I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

There’s no more pretending, at least not way up here in upstate New York. The leaves are turning, the back-to-school sales are already over, and city folks are bringing their kids up here to start their semesters…the evidence is in: Fall is just around the corner. Here are some stories you might have missed as you scramble to store up acorns for winter:

Our ILYBYGTH story-of-the-week: Google fires an engineer for questioning diversity policy.

Other stories that floated by our raft this week:

Want to try Christian theocracy? Ari Feldman wonders if you can do it with a quick trip to Texas.

Trump’s “court evangelicals” ask the Vatican for a meet. Why can’t they all get along?

How did climate-change denialism become an evangelical belief? Check out Brendan O’Connor’s piece in Splinter. HT: DL

How did one evangelical purist hope to save the Religious Right from its deal with the GOP devil? Daniel Silliman explains the history at Religion & Politics.

Captain America, meet POTUS Shield: Prophetic Order of the United States. Pentecostal leaders declare Trump “anointed by God,” an interview at Religion Dispatches with Peter Montgomery.

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Charismatics take action…

Parents win a big settlement from a Minnesota charter school. They had sued because the school did not do enough to protect their transgender six-year-old. The school promised to force all families to go along with its new inclusive policies, even if the parents have religious objections.

Forget evolution, religion, or any of that noise. The real problem wrecking public education is the forty-year old boondoggle of special education. At least, that’s Stephen Beale’s argument at American Conservative.

Worried about Florida’s new textbook opt-out law? Relax, says historian Jonathan Zimmerman—it’s a good thing.

Do YOU Hate Science?

We all know the stereotypes: Conservatives love God and hate science, vice versa for progressives. But it’s utterly untrue, and every once in a while we see new evidence to prove it. These days, the frouforale over James Damore’s gender/diversity manifesto at Google has us asking the question again: Who hates science?

We’ll get to Damore’s story in a minute, but first, a necessary reminder. SAGLRROILYBYGTH are sick of hearing this, but I’m not interested in attacking or defending Damore. If I have to pick a side, I’ll generally stick with my progressive roots. Luckily, I don’t have to pick a side, so today I’ll bring up more interesting questions. I’m working these days on a new book about American creationism. One of the vital points to understanding creationism, especially the radical young-earth variant, is that creationists are not anti-science. Creationists LOVE science.

As anthropologist Chris Toumey puts it in his terrific and under-appreciated book God’s Own Scientists, radical creationists are just like the rest of America. They don’t dispute the authority of capital-s Science. In Toumey’s words, radical creationists have deep faith in the

plenary authority of science; that is, the idea that something is more valuable and more credible when it is believed that science endorses it.

For radical creationists, the problem isn’t science. The problem, rather, is that benighted false scientists have hijacked science and replaced it with ideologically driven materialism.

Of course, to the rest of us, creationists’ preference for their own bizarre “zombie science” makes their claims to love science hardly credible. To the rest of us, radical creationists seem to insist on their own outlandish scientific beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence from real science.

Are Damore’s opponents guilty of the same thing?

If you haven’t followed the story, Damore was a Google engineer who was fired for a leaked ten-page memo. In the memo, Damore opined that Google’s diversity policy was deeply flawed. The goal of hiring equal numbers of male and female engineers, Damore wrote, didn’t match reality. In fact, Damore wrote, there are biological differences between men and women that make men—as a statistical group—more interested in engineering.

Like Larry Summers before him, Damore was fired and vilified for his words. And like ex-president Summers, Damore insisted he was only citing scientific data.

At least one scientist agrees with Damore. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Debra Soh argues that

the memo was fair and factually accurate. Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our interests and behaviour.

I’m no scientist, of gender or anything else. But conservative pundits have latched onto Soh’s comments to howl that progressives are just as blind to real science as are radical religious folks. As Benedictine pundit Rod Dreher frothed wordily,

Gender non-essentialists are the young earth creationists of the Left.

Maybe, maybe not. But in one thing, at least, Dreher is exactly right. Just like young-earth creationists, the anti-Damorists insist they have real science on their side. When it comes to culture-war issues—whether it’s the nature of gender or the origin of our species—everyone insists they are the side of true science.

Pay Your Enemies: The New Front in Campus Culture Wars

Can religious groups discriminate?  On college campuses, as we’ve noted, the issue often boils down to whether sponsored student clubs have the right to insist on restricting their leadership to students who share their faith.

Historian John Turner offers some thoughts on these continuing battles in a recent essay on The Anxious Bench.  As the author of the go-to book on Campus Crusade for Christ, Turner has some unique perspective to share on the issue.  As Turner concludes, “If universities actually believe in the diversity they attempt to promote, they have to make room for evangelical, Catholic, Muslim, and the many other student religious organizations.”

Also intriguing is the comment from “Marta L.”  As she points out, many campus groups object to having their student fees pay for groups to whom they are ideologically opposed.  Students at Texas A & M, for instance, did not want to pay to support an LGBT Resource Center.  If conservative groups want to be included in the diversity of campus life, Marta argues, they must be willing to enter into this community agreement.  Christian students, Marta says, must “be willing to fund groups that don’t represent them.”

She makes a crucial point.  It is one thing to welcome a true diversity of opinion to a university campus.  It is another thing to insist that every student pay for all of them.  In practice, a Catholic student group would likely fund groups that support ideas about contraception and abortion that are anathema to the Catholic Church.  Similarly, atheist or LGBT groups must pay for groups that explicitly discriminate against gays or the non-religious.

Can this be the new definition of diversity?  We must all agree not only to welcome, but to foot the bill for those with whom we fervently disagree?

 

Do Diverse Campuses Need More Christ?

Jonathan Zimmerman recently called for an affirmative action program for conservative college professors.  But what about for conservative students?  Do diverse campuses need to welcome groups with conservative, discriminatory policies?

A Christianity Today piece by Greg Jao, National Field Director for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, argues that true diversity, true learning, will only take place once universities welcome a “principled pluralism” to their campuses.  This means welcoming not only groups from a variety of racial or ethnic backgrounds, but also Christian groups like Intervarsity.  Campuses must remain, in Jao’s words, “communities with conflicting narratives and ideologies.”

Jao’s argument, like the broader conflict over the presence of conservative religious groups on college campuses, highlights the tension between tolerance and pluralism, between inclusiveness and exclusiveness.

Jao’s comments come largely in response to a continuing controversy over Intervarsity’s presence at Tufts University.

A couple of months ago, Tufts decided to “de-recognize” Intervarsity.  That meant the group would no longer receive university funding.  It could no longer use the Tufts name.  The reason for the decision was Intervarsity’s restriction on its leadership.  Only those who subscribe to the group’s Bible-based Christian theology could become leaders.  University policy at Tufts, as at many schools, requires student groups to welcome all comers, regardless of race, sexuality, religion, or other factors.

As the controversy wends its way through a cycle of appeals and counterappeals, activists on both sides have framed their position as the best chance for schools to achieve a healthily diverse campus.

One student argued in the pages of Tufts’ student newspaper that the Intervarsity group must be de-funded in order to combat bigotry.  As this student argued in September,

“Since when was freedom of religion a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card that excused bigotry? Since when was an organization like IVCF given the permission to speak for evangelical Christians such as myself? . . .  it is long past time to tolerate – that word the intolerant hate so much – self-righteous pontificating that says: ‘Yes, we will use your buildings and your money, and we will not treat you as an equal. Because we are religious.’”

Greg Jao’s more recent argument turns this on its head.  Jao insists, “A truly inclusive university should reject anti-discrimination policies which flatten differences and reduce true diversity.”

So which is it?  Must universities tolerate groups that discriminate?  Or, since many groups discriminate—such as an all-male a capella group or an all-engineering student fraternity—are only certain types of discrimination acceptable?  If so, who makes such decisions and on what grounds?