I wrestled with this blog post. I couldn’t decide whether to put it on my blog or on a friend’s blog as an anonymous post. The decision was not an easy one, but I ultimately decided that having the courage to stand behind my words should outweigh my desire to not want to draw attention to myself. I have not sought to boost my readership by signaling anyone out or to be a hypocrite and build my own “persona” (see below).
Either way, I knew this was a lose-lose decision, and decided that courage should trump anonymity.
Two recent stories have piqued my interest. First, readers of this blog are likely familiar with the discussion/verbal sparring that has been going on between Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention”, and BioLogos Forum contributors (Karl Giberson, in particular) regarding evolution and Christianity. This link (and the links provided herein) provides the backdrop to the story: http://biologos.org/blog/darwin-and-dr-mohler-the-truth-comes-out/
As will be seen shortly, I side with BioLogos. While readers may disagree, I don’t believe that this has direct bearing on the point of my post.
BioLogos seeks to promote, and admittedly struggles from time to time in so doing, the harmony of faith and science. They go to great lengths to show that intelligent design is unscientific and evolution is supported by an overwhelming amount of evidence. Albert Mohler, on the other hand, believes that “the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures.” He, in essence, is saying that it is impossible to believe in evolution and be a Christian. This will likely offend the many millions worldwide who are Christian and accept the findings of science. So be it, I suppose.
The second story involves the infamous “Godless liberal biologist”, PZ Myers the wonderful wordsmith whose blog, Pharyngula, gets high volume traffic, and when not focused on the horrors of Christianity (conservative Evangelicals, really) can be quite a fun read. He recently went through a cardiac scare and had a stent put in, but appears, thankfully enough, to be recovering well. His readers absolutely love him as witnessed by the greater than 800 comments posted in response to the blog entry first mentioning his heart issues. What shouldn’t have surprised me, but still made me take note was the second to last sentence of the post, “Meanwhile, relax, chill, don’t panic, and most importantly, don’t waste your time with prayers. Ever.” (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/thats_not_a_heart_its_a_flaili.php)
These two stories about men on completely opposite sides of the spectrum made me think about the issue of personal beliefs and opinions versus public persona. I, obviously, have little to no readership or public importance when compared to these men. If they’re the Yankees, I’m the little league team that didn’t win a game this year. So I must admit that I don’t have the foggiest conception of what it’s like to be in their shoes.
But… that doesn’t mean I can’t share a comment or two regarding these stories from an observer’s perspective. Both of these men have a large following that they would likely lose if either were to change their rather demonstrative views (Mohler: strong Biblical conservatism, Myers: science leading inevitably to atheism) or if they even hinted at the validity of an alternative viewpoint. Of course, it seems that to get a large following one needs to have these types of strong views. Proclaiming the beauty of the “inside voice” gray in a world that’s filled primarily with black and white shouting at one another is just not going to attract the masses. This is particularly evident on the internet where people treat each other and different positions with disgust, and has led me to believe that comments on blogs, unless they are on the small mom-and-pop sites, do nothing but a disservice to real discussion (see previous post: https://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/houston-we-still-have-a-problem-rjs-jesus-creed-blog-commenting-and-conversation/)
Getting back to the point at hand… I wonder whether these two men agree all of the time with their respective statements. Does Mohler really believe that you absolutely cannot be a Christian without being an anti-evolutionist re: Creationist? Did Myers for one second think a prayer might not be worthless? Of course, I would assume that both would say vehemently, “I stand by my statements.” (And Myers would call me four names and stupid.)
Why? Because they have to. They and their followers (who are NOT mindless, I’m not saying that) together have built up a public persona. Even if there was a shred of doubt regarding these positions in their minds, they couldn’t admit it unless they were willing to accept the backlash in both reputation and finances. I would like to think that I would be willing to do this but until I join the Major Leagues, I suppose I’ll never know.
So what do you think? Do you think leading figures like these have doubts about the positions that they put forth so strongly? Are they afraid to admit this? Or do you think they’re resolute in their beliefs? Perhaps the faithful following functions to make them even more unyielding?