A fascinating recent column in Christianity Today can give us a couple of clues to help navigate our educational culture wars.
In her latest “Wrestling with Angels” column, the singer and author Carolyn Arends describes her recent heart-to-heart with her fourteen-year-old son, an ardent young-earth creationist. No way, her son told her, would he ever want to go to the wrong university, where he would have to “sit in some biology class in a secular school and be told I descended from apes.”
Arends was surprised. Though she admits she was a “keen young-earth creationist as a teenager,” she had come to agree that the world had been created through “evolutionary processes.” With a reassuring evolution-friendly quotation from Billy Graham, circa 1964, her son was consoled.
“Maybe you’re not a total heretic,” he conceded.
Two things in this column jumped out at me. First, it adds more fuel to my growing, but still uncomfortable conviction that the best way to teach evolution might be to push MORE religion in public schools, not less.
As Arends writes, “if I believed that the Bible truly asked me to reject the scientific consensus, it would be the end of the debate.” Creationists like Arends and her son will not often embrace evolution due to the overwhelming scientific evidence alone. But they will (or might) accept evolution if they can be convinced that they can accept that overwhelming evidence while being true to their faiths. If “resistant” students—to borrow Lee Meadows’ term—can be convinced of the theological acceptability of evolution, then the scientific evidence will have much more success.
The second striking point about Arends’ column is its reminder that we Americans can live in parallel universes, where everything looks the same but all the meanings have reversed themselves. I can’t imagine my daughter will ever go through a young-earth creationist “phase.” But if we substitute the phrase “anarcho-syndicalism” or “joys of marijuana” for “young-earth creationism” then I can imagine a very similar scenario to Arends’.
As it is, for many Americans, a belief in young-earth creationism is a sensible, even logical conclusion. Smart young people in Arends’ world may experiment with it the way I expect my daughter might experiment with funny hairdos or goth boyfriends.