their model is set up so that very few contributors receive compensation.  As one such contributor, I have published many pieces there—some very popular—and have never received a nickel. Writers like me are motivated by the enormous exposure that we get on the Huffington Post.  But how big is that exposure? Like many media outlets, Huffington is secretive about its numbers but analysts have been able to create reliable estimates, using industry standard yardsticks that correlate the number of readers of a page with other factors, such as the number of comments posted in response to the article.

An article in the NY Times earlier this year ( used media metrics from a company called Quantcast to estimate that “there were about 50 page views per comment.” This number may even understate the actual page views and they go on to comment: “The Huffington Post cultivates comments in a way that few other sites do.”  (This latter observation, of course, is also relevant in that it suggests that Huffington readers are more engaged.)

These metrics indicate that some of my more popular posts have had readerships on the Huffington Post itself well in excess of 100,000 (but I will show below why the secondary audience is even larger.)


Last year I published a piece in response to Jerry Coyne’s oft-repeated—but woefully uninformed—assault on the Bible. He charged that Christians must interpret all of the Bible literally since there is no way to choose which parts merit this approach. In his mind, this meant that Christians, if they were honest, had to read the creation story in Genesis as literal history, with the implication that the earth is a few thousand years old and dinosaurs and humans lived together.

Titled “The Bible is a Library, not a Book,” my response to Coyne generated more than 2600 comments, indicating over 130,000 readers on the Huffington Post, using the metric above. Other metrics, however, push this number considerably higher. In this age of social media—at which the Huffington Post excels—readers can readily “share” articles they like with networks of friends. 460 readers reposted this article on their facebook page. According to a Pew survey, facebook users, once primarily teenagers, are now on average almost 40 years old and typically have more than 200 friends who “follow” them on facebook. Many of these facebook friends would see the link to the piece and, given that someone they know recommended it, they are likely to read it. And then they might “repost” the piece to encourage their networks to read it, although there is no way to know about this. My piece defending the Bible also had over 1400 facebook “likes,” another form of endorsement that leads to additional readers.  29 people “tweeted” the piece to their networks of “followers.” And there were over 300 people who passed on the piece using old-fashioned email.

More substantial expansion of the readership occurs, however, when other media outlets with more targeted editorial missions pick up the piece and extend the conversation. A Google search turns up almost 10,000 additional hits for “The Bible is a Library, not a Book.”  The majority of these additional hits are other websites with their own readers, commenters, and social media connections. These sites range from supportive, to informative, to critical, to hostile. But they all represent additional discussion of the topic.

Determining the scope of this additional readership is beyond the scope of what I am trying to do here. But let me estimate, conservatively, that at least 10% of the 10,000 Google “hits” I mentioned represent media outlets that were extending the conversation in meaningful ways. And let me estimate that each one of these outlets adds 1000 additional readers to the conversation, a number that is certainly very conservative.   This secondary readership, made possible by the convenience and extraordinary reach of the internet, adds an additional million readers. And, given that I have used very conservative estimates, the actually number could be two or three times higher.

I was quite surprised by these results.

Fed Ex Santa

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 22-2-12

Yesterday morning, as I was preparing to head across Boston to Gordon College, a Fed Ex truck pulled into my yard. This piqued my interest, of course, since Fed Ex is a bit like Santa Claus, bringing fun packages. 

When I saw the driver staggering out with three clearly heavy boxes, I knew what Fed Ex Santa was bringing—my new book from InterVarsity: The Wonder of the World: Hints of God in a Fine-Tuned World.

Getting the printed copies of something you have written or worked on is so satisfying.  I can remember, when I was an editor, how my entire staff would stop working, put their feet on their desks, and read the latest issue of Science & Spirit when it arrived from the printer. There is something wonderfully tangible about a printed copy of your work—like a flourishing plant you nurtured from a seed to full maturity.

I gathered some copies of The Wonder of the World and headed to Gordon. I had made arrangements with my publisher to provide a free copy for all the students in my writing workshop. It was great seeing the excitement in the class when I gave them the copies of the book. Our class—my “dream team”— is starting to feel a bit like a “family” where we are all interested in each other’s achievements, and they were genuinely interested in my new book. It was, I must say, humbling.

We used the last half hour of class to talk about the book and we got to discuss the many trivial—and not-so-trivial—considerations that go into writing a book. How do you get permissions for pictures? Lyrics? Quotes? Who designs the cover? Can authors write the titles and subtitles for their own books? How do you choose blurbers for the back cover?  My goal in this writing class was to let students see the writing process from every imaginable angle and the arrival of a newly published book is one of those many angles.

Books—even boring ones—are quite interesting when you look at them in the right way.

I've Got Mail...

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 21-2-12

I love books. My house is filled with them and I am constantly running out of bookcases.  I often find myself staring at a wall and wondering if it wouldn’t look better if it were covered with bookcases.   (My wife always says “no.”) I even have some built-in bookcases in my house—a wonderful way to show that books belong by giving them dedicated space.

I also love reading on my Kindle, but I really wish all those digitized, ephemeral, insubstantial, electronic, binary encoded, wannabe books were “real” so I could admire them on my bookcases. My tiny Kindle with its modest library of invisible books just doesn’t compete with my bookcases filled with the real things. 

And I love mail.  I used to rush home after school as a kid and ask “Did I get any mail?” So it follows that one of my most favorite experiences is getting books in the mail. 

When I returned from my long trip to the West Coast I had three books waiting for me.  (My wife was also waiting for me, but I had to check out the books first.) The books were:

1)   A foreign translation of my Oxford University Press book, The Oracles of Science.  It took me quite a while to find out what language it was in—and actually it was my daughter who used some kind of “Google Translator” to figure out that the book was in Polish. Shortly after she figured this out I found the letter from the publisher letting me know that “The Polish translation” was out now.  They gave me three copies.  If I ever meet anyone who speaks Polish, I will give them a copy of the book. This translation joins an earlier one that appeared in Italian, and a later one in Spanish that should appear shortly. I can’t read anything in them, except my name on the cover.

2)   The second book was Alvin Plantinga’s new book from Oxford University Press titled Where the Conflict Lies, which argues that science and naturalism are in conflict, not science and religion. I have agreed to review this for Christian Century, somewhat against my better judgment, since I am getting behind on my Adam book. I turned down a request to review it for a smaller journal but Christian Century is a major magazine and I have never written for them before. 

3)   The third book was a pre-print sent to me by a publisher who doesn’t know that I have not been an editor for several years. Publishers send out pre-prints of books hoping to get reviews in major magazines around the time of publication.  When I edited Science & Theology News and Science & Spirit I used to get several books per day—which was like living in a perennial state of Christmas.  I have to laugh when I get these preprints, years after I ceased being an editor. My name is on some publicist’s “proprietary list of influential media moguls” and a publisher is paying good money to have this supposed “expert” distribute their books to editors who will generate reviews that will help sell the book.

The really exciting package in the mail though arrived this morning. I will comment on that tomorrow.

Boston at last…

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 17-2-12

One of my favorite Elton John songs, from that great album Madman Across the Water, begins with lines that always come to mind when I am returning home:

Boston at last, and the plane’s touching down

The hostess is handing the hot towels around

My wife Myrna and our daughter Laura are on their way to Logan now to pick me up. My plane got in a bit early so I am cooling my heels with my first cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in almost three weeks. Home…. 

My 18-day trip went better than I expected. I took a total of 10 flights and my luggage made it every time. On two occasions there was a note in my bag that TSA authorities had rummaged through my suitcase looking for something or other.  I suppose I should be embarrassed about all the dirty socks and underwear that greeted their last invasion of my privacy, but I am not.  Between air travel and my rental car I logged over 10,000 miles. 



The End is Near

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 17-2-12

The final official event of my west coast trip was in many ways my favorite: I spent an entire class period chatting with Tom Oord’s philosophy of science students at Northwest Nazarene University.  They had read much of my book Saving Darwin and were primed to ask thoughtful questions. We had a lively discussion, took a class picture—which is already on facebook—and then some students approached me tentatively and asked me to sign their books. I assured them that authors love to sign books.

I left that class conflicted.  On the one hand, these are great students with wonderful spirits, enthusiastic about making a difference in the world, and very bright. But the church has failed them in important ways. Most of them are wrestling with the enduring legacy of fundamentalism, wondering how to read the Bible, and what to do about their deep questions.  I don’t think any of them are in faith communities that tolerate doubt and celebrate the search for truth.  To flourish as emerging intellectual Christians they will have to transcend their various congregations, wrestling with how to respond in love to the rigid and unappealing fundamentalism of their church families.

I felt humbled to have spent this time with them and gratified that they are finding my writing to be helpful.

In 9 hours I head for the bustling Boise airport and home to my wonderful wife, who has promised to meet me at Logan. I can hardly wait...

The Anointing

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 16-2-12

I have just finished my second extended discussion with Christian scholars of The Anointed. The first was at Seattle Pacific University two days ago; the second was a luncheon discussion with the faculty at Northwest Nazarene University today. An SPU historian, Mike Hamilton, responded at their event. I liked the response so much that, with his permission, I have reproduced it below. The text is great, but Mike was also a great presenter and it was even better “live.” 

I was encouraged that almost 100% of the Christian faculty in these discussions seemed to share my concern that right wing fundamentalists with loud voices were getting way too much attention. At NNU in particular there was extended discussion of how the Church of the Nazarene is slowly “losing its mind” as fundamentalists drive away moderates. We talked about the tragic case of Richard Colling, a long time—and very successful—professor at Olivet Nazarene University, who was forced out by loud fundies.  Pete Enns of Westminster Theological Seminary, Howard Van Til and John Schneider of Calvin College, Bruce Waltke of Reformed Theological Seminary and many others have met similar fates.  And yet there are no cases of fundies being forced out by moderates. The trajectory of this asymmetry is obvious, discouraging, and not changing.

Anyway, the discussion was lively and without rancor.  Here is Mike Hamilton’s great response:

 “Evangelicals and the Challenge of Secular Knowledge”  (Michael Hamilton, February 14, 2012)

In 1952 an unknown bohemian eccentric named Harry Smith assembled a six-LP record collection that he called Anthology of American Folk Music.  It consisted of 84 songs, all recorded in the late 1920s and early 1930s and sold by commercial record labels.  These forgotten songs were a revelation to musicians in the 1950s, and Smith’s Anthology sparked the folk music revival that helped shape rock music in the 1960s.

         Music historian Greil Marcus describes Smith’s Anthology as an artifact of “Old, Weird America.”  In this America birds talk, frogs marry mice, the dry bones of a skeleton can get up and walk.  Ordinary people are bullied by the police, jailed by corrupt judges, tossed out into the street by dishonest landlords, not paid by their bosses, thrown out of work by technology, and killed en masse when technology fails.  Women and men long for love, then rue the day they found it.  Many  take to drink—one man gets so drunk he mistakes his wife’s lover for a cabbage.  Others rise up in passion and kill their bosses, their lovers, and themselves.  Still others are lured to destruction by Satan, come in the guise of a former lover.  Heaven is real, but the only way in, is death.

If the Anthology of American Folk Music is a guidebook to “Old, Weird America,” Karl Giberson’s The Anointed is a wonderful guidebook to “New Weird America.”  In this America, an actual man and woman named Adam and Eve are the biological parents of the entire human race.  Their offspring hunted dinosaurs.  This America has been chosen by God to be the agent of his eternal purposes.  Its Constitution was given by the hand of God just as the Decalogue was given to Moses on Sinai.   The fortunes of this America follow the ebb and flow of God’s favor, which can be called forth through public rituals of piety, by printing religious incantations on money, by organizing ourselves into nuclear families with strictly-disciplined children, and by forswearing non-marital sex.  In New Weird America, the Bible tells us that the world is on the road to destruction, and it gives us a coded list of mileposts we’ll pass along the way.  Those schooled in the arcana of biblical prophecy tell us, for example, that when the Bible says “the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also” that this refers to an inevitable nuclear holocaust.  And yet New Weird America also reads in the Bible a countervailing message.  The earth may be destroyed, but the agents of that destruction are God’s enemies.  Therefore if the godly rise up and oppose God’s enemies, perhaps global destruction can be averted.  Or not.

There’s one big difference between the two Weird Americas.  In Old Weird America, ordinary people are powerless against superior forces, natural and supernatural.  Individual rebellion is possible, and sometimes consequences can be escaped, but the strong remain strong, and the weak remain weak.  However, in New Weird America the weak can organize to fight and defeat the forces of evil, both natural and supernatural.  What changed? 

This shift traces back to the birth years of the Republic.  The musical sources of Old Weird America included lower class ballads from European feudal society, and work and gospel songs of enslaved African-Americans.  This was the music of the powerless.  But in the American colonies, mid-18th century, the forces of change were summoned up by George Whitefield.  The First Great Awakening taught ordinary Americans that all people are equal in the sight of God—all are born in sin; all are in need of New Birth.  The American Revolution taught ordinary Americans that their new birthright was not slavery but liberty.  These two radical ideas—equality and liberty—convinced ordinary people that traditional social elites would be their masters no more.  America of the 1790s witnessed full-blown class warfare, as ordinary people organized to protest, resist, and circumvent traditional authority and elite control in every area of social life—politics, law, medicine, communication and religion. 

This social revolution of the 1790s—really, a Second American Revolution—is the wellspring of New Weird America.  Throughout The Anointed, Giberson and Stephens note, with wondering puzzlement, that New Weird America rejects the science and the history and the psychology and the Bible scholarship of credentialed experts.  But in light of the social revolution of the 1790s it makes perfect sense.  Ken Ham and David Barton and James Dobson and Tim LaHaye aren’t anti-intellectual, they’re opposed to rule by elites.  In New Weird America, the people are sovereign, so they decide what’s true and false.   Authority comes not from credentials or institutions or God but from the people.  The audience is sovereign, which means  The Anointed is a perfect double entendre of a title.  The people of New Weird America believe that their leaders are anointed by God, but in fact these “leaders” have been anointed by the people themselves.  In New Weird America, the people believe that they should rule not only on Election Day, but every day; not only in politics, but in science and history and psychology and Bible interpretation.   New Weird America isn’t the product of some mystical force called anti-intellectualism; it’s the product of the Second American Revolution.  It’s popular sovereignty, reductio ad absurdum.

After the Civil War Americans decided that popular sovereignty in some areas of life is not such a good idea.  So we restricted its reach in politics, law and medicine, and we use the coercive power of the state to enforce the boundaries.  By far the most laissez faire area of American life is religion, and more than any other American religion, evangelicalism has adopted popular sovereignty as its central organizing principle.  No wonder, then, that evangelicalism is an ideal Petrie dish for growing exotic ideas like flood geology, Christian survivalism, and dispensational premillennialism.

What, then, are evangelical intellectuals to do?  Is the Anti-Christ, cloaked in the mantle of the people, setting the abomination of desolation among us?  Is it time to flee to the hills?

I’d like to suggest that there’s a less apocalyptic way to look at the phenomenon Giberson describes so well.  One historical study of the 1950s concluded that religion and science were engaged in a democratic conversation with each other.  Religion, largely controlled by the people, was determined to have a say in the direction of science.  Science, largely controlled by credentialed bureaucratic elites, was determined to have a say in religion.  Here another American principle, that of mixed government, is a helpful guide.  Elites left to their own devices would be jack-booted fascists.  Ordinary people, drunk on visions of popular control, are by nature howling mobs.  America probably functions best when the elites and the people are subject to each other’s oversight.  For American intellectuals, this means we have an obligation to speak in the language of the people, be cognizant of their concerns, and recognize the legitimate spheres of their authority.  Fail to do this and we will reap the whirlwind of the blasphemies that litter the pages of Giberson’s book, like The American Patriot’s Bible.

As I said earlier, the evangelicals of New Weird America want to organize ordinary people to take back America from the elites.  In the throes of this desire they yielded to the seduction of the Republican Party, which locked the two of them in a most unholy embrace.  Not surprisingly, the culture-wars alliance between evangelicalism and the GOP has corrupted both.   Evangelicalism has given the conservative wing of the GOP a no-compromise, no-quarter holy righteousness that has all but destroyed the party’s ability to govern.  And the Republican Party has given evangelicalism a Darwinian hard-heartedness in which strength is worshiped and weakness despised.

This highlights a final important difference between the New Weird America and the Old.  Toward the end of The Anointed there’s a four-page section on how evangelicals believe in Satan.  Now, I don’t know if there’s a personal satanic being, but I do believe that evil is real.  It’s not hard to believe this when you live in a city where a nice looking well-spoken young man just killed his wife, dumped her body, proclaimed himself a loving parent, hatchet-whipped his two sons, then burned them and himself alive in a house fire. 

As The Anointed shows so well, in New Weird America, Satan has gotten hold of them—our enemies—those pornographers, gay activists, secular humanists, big-government socialists.  But in Old Weird America, Satan has gotten hold of us.  Sin is everywhere, outside and inside the church.  Yes, the elites in authority are likely to be corrupt and heartless.  But we are just as likely to luxuriate in vainglory, crush a colleague, sleep with our best friend’s spouse, or murder our parents, all the while deceiving ourselves about our true nature.  The world I live in looks an awful lot like the one that Old Weird America saw.  Kind of makes me wish that New Weird America would turn off the Contemporary Christian Music and listen to Sister Mary Nelson:

Well, all you hypocrite members / You wasting your time away

My God’s calling for workers / And you had better obey

Better get ready for judgment! / My God is coming down!


The Writer in the Airport

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 15-2-12

This is my final of several posts from California. In an hour I head for Idaho, speaking at College of Idaho tonight and then finishing my trip at Northwest Nazarene University with my buddy Tom Oord, one of thefew people  more reviled by fundie witchhunters (aka, "Concerned Nazarenes") than I am.

At the moment I have a brief layover in the San Francisco airport—my fourth of this trip. And, amazingly, my friend Greg Carmor, the Gordon Chaplain, comes up to chat with me for a while, a welcome break from the blandness of the bustle around me. Greg is in CA for a conference of college chaplains.

So much for being totally anonymous in airports…

Last night I gave my first public presentation on The Anointed at Seattle Pacific University and a historian, Mike Hamilton, responded. (The only previous event had been a book signing at the ENC library.)  I was anxious to see if the content of The Anointed would be controversial in any way at SPU, as it was feared to be at ENC. It was not and, if anything, the discussion highlighted the widespread agreement among evangelicals that something has gone deeply wrong with our collective intellect. One well known Biblical scholar in the audience suggested that the term “evangelical” has become so contaminated with anti-intellectual and political overtones that it should be abandoned.

I also just got some communications about some of my other books.

InterVarsity sent me this notice a moment ago: “I saw this morning that your book arrived in our warehouse! I made sure that your order of one box is being sent out to you ASAP. I'll send along the 10 comp copies for your students. Editorial will ship you your 10 author copies.”  This is the book The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in a Fine-Tuned World.  I negotiated with InterVarsity to provide free copies for the students in my writing workshop at Gordon—this is their second free book.

My literary agent also just emailed me that the check for my royalty advance for my book about Adam has finally been cut, many months after the project was bought by my publisher.  It is a good thing that I am not paying the bills with my royalties--not that very many bills could be covered by my humble royalty checks.

And, finally, Tom Oord has been re-reading Saving Darwin and posting quotes from it on facebook. The quotes are generating interesting commentary. 

I have to say that I like the writer’s life.

A Tale of Two Schools

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 13-2-12

Today, for the first time I can recall, I spoke to an audience  that included several atheist biology professors. I had been asked by one such biologist, Carrie Glenney—the sister of my friend Brian Glenney who teaches at Gordon College (but is not an atheist!)—to talk about why the evangelical rejection of evolution is so vigorous and enduring.  This is something I have talked about many times and discussed at length in my books so I felt on secure ground. (I was at the University of Washington in Seattle, where it was--surprise--drizzling.)

The Q & A was quite challenging however. One questioner asked me why it wasn’t obvious that religion was defective and should be encouraged to die. “We need science to secure our future,” he said. “Science is empirical and reliable. Religion is not empirical and based only on faith. If religion prevents us from following the wisdom of science on things like global warming, aren’t we better off without it?”  Unlike the typical questions I get from conservative evangelicals, I didn’t have an immediate answer to this one in my arsenal. I challenged his assumptions and suggested that religion has values he wasn’t acknowledging. But his question is a powerful one.

After my gig at U of W I headed over to Seattle Pacific University where there are no atheistic biology profs.  I love SPU. My host here is Cara Wall-Scheffler who I suspect has to be one of the top research biologists in the entire consortium of 100+ evangelical colleges in the United States. She is an amazing teacher, which you can determine in about ten minutes by talking to her students.  And she is friendly and engaging to talk to.

SPU students are thoughtful and inquisitive.  I led a discussion this afternoon with 80-100 of them, almost all of whom had read some of The Language of Science and Faith. And many had read portions of Saving Darwin. (I sent on a box of copies ahead of my visit.)  The asked great questions—thoughtful, open-ended, non-confrontational. SPU is doing a great job at helping young Christians make peace with science. After our discussion I signed books for some students and then had some pizza.

Good day, overall.

Traveling Bonds

Karl Giberson

Writer’s Log: Stardate 11/12-2-12

I will soon be in the Pacific Northwest for the last leg of my trip.  I just said goodbye to an old friend, Sam Jean, who was a student of mine many years ago at ENC and then lived with my family for some of the time he was going to Boston University Law school.  He now works as a scriptwriter and consultant in Hollywood and lives in a bachelor pad in downtown LA.  We caught up over dinner and then watched “Driver” and “Colombiana,” two more or less mindless action movies of the sort we watched all the time when he lived at my house.

(Sam and I share the deepest possible male bond—together we opened all 100 of the worlds in “Super Mario,” shortly after the Super Nintendo system came out years ago.) 

I have been thinking about the extended network of friends and colleagues that trips like this make it possible to re-engage.  This past Monday at Point Loma Nazarene University I visited, for the third time, their Monday “science and religion” book club. That perennial group has read several of my books over the years and I have had the privilege of talking to them about my writing.  I also talked to another of Dean Nelson’s writing classes.  Dean and I have become such good friends over the past few years, drawn together by our mutual interest in writing.

At Azusa Pacific I reconnected with Leslie Wickman who does really interesting work on global warming and its affects on shipping lanes at the North Pole. Although Rush Limbaugh assures us that global warming is a hoax, the process is nevertheless opening up new waterways as glaciers shrink dramatically.  I was also lucky to stay with Anita and Bill Henck and share various horror stories about which I will say nothing here.

On Friday morning I drove to Westmont College along the breathtaking Highway 101 that runs alongside the ocean in several places.  I spoke to a packed house, which is always encouraging, and then had a wonderful evening with three science faculty at a local Mexican place. My old friend Jeff Schloss and I had breakfast in a Starbucks on Saturday and caught up on various projects of mutual interest. William Baldwin, of “Backdraft” fame, was also getting coffee there so we had to hide so he wouldn’t come bother us.