Is the GOP presidential field "a showcase of evangelical anti-intellectualism?" That's what Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens claim in a New York Times op-ed. How so, you ask?
Well, Giberson and Stephens, who both have a history in academia at Eastern Nazarene College and who came together to author the book, "The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age," believe that the current Republican candidates hold views that defy logic. A description of their book sheds more light on their mentality:
"Exploring intellectual authority within evangelicalism, the authors reveal how America’s populist ideals, anti-intellectualism, and religious free market, along with the concept of anointing—being chosen by God to speak for him like the biblical prophets—established a conservative evangelical leadership isolated from the world of secular arts and sciences."
In their piece, they lament Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann's views on climate change (that it's not caused by humans). Additionally, they see Perry and Bachmann's view that evolution isn't a proven theory as bizarre and not intellectual in the least. They write:
The rejection of science seems to be part of a politically monolithic red-state fundamentalism, textbook evidence of an unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious. As one fundamentalist slogan puts it, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” But evangelical Christianity need not be defined by the simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that most of the Republican candidates have embraced.
While these comments will certainly infuriate conservatives who hold similar concerns about global warming and evolution, it's important to note that Giberson and Stephens are self-described evangelicals. They claim to accept, as the center of their faith, Jesus Christ and they see the Bible a "sacred book."
They also attempt to discern between evangelicalism and fundamentalism, as they lament the latter, calling it "literalistic, overconfident and reactionary." They continue:
Fundamentalism appeals to evangelicals who have become convinced that their country has been overrun by a vast secular conspiracy; denial is the simplest and most attractive response to change. They have been scarred by the elimination of prayer in schools; the removal of nativity scenes from public places; the increasing legitimacy of abortion and homosexuality; the persistence of pornography and drug abuse; and acceptance of other religions and of atheism.
Apparently, to deal with these changes, Giberson and Stephens believe that evangelicals have created a "parallel culture" that includes churches, Sunday school, specialized camps and colleges and Christian-centric media. This "sub-culture" seemingly separated believers from the greater society that is characterized by these social plagues.
There are inevitably Christian leaders who work to instill these fundamentalist values, the authors believe, in history, science and other realms. Because they seemingly rely so heavily on Bible verses, their messages supposedly seem to come directly from God.
Sadly, Giberson and Stephens contend, these Christian leaders are misleading their audiences:
But in fact their rejection of knowledge amounts to what the evangelical historian Mark A. Noll, in his 1994 book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” described as an “intellectual disaster.” He called on evangelicals to repent for their neglect of the mind, decrying the abandonment of the intellectual heritage of the Protestant Reformation. “The scandal of the evangelical mind,” he wrote, “is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”
The authors, of course, praise the change they see happening in the evangelical world, as they claim that young Christian college students as more interested in social justice than opposing gay marriage -- a movement in the right direction, apparently. Among the groups they see as positive alternatives? Rev. Jim Wallis' Sojourners (we have covered this religious leftist group in detail).
They conclude their piece with the following words, "But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians."
While Giberson and Stephens see more conservative Christians' ideas as "ridiculous and even dangerous," it's likely that their opponents view their ideals in the same light. As the evangelical left grows, these debates will likely only intensify.