Monday, November 29, 2004

Compare & Contrast: Christians vs. Academics

This is an interesting column written by an evangelical law professor. He makes many interesting points comparing christians and academics. Here's a taste:
That gets to an aspect of evangelical culture that the mainstream press has never understood: the combination of strong faith commitments with uncertainty, the awareness that I don't know everything, that I have a lot more to learn than to teach. Belief that a good God has a plan does not imply knowledge of the plan's details. Judging from the lives and conversations of my Christian friends, faith in that God does not tend to produce a belief in one's infallibility. More the opposite: Christians believe we see "through a glass, darkly" when we see at all -- and that we're constantly tempted to imagine ourselves as better and smarter than we really are. If that sensibility were a little more common in universities, faculty meetings would be a lot more pleasant. And it should be more common: Academics know better than anyone just how vast is the pool of human knowledge, and how little of it any of us can grasp. Talking humbly should be second nature.

There is even a measure of political common ground. True, university faculties are heavily Democratic, and evangelical churches are thick with Republicans. But that red-blue polarization is mostly a consequence of which issues are on the table -- and which ones aren't. Change the issue menu, and those electoral maps may look very different. Imagine a presidential campaign in which the two candidates seriously debated how a loving society should treat its poorest members. Helping the poor is supposed to be the left's central commitment, going back to the days of FDR and the New Deal. In practice, the commitment has all but disappeared from national politics. Judging by the speeches of liberal Democratic politicians, what poor people need most is free abortions. Anti-poverty programs tend to help middle-class government employees; the poor end up with a few scraps from the table. Teachers' unions have a stranglehold on failed urban school systems, even though fixing those schools would be the best anti-poverty program imaginable.

I don't necessarily agree with everything he writes (ie, as long as the Dems stand for pro-choice I don't believe christians are going to flock to them), but it is an interesting perspective. Go get the full dose.