The Scandal of the Evangelical Double Mind

In his 1995 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll wrote, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”
Recently, at Patheos, Eastern University professor Peter Enns updated Noll and added that “The real scandal of the Evangelical mind is that we are not allowed to use it.”
Today, I want to extend Enns and Noll and assert that the evangelical mind, such that it is, is double minded.
First, let me say that Enns makes an observation which sounds quite familiar to me:

Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.

As a participant in the great sexual reorientation wars of the past decade and the current controversy over David Barton and American history, I can tell you that the culture war complex does not seek or accept well scholarship that does not support current culture war talking points.  For instance, after Thomas Nelson dropped Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, Wallbuilder’s number two man, Rick Green, compared Barton’s Christian critics to Hitler and Saul Alinsky. Green wrote:

Question: What do elitist professors have in common with Adolf Hitler & Saul Alinsky?
Answer: They masterfully use the powerful art of innuendo to falsely defame those with which they disagree.

That kind of thing is shocking but I am mostly numb to it after years of this give and take. However, I think most academics are a little skittish about such vitriol over doing what academics do.
Enns adds:

The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that degrees, books, papers, and other marks of prestige are valued–provided you come to predetermined conclusions.

Persistence pays off and real headway has been made in the sexuality arena, but I still see a blackout of sexual orientation research among Christian media. As I have documented, important studies of sexuality and gender have been reported in the popular press but haven’t risen to the level of newsworthiness in the Christian press. Even though evangelical scholars take these studies seriously, the consumers of culture war and Christian media probably won’t hear about them if the research implicates a biological origin for homosexuality.
On the American history front, many of the popular media sources have ignored the David Barton controversy (e.g,, I don’t think Christianity Today has touched the subject). Many popular radio hosts simply won’t allow another point of view on their programs.  I am very thankful that World Magazine has been the clear exception.
In 2011, Thomas Kidd pointed out that evangelicals are bosses at creating subcultures (e.g., Christian music, Christian television, Christian publishers). We also have our “experts.” Others (e.g., Stephens & Giberson in The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Agehave pointed out that evangelical experts rarely have deep academic training in their chosen subject.
Now we come to the double-minded part. The experts (e.g., David Barton) create their niche by demeaning academic work, even by Christian scholars. Witness Barton’s defense of his work. As noted previously, his radio show co-host blasted us with comparisons to Hitler and Alinsky. With condescension, Barton blasted Coulter and me for being “academic elitists” and added

It is striking that the negative critiques of The Jefferson Lies revolve around the academic arrogance that says “Unless we tell you so, it just can’t be; we are the sole gatekeepers of historical truth.” But Governor Mike Huckabee, in speaking of my approach to history, stated: “In typical Barton style, every syllable is given scholarly research and backed up with source documents. Those who hate America and God’s Word won’t like it, but they won’t be able to discredit it.” Clearly, academics such as Throckmorton, Coulter, Jenkinson, Crawford, et. al., simply don’t like what the self-evident documentation actually proves.

Driving home the scandal of evangelical double-mindedness is this observation. On one hand, evangelicals spend lots of money to send their children to evangelical colleges, and they want those children to learn their lessons well. On the other hand, with donations to culture war  organizations, they prop up self-anointed experts who tell them that academic rigor, training, and skill are barriers to the real truth, hidden away by stuffy, arrogant professors. Want to know something about history (science, sexuality, etc.)? Then don’t call your child’s Christian college professor; call David Barton.
All of this should be deeply troubling to evangelicals. Actually, the kids are not alright; we are losing them in buckets. I have to say that I think one of the factors is the anti-intellectual stance of the organizations which say they represent us. By and large, these groups need to do an audit of the claims they make (scientific, historical, etc.) and allow Christian scholars of various views to weigh in. In addition, I think it would be helpful if the Christian media complex would report about research on hot scientific topics. And when they do, they need to go find academics who are doing the research and get comment from those Christian researchers and professors who understand the nuances of the topic.
I start with the premise that science is no threat to faith. If scientific work seems to conflict with tenets of my religion, I accept the tension until I understand things better. Extending that belief to history, I do not need the founders to be evangelicals in order to enjoy and defend American freedom for people of my faith, another faith, and no faith.
Loving God with all my mind doesn’t mean splitting it in two. If a study of science or history tells me something uncomfortable, I do not retool the science or history to make me comfortable. I walk by faith, live with the tension, and accept what is in front of my face.
 
 

Who Are the Paleo Evangelicals?

Last week, historian Thomas Kidd described a subset of evangelicals who are reluctant Republicans. Inspired by the term paleoconservative, he calls them paleo evangelicals. These evangelicals, according to Kidd, are suspicious of American civil religion, and skeptical that much good comes from allegiance to any political party. Although conservative, paleos do not agree with the modern GOP on all issues. On balance, the GOP may be the party that gets their votes, but they are not enthusiastic that voting one’s values is the salvation of the nation.

Kidd specifically raises the differences between paleo evangelicals and the Christian nation movement led by David Barton. He writes

Our faith needs to be focused on Christ, the paleos say, and rooted in the deep, wide tradition of orthodox church history. We do not base our faith, in any sense, on the personal beliefs of Jefferson, Washington, or Adams. Especially when viewed from the perspective of the global church, American civil religion looks peculiar, at best. Yes, Christianity played a major role in the American founding, but that fact does not place the founding at the center of Christianity. The paleos admire many of the founders, but do not wish to read the founders alongside Scripture, as Barton would have us do in his new Founders’ Bible.

Kidd does not speculate about the size of this group but I think he is correct that such evangelicals exist. I certainly would be close to this camp. Picking up on his ideas, Bart Gingrich and Anna Williams see paleos as being more prevalent among younger people.  I hope they are correct.

One leading voice among evangelicals in the younger generation is Jonathan Merritt. His book A Faith of Our Own finds fault with the culture war and the conflation of Christianity with politics. Merritt’s experience may give insight into the making of paleos. About his peers and the church, Merritt writes

Having come of age during the first aftershock period, young people today seem especially dissatisfied. A culture-warring church is the only one they’ve experienced, and they are running away as fast as they can. (p. 77)

Merritt seems to be describing paleos when he writes:

Today’s Christians are rising up to rediscover the faith in a world that is, not a world that was. They desire to reclaim the faith from the partisan spirit so pervasive among some Christians in America…These Christians aren’t consumed with a platform or a party or a policy; they are devoted to a person who emptied Himself to rule supreme over a new kind of kingdom. (p. 86)

I hope Merritt and the others are correct about a rising group of evangelicals who reject the conflation of religion and politics and who want to reclaim the faith. To me, it is interesting to consider what it would look like for this group to become the majority within evangelical circles. Would new leaders take existing groups (e.g., Family Research Council, Focus on the Family) in a new direction? Or would these groups disband? Currently, evangelicals are known more for what evangelical para-church organizations are against than what they are for. Surely, the paleos would go in a different direction.

Although leaning toward cynicism, the following serves as the soundtrack for this post:

Barton, Birther featured in Kirk Cameron’s new Monumental movie

Kirk Cameron has a new movie coming out called Monumental. It claims to search American history to find our natural treasure. Cameron interviews a variety of people, most of whom appear on the Christian nation wing of the church, to make his points. As RWW pointed out Friday, Cameron interviews David Barton about the Aitken Bible. Barton, as is typical, takes an interesting story and misleads his audience.

 

You can read Chris Rodda’s more accurate rendering of the situation here. I hope to have something on this within the month (stay tuned for more on a new project on this coming soon).

Another of Cameron’s “experts” is Herb Titus. Titus has been Dean of the Oral Roberts and Regent University law schools and is prominently featured on birther websites such as this one. (obamareleaseyourrecords.blogspot.com). Titus and Cameron go to Harvard to tell viewers that the separation of church and state is a myth.

A lot of evangelicals will go see this movie and will come away believing that Cameron has assembled unbiased scholars who are simply revealing what the evil statist academic machine wants to hide. Lots of potential for mischief there.

I will have to wait to see what conclusions Cameron provides, but an effort that leads with Barton and a Birther is not getting off to a good start.

Oversight Hearings on DHHS Contraception Rule Broadcast Now (VIDEO)

Interested in the DHHS controversy over contraception?

Currently, hearings are being held with representatives of the Catholic church, and the Southern Baptists. A Jewish Rabbi is also testifying. From the website:

Chairman Issa Hearing Preview Statement

Americans of all faiths have a right to practice their religion free from the fear of persecution or harassment from their government. Our nation’s founders believed this and enshrined religious freedom into the First Amendment to the Constitution.

While some Americans may not feel that government mandates forcing them to pay for contraception are an infringement on their religious beliefs, others consider it to be an assault against their freedom of conscience. A government policy that encroaches on the conscientious objections of religious groups concerns all Americans who value the protections of the First Amendment. Today, the committee will hear testimony from leaders of different faiths. They are concerned that government, under this Administration, is encroaching on their First Amendment rights.

The Administration’s actions have forced us to confront a more fundamental question about the proper role of government in our lives.

This hearing is about basic question of religious freedom, and whether or not protection will be afforded to religious institutions who wish to follow their conscience in refusing to pay for products they find morally objectionable. I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses.

Anoka-Hennepin School District Ends Silence Policy Toward Sexual Orientation

UPDATE – 2/14/12: The school board placed this information on their website about the change (scroll down to see the approved policy):

The Anoka-Hennepin School District has a new policy designed to promote a respectful learning environment in which teachers facilitate student discussions of contentious topics in a balanced and impartial manner that encourages development of critical thinking and decision-making skills.

“I believe this policy is the best thing for Anoka-Hennepin and for all students,” said Board Chair Tom Heidemann, who went on to say it “takes away some of the confusion that existed in the previous policy.”

The School Board approved the Respectful Learning Environment – Curriculum Policy Feb. 13 following more than two months of discussion and hours of public input regarding replacement of the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy (SOCP). Some teachers felt that the SOCP was confusing. Board members asked the administration to bring forward a new policy that would eliminate the confusion.

The board sought a policy that would address any issues that may be contentious instead of focusing on specific topics. (The new policy replaces the Religious Activities Policy as well as the SOCP.) They also wanted to ensure that staff would not attempt to persuade students to adopt a particular viewpoint, and to clarify that the board-adopted curriculum is the basis for education in district schools.

After rejecting an earlier proposal in December when public input revealed little support for it, staff developed the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum Policy and presented it to the board Jan. 23. According to Paul Cady, district general counsel, the new policy meets the intent of the board, responds to public input, and reflects academic research on how to best deal with issues of public controversy that may arise in the classroom.

“It’s not the district’s role to take a position on these issues and it’s not acceptable for professional staff to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint,” said Chair Heidemann. This was one of several elements he felt were missing in the previous policy.

He also stressed that the district’s curriculum will not change as the result of adopting the Respectful Learning Environment – Curriculum Policy. “Curriculum changes only if there are four votes on this School Board,” Heidemann said.

Board member John Hoffman noted that the district has a transparent process for adopting curriculum and community members have the right to participate in that process.

Board members also stressed that the new policy emphasizes a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. “It gets to the intent of our founding fathers of this great state and ensures all are welcome to participate in this wonderful experience of free, public education,” said Hoffman

Board member Scott Wenzel stressed that by adopting the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum Policy the board removes a policy that singles out one minority group and establishes the dignity and self-worth of all students. “I believe our teachers always have the best interests of students at heart. [This policy] provides the reassurance that our teachers will continue to do that.”

The proposed policy opens with a commitment to a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and an education that respects all students and their families. It stresses that teachers must follow the board-adopted curriculum, which is based on state standards, and it acknowledges that political, religious, social or economic issues may be contentious in a learning environment “in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people in our schools, our community and our nation.”

The policy states that the district does not take positions on these issues and that staff shall not attempt to “persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues.” When contentious issues are discussed in classrooms, it states that the discussions must be appropriate for the developmental level of students, related to the course content, and presented in a balanced manner with varying points of view. They should be designed to help students “think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.”

It closes by stating that in these discussions, staff “shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students.”

………

Earlier tonight, various news sources reported that the Anoka-Hennepin School Board was considering a replacement for their gag policy on teacher discussions of sexual orientation. The old policy forbid teachers from discussing with students aspects of sexual orientation as a reality.

(Read policy after the break)

Continue reading “Anoka-Hennepin School District Ends Silence Policy Toward Sexual Orientation”

Al Mohler says evangelicals have not told the truth about homosexuality; AFA's Bryan Fischer proves the point

Al Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the Christian Science Monitor in March that Baptists have lied about homosexuality and practiced a “form of homophobia.”
Responding to questions about the CSM article, Mohler affirmed his belief that same-sex sexual behavior is sin, but then told the Associated Baptist Press:

“But we as evangelicals have a very sad history in dealing with this issue,” he continued. “We have told not the truth, but we have told about half the truth. We’ve told the biblical truth, and that’s important, but we haven’t applied it in the biblical way.”
“We have said to people that homosexuality is just a choice,” Mohler said. “It’s clear that it’s more than a choice. That doesn’t mean it’s any less sinful, but it does mean it’s not something people can just turn on and turn off. We are not a gospel people unless we understand that only the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ gives a homosexual person any hope of release from homosexuality.”

Rev. Mohler and I spoke together in 2008 at a meeting of Christian psychiatrists at the 2008 APA convention. He was saying the same things in that address and has consistently attempted to incorporate current research into his thinking about sexual orientation. Clearly, this stance has not changed his exegesis of Scripture, but he is calling evangelicals to stop at least some lying about gays.
On cue, however, is Bryan Fischer to quickly criticize Mohler for telling the truth. Fischer wrote:

On the whole, this was not a great week for the Southern Baptist Convention, as one of its leaders appeared to pander to the homosexual lobby and the convention itself pandered to lawbreakers, all in the space of two dizzying days.
Rev. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, urged attendees at the SBC’s annual convention to “repent” of what he called “a form of homophobia,” without saying exactly what kind of homophobia he was talking about.
Evidently, according to Rev. Mohler, if you don’t believe gays are born that way, you’re either a homophobe or right next to it. He told the delegates at the SBC that homosexuality is “more than a choice,” and that it apparently borders on something sinful to believe otherwise.
He did not elaborate on exactly what he meant by “more than a choice,” but what else could it mean but that he’s urging SBC’ers to accept the bogus claim that homosexuality is innate and that people can be homosexual from birth. Perhaps that’s not what he meant to say; if it wasn’t, then it’s important for him to clarify exactly what he did mean.

Mohler is pretty clear it seems to me. He is aware that research is not on the side of people who claim that being attracted to the same sex is a choice or some kind of easily reversible situation.
What a strange situation we have in the evangelical fold. One of our leading theologians speaks out on a issue of significance, and the culture warrior Bryan Fischer attacks him as he might an ideological opponent. Instead of considering the message, he attacks the messenger. I have experienced this myself and believe that the only orthodoxy that matters to the evangelical culture war complex (e.g., AFA, AFTAH, FRC, CWA, Liberty Counsel) is, “thou shalt demonize the gays.” All else is measured by this metric.
Many reading this blog will no doubt believe that Mohler does not go far enough and still promotes a harmful rhetoric. Others will understand that he is speaking to his constituents in language they understand which may help them come to a more honest, graceful place. I think Rev. Mohler can move a little further but, for now, I am glad Mohler is calling out the evangelical culture war complex and hope he continues to do so.

Will this calm the birther storm????

The President is releasing his long form birth certificate today.
Trump and Franklin Graham may have pushed the right/wrong buttons.
So will this calm the storm? Open forum – what will the new objections be? What will birthers say about this development? And what new and startling findings will we see?
Been pretty serious around here for a spell, let’s have some fun with this.
And here it is…
I wonder if this thread will finally die? (2800 comments and counting)

Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson: The Faith Factor

Tomorrow, April 15, marks the day in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball. The executive who signed him with the express purpose of combating racism was Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, CNN reports that Branch Rickey’s faith was a strong motivation for his decision to sign Robinson. Roll the tape:

I watched the CNN segment this morning and reporter Ed Henry said that he told President Obama about the segment of Robinson and Rickey. Obama commented that the Rickey-Robinson breakthrough had impact on every part of American society, including his election as the first African-American President.
I share a hometown with Branch Rickey — Portsmouth, Ohio — and was always reminded of his legacy because I played my high school baseball in Branch Rickey Park (pictured below).

To me, Branch Rickey’s role in this story is sweet irony. Race relations were tense in my hometown. For most of my life there, African-Americans were segregated into neighborhoods surrounding a large public housing project. There was strong prejudice and discrimination there, even among Christians. And yet, Branch Rickey left the small town to make history in the big city in a way that changed attitudes about race forever.
Watch the clip or read the entire transcript here but I will close with this paragraph:

When a well-known journalist of the era told the Dodgers general manager that he thought “all hell would break loose” the next day with Robinson due to take the field for the first time as a Brooklyn Dodger, Rickey disagreed. “My grandfather immediately responded to him, ‘I believe tomorrow all heaven will rejoice,’” the younger Rickey said.

Bryan Fischer: Now let’s ban the mosques

The American Family Association has become scary. There I said it.

At one point, I presented facts to the AFA correcting a report from their information source, OneNewsNow, about the American Psychological Association’s task force report on sexual orientation but their reporter hung up on me. I was allowed to rebut some criticism aimed my way which they published as hearsay, but the damage was done. But these are minor problems compared to where Bryan Fischer has taken the group.

I have discussed Fischer’s views before (biblical law, gay nazis) and I suspect will again. Here is one that is really troubling from a group that claims to uphold religious freedom. From Fischer’s blog post, No More Mosques, Period:

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.

You have to read the rest to grasp the concept. Fischer, fronting an ostensibly Christian group, calls for the coercive power of the state to limit the freedom of expression of Islam. When Islamic nations call for restrictions on Christianity, we rightly criticize them. Well, what about this?

Of course, any group, Islamic, Christian, atheist, gay or straight, who plots rebellion against the government should be investigated and stopped. If there is evidence that a mosque is really a front for terror then make the case and take action. However, in the most obvious of ironies, Fischer wants the government to violate the Constitution with his plan to restrict Islam. Freedoms of religion, association and speech are freedoms we want to protect, right?

Amy Ritter at Hot Air tossed a nurf ball at Fischer and the AFA. She is worried about Fischer declaring his idea in the name of conservatism. I am more concerned about what is coming out of the AFA being considered Christian.

Update: Quickly, I note that another AFA writer criticized Fischer’s stance the next day. That’s nice. However, it still is deeply troubling that someone in leadership at AFA has a platform to call for the undermining of the Constitution in the name of conservatism and Christianity.

Note: Been away for a spell, might be back at it more next week.