Patheos has a fascinating and frustrating interview with sociologist and historian of religion Rodney Stark. What is fascinating is everything Stark says in the interview, which is mostly about the Crusades. What is frustrating is trying to decide what to excerpt when the entire piece is so quotable.
Rather than pick a selection from the part about the Crusades (“Until about the start of the 20th century, the Muslims didn’t even remember there had been Crusades.”) or the part about science and religion (“Without the religious background, there wouldn’t be any science, because the fundamental notion that separated the West from everybody else was the notion that God is rational and created a rational universe, so there were rules out there to be discovered.”) I’ll share his views—which I whole-heartedly concur with—about evangelicals and politics:
Patheos: Some progressives say that evangelicals are making the same mistake on the opposite side, by confusing their faith with conservative politics.
Stark: What happens with “progressives” is that they cannot get any traction amongst evangelicals. Their audience, or their intended audience, is largely among the “mainline” congregations and the media that favor them. I don’t think they have found much traction amongst most evangelicals — and I think that’s for the same reason that everybody has fled the old mainline. You get tired of hearing that capitalism is sinful and that Cuba is the way of the future, and other kinds of idiocy like that. Yet when I look at evangelicals using survey data, they are not a bunch of right-wing Republicans. They’re conservative, but they’re about equally Republicans and Democrats. It’s religious and not political conservatism that defines them.
Very clearly, evangelicals don’t like abortion. They do like school prayer and a few things like that. If those were right-wing issues, then sure, evangelicals would be right-wing. But if they’re not right-wing issues — and the majority of Americans agree with evangelicals on those issues — then I fail to see that there’s anything right-wing or scandalous about it. But when it comes down to meat and potatoes politics, evangelicals are not that different from the rest of America, and that’s important for people to understand. A whole lot of them voted for Obama. Whether they will do so again, I don’t know.
So, I think those guys are entirely wrong. I am tired of people like Mark Noll worrying about “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” What do they expect? I don’t consider it a scandal that a bunch of laymen don’t want to read academic books. It’s not a scandal that ordinary evangelicals are not left-wing seminary professors.
Too many evangelical intellectuals want to be the house conservative at the liberal banquet. So Martin Marty will invite you to his table because you can be the token evangelical. I’m sorry, but I’m not a token anything.
(Via: Justin Taylor)