Some thoughts on the “war” between science and religion for those of us who do not think there should be any such war.
Just a year ago in this space, I noted the widespread casual ignorance and—worse—the widespread inaccurate stereotypes, about Christianity that are everywhere in American life and culture. Specifically, there is the common assumption that the right-wing white Christians, both evangelical and Catholic, who have become so prominent in our nation’s political life are the normal or default version of Christianity. They themselves have actively encouraged these assumptions, making it easy for the so-called “mainstream media” to fall in line. As I wrote last year,
… even a network like NPR routinely seems to accept, uncritically, the opinions of conservative evangelicals as representative of a “Christian” viewpoint, and even to seek out those organizations for a “Christian” opinion about some event or trend.
In the same essay, I quoted Jim Wallis, who noted that “media illiteracy about religion and the personal secular bias of many journalists” have led to “an easy narrative” in which “the religious right and the secular left have one thing in common: They both want the world to think that all religion is right-wing.”
In the mere twelve months since then, we have seen a hundred-year flood of news events and social ferment, and this facile equivalency has begun to break down. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the wave of protests in response to systemic racism and police violence, have encouraged reporters and commentators to look for a broader range of faith responses to spiritual issues such as human suffering, human connection; altruism, justice, freedom, duty, and sacrifice.
As a result, the secular media have become more aware of the diversity, indeed the polarization, of American Christianity, reflected in the disparate responses of different churches to the pandemic, to public health measures such as wearing masks and refraining from gathering in person for worship, and to the Black Lives Matter movement and the presidential election. Ordinary Americans are no longer getting a simplistic message that “all religion is right-wing.”
The swift and forceful response of Episcopal Bishop Budde, and then of many other religious leaders, to President Trump’s violent dispersal of peaceful protesters in order to pose, awkwardly holding up a Bible, in front of St. John’s Church, provided a standout teachable moment for the media and the American public. The lifelong Catholic faith of the President-elect, which he wears with the unassuming comfort of Mr. Rogers’ cardigan and sneakers, and coverage of the Georgia Senate campaign of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a preacher in the Black social-justice Gospel tradition, may also be helping to challenge some of the stereotypes about religious faith.
The divide between religion and science has a long and complex history, and is a fine example of the old adage, “When two sides can’t find common ground, look for the unexamined error that unites them both.”Continue reading “True or False”