Whose Politics? Which Conversation?
Does the tenor of the conversation on the intersection of faith and science reflect the current (American) political climate? Christina Van Dyke, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, thinks so. In this video, she posits that the willingness of American Christians to divide over issues of faith and science is related to the polarization of various factions in American politics. We hope Christians can recognize the sense in which our rigid identification with positions in partisan politics often encourages a rather divisive and offensively acerbic tone. And we, along with Dr. Van Dyke, want us to recognize the way in which this carries over into our conversations on faith, science, and culture. Perhaps we should not become so identified with our political “positions” that we automatically consider alternative accounts as threats. When our positions urge us to become fearful of otherness and difference, we become closed off to the gifts of others’ insights, differences of opinion, or disagreements. And given this fear, we even become militant. Does that sound like any campaign ads you’ve seen lately? Why all the vitriol if not for fear? The common American political paradigm is such that we’re expected to dogmatically identify with options that, by nature, are militantly opposed to others. And if the identification with these options is dogmatic, the militant opposition that goes along with it is also dogmatic. As followers of Jesus, we are not called to be dogmatically militant, especially to those whom we call our brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, we must question whether Christians are called to stake their identities in the system of partisan politics. That’s not to say that Christians should not participate in politics, but rather that our identities are bound up in the resurrected Lord and his body, the church. It is there that we cultivate the virtues of charity and hospitality, virtues that enable us to extend ourselves across our differences amidst this conversation on faith, science, and culture. If Christina Van Dyke is correct in saying that the conversation on faith, science, and culture divides the church due to its recourse to the rhetoric of U.S. politics, we might say that the church is the alternative space in which to cultivate a different kind of rhetoric, one of peace, charity, and the communal pursuit of truth. This rhetoric is tethered to the biblical proclamation that all things hold together in Christ (Col. 1:17), including science and the Christian faith (two things that Dr. Van Dyke says were never separated until the modern era).