Dear President Pearsall:
The time has come to fight back against the fundamentalists who are destroying the mind--not to mention the heart and soul--of American evangelical Christianity, including your university.
You have just assumed the presidency of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) under a dark cloud. Your predecessor, David Alexander, resigned in disgrace amidst a scandal that seems to be growing, and you unexpectedly found yourself in an office that you did not seek, confronted with problems that you did not create. The greatest of these problems was your predecessor's termination of Tom Oord, a popular professor and your school's leading scholar.
Another evangelical denomination has voted Darwin and his champions off the island.
In a story becoming all too familiar, another pro-evolution faculty member has been forced to leave his evangelical institution. Jim Stump, longtime professor of philosophy, productive scholar, and popular, award-winning teacher at Bethel College in Indiana, resigned his position in June because of pressures put on the college by its sponsoring denomination, the Missionary Church.
Right-wing conservatives in the Church of the Nazarene have driven another scholar from their ranks.
The trustees of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) announced on June 26 the termination of Dr. Tom Oord, tenured professor of theology, ordained Nazarene elder, and lifelong member of the Church of the Nazarene.
The tragic shooting in South Carolina offers another painful reminder of American Christianity's troubled relationship with race and segregation. While it is true that most of the great abolitionists were inspired by their Christian faith, it is also true that their opponents were inspired by their Christian faith. As a result, much contemporary racism is rooted in Christianity.
Unfortunately, the Bible is not very helpful when it comes to race issues. Many have found within its pages justifications for slavery, abuse of African-Americans and segregation. Unfortunately, the divisions between the races are exacerbated, not diminished, by Christianity.
Does God answer prayers? Can God keep the clouds away from your outdoor wedding? Heal your grandmother? Help you find a girlfriend, as I once prayed in my youth? Is history the unfolding of God's providential plan or just, as Arnold Toynbee wrote, "one damn thing after another"?
Few people believe that things just happen randomly in the world, with no goal or purpose. In the Western tradition until recently this was attributed to God's providential care that -- although hard to square with plagues, wars, and famines -- was almost universally embraced.
Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1963, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Fifty years later this remains true as America’s churches lag behind its schools, businesses, military, and almost every other institution in escaping old taboos about mixing the races. Compare the diversity in the pages of Christianity Today to that of Sports Illustrated. The greatest humiliation of American Christianity is its long endorsement of slavery, and even longer endorsement of racism—a dark cloud still clearly visible at eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings. And many other places besides churches on Sunday morning as well: open any issue of Christianity Today—the flagship magazine of evangelical Christianity—and you will see almost exclusively white faces, most of them male.
Equating science with atheism is one of the most dangerous byproducts of America's culture wars. This strange polarization portends disaster, as the country divides into factions that cannot find common ground on the way the world operates. And it goes without saying that there will be no agreement on what should be done when scientifically significant issues need political action.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when Beacon Press released my book: Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible's First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World. The book was inspired by the controversy raging in evangelical Christianity about whether Adam and Eve were actual historical figures. Recent advances in genetics have made it quite clear that the human race never consisted of just two individuals and Christian geneticists have been working overtime trying to convince their respective faith communities they need to pay attention. Most of them are not.
Science denialism is alive in the United States and 2014 was yet another blockbuster year for preposterous claims from America’s flakerrati. To celebrate the year, here are the top 10 anti-science salvos of 2014.
1) America’s leading science denialist is Ken Ham, head of the Answers in Genesis organization that built the infamous $30 million Creation Museum in Kentucky. He also put up a billboard in Times Square to raise funds for an even more ambitious Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Ham’s wacky ideas went primetime in February when he debated Bill Nye. An estimated three million viewers watched Ham claim that the earth is 10,000 years old, the Big Bang never happened, and Darwinian evolution is a hoax. His greatest howler, however—and my top anti-science salvo of 2014—would have to be his wholesale dismissal of the entire scientific enterprise as an atheistic missionary effort: “Science has been hijacked by secularists,” he claimed, who seek to indoctrinate us with “the religion of naturalism.”
The evangelical Christian Reformed Church (CRC), an evangelical denomination centered mostly in the Midwest U.S. and Canada, voted last week not to set up a committee to examine the denomination’s theological positions involving the origins of the world and of human sin. The CRC’s 2014 Synod decided that there was no need for a six-year study of the complex issues surrounding the relationship between modern science and Christian theological beliefs because its affiliated scholars—especially at its flagship institution, Calvin College—were already conducting rigorous scholarship on the issue.
“The ongoing work of [CRC-affiliated colleges] doesn’t warrant us putting resources and money into [the study committee] for six years,” said Chris De Vos, the reporter for the synod’s advisory committee.
Gallop’s latest poll on evolution, taken in May, shows younger Americans rejecting creationism and embracing the idea that evolution is a purely naturalistic process—bad news for evangelical Christianity. The poll has asked the same questions since 1982, providing a provocative look at where America has been and may be heading.
Every two years, respondents have been asked: “[W]hich of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?” The three responses are...