by Napp Nazworth
Our “post-truth” culture has its roots in evangelicalism, claims Molly Worthen in a New York Times op-ed, “The Evangelical Roots of Our Post-Truth Society.”
Worthen, assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, begins, “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.”
It’s an interesting setup. The media is the bearer of truth, so distrust of the media contributes to a “post-truth” climate, Worthen reasons.
Worthen acknowledges that “evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying,” but argues that evangelical mistrust is particularly worrisome because evangelicals believe the source of their authority, the Bible, comes from God.
The Christian worldview, she writes, “gets tangled up in the contradiction between its claims on universalist science and insistence on an exclusive faith.”
Worthen contrasts that worldview with “the worldview that has propelled mainstream Western intellectual life and made modern civilization possible,” which “revises its conclusions based on evidence available to everyone, regardless of their beliefs about the supernatural.” This “Western intellectual” worldview “clashes with the conservative evangelical war on facts.”
When I interviewed Worthen in 2013 about her book on evangelicalism, Apostles of Reason, I appreciated that she was genuinely interested in understanding evangelicals. But in this recent op-ed, she mostly perpetuates some of the worst evangelical stereotypes while ignoring the Leftists who actually fit the stereotype she ascribes to evangelicals.
I rarely read the viewpoint of an evangelical in The New York Times, unless one of us says something supportive of a liberal agenda, or something stupid. So reading in its pages that evangelicals are an obstacle to truth-seeking struck me as hypocritical. Honest truth-seeking welcomes viewpoint diversity.
In her 2013 CP interview, Worthen complained about the people who dismiss conservative Christian ideas as “irritable mental gestures” rather than “serious parts of the Western intellectual tradition.” Yet now, Worthen separates evangelical thought from the Western intellectual tradition and calls it dangerous. Evangelical “cynicism and tribalism” are “dangerous,” she concludes, because “they pose as wisdom and righteousness.”
SOURCE: Christian Post
Napp Nazworth, Ph.D., is political analyst, politics editor and opinion editor for The Christian Post.