Sunday, March 15, 2015

Some Thoughts on American Fundamentalism from Across the Border

There is currently a kerfuffle going on in Canada, regarding the new Alberta Education Minister and his position on biological evolution.  Jen Gerson, of the National Post, writes:
Alberta premier Jim Prentice’s hand-picked education minister Gordon Dirks told forum attendees last weekend that he was an “Old Earth guy” — a reference to a doctrine of Creationism that generally rejects biological evolution.

Mr. Dirks has declined to clarify his views. He’s also declined to comment on whether or not he accepts the scientifically accepted understanding of evolution when asked directly by the Post.

“The Minister isn’t going to comment on his political opponents’ purposely manipulated recollections of private conversations…. He supports the existing curriculum and the government ensures schools follow it,” said Mr. Dirks’ spokesperson, David Heyman, who added that questions about creationism were posed by members of the centre-left Alberta party in a bid to corner and embarrass the minister.

It’s an effective tactic; there has traditionally been no shortage of ridicule for politicians who espouse genuinely held religious beliefs on the subject.
This has been a tactic on the part of the press here as well, and in the last election cycle, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman and several others stumbled out of the starting blocks when they ran up against that issue. Only John Huntsman looked at the issue squarely in the eye and said he accepted biological evolution, but by then, nobody knew who he was.  Contained in the story is this observation, as well:
Irving Hexham, a religion and politics professor at the University of Calgary, said evolution — like abortion — is a divisive issue among evangelical Christians. If politicians from this background come out in favour of the mainstream view of evolution, they risks alienating themselves from their own religious community.

“The whole evolution thing has blown up in North America in a ridiculous way. I don’t think there is any reason why Christians can’t believe in evolution, and throughout the world, a lot of Christians do,” he said.

However, the topic seems to be remain contentious among fundamentalists, and evangelical Christians in particular.

“American fundamentalism took it as a boundary. You’re on one side or another. If you believe in evolution, you can’t be a true Christian and you’re out of the fold. It’s a litmus test.”
While this has been a simmering issue for some time, it has only been within the last three years or so that high-profile Christians, such as Ken Ham has brought it to the forefront and, while he has claimed that his position has never been that one cannot be a Christian and accept evolution, he clearly thinks as much, given posts with such titles as The Danger of BioLogos, and BioLogos Funds Project to Undermine the Authority of the Word.  In fact, a word search for “Biologos” reveals quite a few articles in which Mr. Ham wrings his hands in dismay at theistic evolutionists. It is quite clear he regards us with suspicion and distrust.

Ken Ham is a very powerful force in modern evangelical Christianity and he has many supporters within the evangelical community.  Only prayer will loosen the hold he and others like him have on the home school and larger evangelical communities. 

It has been suggested that the modern Christian landscape is ready for a new denomination: the young earth creationist, since, for many, that viewpoint so dominates their thinking.  I wonder if that might be so. 

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