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.

The Evangelical Blackout of Sexual Orientation Research, Part 2

Last week, I commented on what I see as an evangelical blackout of sexual orientation research by Christian media and organizations. While I stand by that viewpoint, the situation is actually worse than a blackout. The blackout is selective; some new research is reported. However, the studies reported and the way they are reported seem designed to create a slanted picture.

A case in point. Currently, on the NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) website, scientific advisory board member, Chris Rosik, reviews a new report from Gartrell, Bos and Goldeberg about lesbian parenting recently published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The headline for the review is

New Study: Daughters of Lesbian Parents More Likely to Engage in Same-Sex Behavior and Identify as Bisexual

This is definitely a new study. The blackout is not total, but as I will demonstrate, it is selective. NARTH ignores the hard science involved in the brain scan studies but finds one aspect of a small longitudinal study of lesbian parenting to report. Now that you read the headline, read what Rosik says about how the study can be used.

While this small study is valuable as a starting point for longitudinal research into same-sex parenting, professionals and policy makers should be very wary of making any meaningful conclusions from its findings.  Serious methodological limitations also argue against making sweeping generalizations.  As is the case for the vast majority of studies in this area, the sample size is quite small, constituting only 78 adolescents.  The sample of lesbian parents is self-selected and appears to be different from the general population on important demographics such as socioeconomic status and educational attainment.  Demand characteristics (i.e., external influences such as political goals that might motivate study participants to respond in a particular manner) are not considered or assessed by the study’s authors with respect to the lesbian mothers or their adolescent children.

And then…

Certainly the Gatrell, et al. (2011) study provides some intriguing though entirely non-generalizable findings that are consistent with the hypothesis that non-heterosexual experiences and identities are more common among daughters of lesbian families than those raised in heterosexual families.

First, Rosik reports, via headline, the finding that would be of concern to religious conservatives but then in the article says one cannot make such generalizations. If one cannot generalize beyond the sample, then why report the finding as if one could?

The study also found that no children were abused in lesbian homes. This finding is in contrast to heterosexual families where abuse is reported (26% of teens report physical abuse by a parent or caregiver according to national surveys). Since NARTH is commonly represented in cases against same-sex parenting, and such information is relevant to their membership, why was that fact not a part of the headline?

Another interesting finding in the study was that boys were less likely to have been sexual involved with girls in lesbian families than in straight families. Isn’t that what abstinence educators want to promote?

My point here is that NARTH leaders do keep an eye out for new research, however, their reporting of them is selective. And then when they choose to review a study, their review is selective.

I have established that NARTH is a key source of information for Christian right organizations. When some relevant studies are ignored, and others are selectively reported, it seems clear to me evangelicals are poorly served by the organizations they count on for information.

Misconceptions in sexual identity ministry

I also blog on Crosswalk.com and publish articles there occasionally. A recent one regarding misconceptions in sexual identity ministry has not been getting great reviews over there, which is I suppose to be expected given the content. Here is one section which should surprise no regular readere here:

One – All gay people are attracted to the same sex because they did not bond with their parents or were sexually abused.
Untold pain and confusion has been caused to parents and their same-sex attracted children by well-meaning writers and counselors who promote this unsupported view of homosexual origins. The usual evangelical narrative is that persons attracted to the same sex did not get sufficient bonding or love from the same-sex parent and seek these experiences in the present via sexual relationships from members of the same sex. For males, the concept of an over involved, smothering mother is often thrown in as an additional family factor. In addition, claims have been made that most if not all same-sex attracted people have been sexually abused.
The truth is that research on causal factors in sexual orientation is still in the early stages. However, we do know from experience that there are many same-sex attracted people who had loving homes and were not sexually abused or otherwise mistreated as children. On the other hand, some say they believe their sexual desires were shaped in some way by unhappy growing up experiences. What we cannot identify with any certainty is why any given individual experiences same-sex sexual attractions. Recent research on twins suggests that pre-natal factors are associated with same-sex attraction, as are individual environmental experiences which vary among homosexuals. The best we can say at present is that different pre- and post-natal factors may operate differently in different people. For now, not only is it unnecessary to pigeon hole people, it can be harmful and intensely discouraging for parents and children alike to pursue therapy for non-existent problems of bonding or parenting. Where abuse or bonding problems exist, they should be addressed but successfully dealing with issues from the past will not of necessity lead to sexual reorientation.

I then take on change within the context of evangelical doctrine. The comments let me know how large the gaps still are.
UPDATE: The Christian Post also published this article. The comments section is again quite lively.

Religion and the 2008 election

I am compiling some data regarding special interest voting, religion and the 2008 election. This post serves as an open forum for readers who see polls or data regarding various interest groups (e.g., pro-life, those not favoring gay rights, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, etc.). Just add them to the comments section. I will be adding to the post throughout the day and evening.
First up is Christianity Today’s Evangelical vote map. There you can find a compilation by Ted Olson of how the Evangelical vote went from state to state. Looks like the percentage of Evangelical vote is more like the Kerry election than the Clinton years.
Looking at this, I do not see much benefit for McCain to have run on an even more socially conservative platform than he did. He seemed to keep that aspect of the coalition together. And clearly Sarah Palin helped energize that base.
Here is an analysis from Richard Baehr at American Thinker. He looks at the data and says white voters stayed home and minorities voted in record numbers. I have to add that his observation that California, New York and Illinois accounted for the lion’s share of the vote difference between Obama and McCain might say something about how blue those states have become.
And the youth vote…
This article from LifeNews indicates that the Catholic vote went for Obama.
Weekly churchgoers went for Obama a bit more than for Kerry:

Despite heavy religious outreach by Obama, exit poll results suggested white evangelicals voted for John McCain 74 to 25 percent, roughly similar to 2004 results. The gap among weekly churchgoers, however, closed a bit: McCain beat Obama by a 54-44 percent margin, compared to George W. Bush’s 61-39 percent win with the group in 2004.

The New York Times reports gains for Obama over Kerry among younger evangelicals and in important swing states (e.g., CO). My impression is that Obama will have a relatively short window of opportunity to solidify these gains. If he doesn’t deliver on the concerns of the younger set, we may see quite a backlash next time around.

Obama says faith-based is okay if it isn't entirely based in faith

I am not sure my headline captures it but it is close. In this New York Times article, Barack Obama is shown Zanesville, OH (near my old stomping grounds) promoting a kind of faith based initiative. After all the reading, I think the issue at odds is whether faith-based groups should be able to take Federal money if they can discriminate in hiring by only hiring people who support the faith on which the group is based. John McCain and most conservatives say such groups should be able to participate if they can control the hiring and Obama says no, groups cannot exclude people of other or no faith from working in their organizations.
I think Obama is very smart. He is courting Evangelicals by speaking an Evangelical dialect. Many rank and file Evangelicals would not support his bottom line positions but his public ideological opponents of late are attacking him without lifting up the alternative in corresponding positive tones. Until Evangelicals begin to promote McCain instead of merely attack Obama, the Illinois Senator is going to scoop up interest and possibly support among moderate Evangelicals where McCain could be strong. Mr Obama is seizing the opportunity.

APA declines to meet with religious coalition

I will have more to say about this in due time, however, while it is current, I wanted to post this Citizen link article regarding the APA sexual orientation task force.

In a nutshell, the APA solicited opinion from gay advocacy groups in regard to the sexual orientation task force mandate but thus far has declined to meet with a large religious coalition which asked for a meeting regarding that mandate. The letters to the APA are linked in this report.

For the record, Clinton Anderson and the APA GLBT office is open to conversation with callers and has been responsive to my inquiries and input. I do not want to imply otherwise. And I know that the task force is aware of a diversity of views. However, that being said, I do think it would be productive for the APA leadership to have a formal sit-down with those representing a major US demographic group.

From meddling to preaching; two important articles on shifts in Evangelicalism

David Kirkpatrick has a lengthy analysis of shifts in evangelicalism in yesterday’s New York Times. Called “The Evangelical Crackup,” the article describes what appears to be a shift in evangelicalism away from political activism.

And then the Rocky Mountain News describes a similar shift underway at Focus on the Family with the advent of Jim Daly as head of the organization.