"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11

Monday, December 5, 2011

Broken Words by Jonathan Dudley

Abortion. Homosexuality. Environmentalism. Evolution. 
What if the strongest arguments against evangelical Christian positions on these topics come not from secular America but from evangelical Christianity itself?

Press Release:

BALTIMORE - Nov 7, 2011 - What happens when a young man who grew up listening to James Dobson on the radio and attending a church lead by the co-founder of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority ends up earning graduate degrees in Christianity at Yale University and science at Johns Hopkins? If he's a writer as insightful and articulate as Jonathan Dudley, he shatters what most people believe about evangelical Christian politics, both inside the evangelical
community and out. Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics is an explosive expose on how, through a variety of historical accidents, power struggles, and missteps, evangelicals came to adopt rigid conservative stances on four hot-button issues involving faith and science.

In Broken Words, Dudley embeds meticulous research on the origins of and problems with evangelical political beliefs into a coming-of-age narrative of growing up in the evangelical community. In addition to surveying why evangelicals supported looser abortion laws prior to Roe v. Wade, he demonstrates the idea the Bible says life begins at conception was not
widespread among Christians until the 1980s.

He illustrates how evangelicals have embraced a postmodern relativism on science that contradicts their absolutism on homosexuality. Dudley explains why evangelicals really began embracing environmentalism, noting that the Bible has little to do with it. The author surveys the widespread acceptance of evolution by evangelical scholars, both when Darwin's theory was published and today. The scientific problems are illustrated with the idea that life begins at conception, that being gay is a choice, that global warming is a myth, and that the best explanation for life is Intelligent Design. The most remarkable aspect of Dudley's book is that, while it is a trenchant critique of the evangelical Right, it is also filled with the intimate understanding and empathy of one who grew up in evangelical community.

Polls show young people raised evangelical are increasingly abandoning their parent's beliefs. Broken Words demonstrates why. And because evangelicals constitute roughly 35 percent of Americans-and have a tremendous impact on politics-this change will impact both Christianity and America at large. Jonathan Dudley is leading the way, making Broken Words required reading for anyone who wants to understand what's happening in American politics.

Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics is a book I would describe as provocative and challenging. Having grown up in an evangelical church and learned that abortion was wrong, homosexuality the worst sin and evolution is a theory without any merit, I found this book challenged things I always believed to be true. 

For instance, in chapter five, Dudley talks about young earth creationism, he explains that "Seventh Day Adventists comprised the only significant number of adherents to the idea of a worldwide flood responsible for the fossil record and a young earth." [pg 130] One of Ellen G. White's disciples, George McCready Price, believed White's "vision was divinely inspired and dedicated his life to finding scientific support for it." In 1923 he wrote a book, The New Geology." That book later was revised and updated by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb and published in 1961 under the title of The Genesis Flood. So, as Dudley puts it, "Ellen G. White's divinely inspired interpretation of Genesis, filtered through Price, then filtered through Morris, was widely disseminated to the evangelical community." [pg 131] To me, that's a bit disturbing.

Another example would be "when does life begin?" In chapter two, Dudley tackles the sensitive subject of abortion, the "Right to Life" concept and how evangelical leaders use(d) it to sway opinion in the church, on various political candidates. 

Though I may still be pro-life and believe in a young earth, Broken Words has caused me to think about why I believe some of the things I do. Does what I believe stem from just what the Bible says? Or has some of my beliefs been molded by other people's political agendas and faulty scientific research?

Does it make me less of a Christian because I may or may not agree with every evangelical leader and whatever political statement they may be promoting? I don't think so. 

I think Broken Words is a very good book because it does cause a person to examine where they stand on these hot topics. Questioning why we take the stances we do is good, it causes us to seek out answers.

Jonathan Dudley has appeared on CNN's Newsroom with Kyra Philips and written for CNN.com, The Huffington Post, and the Yale Daily News. He also served as an ethical consultant for the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a reviewer for the International Journal of Drug Policy. He graduated with a B.S. in biology from Calvin College , an M.A. in ethics from Yale University Divinity School , and is currently a M.D. student at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 

This book was provided by Jonathan Dudley for the purpose of reviewing. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. 

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