Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Role Evangelical in Our Post-Truth Society

I often lament that the Republican Party has transformed from a political party where knowledge, learning, science, and logic were valued to one where ignorance and a rejection of knowledge and science is celebrated.  Personally, I have long blamed this transformation on the rise of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians within the GOP.  I left the GOP when it became clear that the party could no longer separate right wing religious belief from the civil laws and sought to intertwine the two. I was hardly alone.  Many other moderates fled the party and those who remained tried to convince - delude might be a more apt word - themselves that the party had not fundamentally changed.  Now, even some of those hold outs have fled the insane asylum.  Yes, it is Easter weekend, but I could not help but note a piece in the New York Times that lays the post-truth agenda of today's society square at the feet of where it belongs: evangelical Christians whose fear of having to think objectively based on scientific facts threatens the nation..  Here are highlights from the Times piece:
THE arrival of the “post-truth” political climate came as a shock to many Americans. But to the Christian writer Rachel Held Evans, charges of “fake news” are nothing new. “The deep distrust of the media, of scientific consensus — those were prevalent narratives growing up,” she told me.
Although Ms. Evans, 35, no longer calls herself an evangelical, she attended Bryan College, an evangelical school in Dayton, Tenn. She was taught to distrust information coming from the scientific or media elite because these sources did not hold a “biblical worldview.” . . . “Part of that was that climate change isn’t real, that evolution is a myth made up by scientists who hate God, and capitalism is God’s ideal for society.”
[T]hey believe that their own authority — the inerrant Bible — is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power on the right. This religious tradition of fact denial long predates the rise of the culture wars, social media or President Trump . . .
That innocuous phrase — “biblical worldview” or “Christian worldview” — is everywhere in the evangelical world. . . . . Ever since the scientific revolution, two compulsions have guided conservative Protestant intellectual life: the impulse to defend the Bible as a reliable scientific authority and the impulse to place the Bible beyond the claims of science entirely.
The first impulse blossomed into the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Scripture became the irrefutable guide to everything from the meaning of fossils to the interpretation of archaeological findings in the Middle East, a “storehouse of facts,” as the 19th-century theologian Charles Hodge put it.
The second impulse, the one that rejects scientists’ standing to challenge the Bible, evolved by the early 20th century into a school of thought called presuppositionalism. The term is a mouthful, but the idea is simple: We all have presuppositions that frame our understanding of the world. Cornelius Van Til, a theologian who promoted this idea, rejected the premise that all humans have access to objective reality.
The conservative Christian worldview is not just a posture of mistrust toward the secular world’s “fake news.” It is a network of institutions and experts versed in shadow versions of climate change science, biology and other fields . . .
We all cling to our own unquestioned assumptions. But in the quest to advance knowledge and broker peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic world, the worldview based on biblical inerrancy gets tangled up in the contradiction between its claims on universalist science and insistence on an exclusive faith.
By contrast, the worldview that has propelled mainstream Western intellectual life and made modern civilization possible is a kind of pragmatism. It is an empirical outlook that continually — if imperfectly — revises its conclusions based on evidence available to everyone, regardless of their beliefs about the supernatural. This worldview clashes with the conservative evangelical war on facts. . . 
“cynicism and tribalism are very closely related. You protect your tribe, your way of life and thinking, and you try to annihilate anything that might call that into question.” Cynicism and tribalism are among the gravest human temptations. They are all the more dangerous when they pose as wisdom and righteousness.
Whether these folks want to admit it or not, the Bible is NOT inerrant and much of it is simply not true.  Mental gyrations to avoid the reality that one has built their life on lies does not change the end result.  It is far past time that these people be ridiculed and rejected in decent society.  They are a cancer that threatens the nation's future. 

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