Religious Organizations Must have Connections to the Secular World

Science, with its naturalistic approach to understanding the empirical world, has become the dominant standard against which alternative systems of knowledge production must argue. Over the course of the twentieth century, some denominations have reconciled particular truths of Christianity and science. However, fundamentalist Protestant Christians in the U.S. continue to wrestle with contradictions between their literal interpretations of the Bible and alternative cosmologies produced through scientific research.

According to Susan Harding, ―after the Scopes trial in 1925, fundamentalists ‗separated out‘. That is, they accepted their designation as unfit for ‗modernity‘ and for ‗modern‘ political discourse, which henceforth were understood to be intrinsically secular and off-limits to Biblical literalists‖ (1994:539). Fundamentalists, or as Dr. Jacobs referred to them, ―those Christians who took the Bible seriously,‖ began ―to withdraw from public life of all sorts and also academic life at the same time‖ (interview with author, December 14, 2006).

Since the Scopes trial, conservative Christianity has frequently presented itself as antagonistic to science. As the secular movement grew, the authority of science to establish the historical record through the theory of evolution became one of the key issues in classrooms and courts. As Christian Smith points out, rather than being a triumph of reason over religion, the outcome of the Scopes trial was symbolic of a political transition of power in the public sphere (2003). It was not until 1979 when fundamentalists ―broke the ultimate barrier and plunged en masse into the national political arena, most strikingly through the organization of the Moral Majority under the Reverend Jerry Falwell‖ (Harding 1994:539). This decision was influenced in great part by the theology adopted by Moral Majority leaders, like Falwell and Robertson, who adopted as their mission the preparation of the world for the second coming of Christ. Re-entering secular institutions and media became imperative.

There‘s a long period of time there, literally, when conservative Christians just didn‘t get involved, period, with anything ―public‖. They existed, they had jobs, so they obviously did something, they put food on the table and so forth, but their influence in the public square was minimized. And that included academia, just a general withdrawal. And it‘s only fairly recently that that has changed. In political terms it only changed twenty, twenty-five years ago. It started to change twenty-five years ago65 (interview with author, December 14, 2006).

The impetus for re-entering the mainstream was the realization that institutions still have to exist in the secular realm in order to be effective in changing it. Fundamentalist Christians at CBN and elsewhere have struggled with engaging secular standards of academia, medicine, law, etc, all of which incorporate scientific methods, data, and valuations. An example of this is in education, where secular politics prevail over academic institutions, requiring science disciplines in any school which desires degree accreditation from national professional organizations.

In some fields of endeavour, you might say, the reintroduction [of Christians] hasn‘t even taken place yet. And I wonder if maybe science itself is one of those where, clearly again there was a time when almost everybody engaged in this discipline came at it from some kind of Christian or at least pseudo-Christian perspective. At the very least they paid lip service to it – they had to because that was the price of admission. Obviously that has changed radically and for whatever reason, science in particular seems to be very inoculated against the re-entry of Christians into that field, unlike other fields, where, Christians maybe didn‘t yield but have assertively re-entered. More successfully in politics. In other areas endeavored…for example take the arts, not as successfully as politics but still some infiltration, but the sciences, almost nothing. As though we haven‘t done much, haven‘t tried (interview with author, December 14, 2006).


Folksonomies: science religion secularlism

/religion and spirituality (0.453801)
/law, govt and politics/politics (0.337247)
/science (0.317397)

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Secular World Science:Organization (0.767706 (negative:-0.273543)), Susan Harding:Person (0.345355 (positive:0.242536)), U.S.:Country (0.301822 (neutral:0.000000)), Christian Smith:Person (0.281567 (neutral:0.000000)), Dr. Jacobs:Person (0.281284 (neutral:0.000000)), theory of evolution:FieldTerminology (0.263943 (negative:-0.244631)), Jerry Falwell‖:Person (0.247932 (positive:0.461962)), CBN:Organization (0.244277 (negative:-0.476042)), Falwell:Person (0.242852 (neutral:0.000000)), Robertson:Person (0.215176 (neutral:0.000000)), twenty-five years:Quantity (0.215176 (neutral:0.000000))

Fundamentalist Christianity (0.965792): dbpedia | opencyc
Evangelicalism (0.781196): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Scopes Trial (0.731628): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Protestantism (0.653806): dbpedia | freebase
Evolution (0.612500): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Scientific method (0.610441): dbpedia | freebase
Politics (0.607470): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Religion (0.564647): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Losing faith in the secular: the politics of faith and knowledge at two American parachurches
Doctoral Dissertations and Master's Theses>Doctoral Dissertation:  Hersh, Carie Little (2010), Losing faith in the secular: the politics of faith and knowledge at two American parachurches, Chapel Hill, Retrieved on 2014-06-21
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  • Folksonomies: religion culture anthropology