I feel weary today. Many of us feel the weightiness. I know it’s a Monday, and Mondays can feel wearisome in normal seasons. However, I am weary on a different level. Our current times are fraught with so much turmoil over the election and COVID. I am utterly exhausted and saddened for an even bigger reason. So many people are still struggling to work with the truth. It’s happening in the rascally nexus of both science and politics.
Working with truth in science
I find it utterly frustrating that individuals and their networks continue working double-time to discredit the work of solid researchers, reputable doctors, and those who speak out for safety measures. Yes, I am talking about mask-wearing, quarantining, and additional wise protocol. As a leader in the public service sector of faith and values, I am stymied by how many people who claim the Christian faith have chosen to sow seeds of doubt regarding the veracity of scientific research and best practices. I am weary of people’s apathy and disbelieving looks when I explain I have loved ones who have battled COVID, and I have officiated multiple funerals for families affected by COVID. Really. For real. Precious people I know have died. I have stood at COVID gravesides. That’s the truth.
Let’s cut to the chase. The struggle for such anti-science individuals is largely born of personal inconvenience and self-absorbed expression of freedom, not genuinely solid ideology. “Masks just feel too restrictive. And if I want to gather with my big group of friends for that party, well dang-it, that’s my right!” Personal rights and American freedoms should supposedly trump love of one’s neighbor and even a healthy love for self that might actually mean long-range preservation of lives. I find such thinking and behavior so strange for people who readily claim to be pro-life. Yes, I am weary.
And I have a serious hunch there’s something else in play. Too many Christians still have a deep-seated aversion to science, too often still grounded in their mistrust of evolutionary teaching. Christians often rush to categorize, and the thinking trail often goes like this:
Faith is grounded in the Bible; therefore, faith is good.
Science is grounded in evolution; therefore, science is bad.
And so never the twain shall meet.
With such a trail, too many people jump to the conclusion that scientists and their advice should be resoundingly rejected. Especially when their strong advice is inconvenient and requires uncomfortable self-sacrifice.
What if part of God’s original call to humans actually included science? Many of these same Christians are quick to focus on the good teaching of God’s wondrous creation as depicted across the opening two thirds of Genesis 1. But why is so little attention given to the closing verses of Genesis 1 and the divine call for humans to “rule and reign” over all of it? The ancient language includes the masterful work of royal-like leadership in all sorts of expressions, including arts and sciences, social endeavors and politics. We are called to be career-ready in numerous fields. So many Christians are quick to use the opening sections of Genesis 1 to refute classic evolutionary thinking, especially in support of literal days of creation versus an evolutionary timeline. But then they resoundingly ignore the implications of Genesis 1:26-31.
What if more Christians would join Francis Collins’ perspective? Collins is a rigorous scientist, the leader of the Human Genome Project, and a man of devout faith. (And yes, Collins is currently Dr. Fauci’s lead supervisor and counselor. Gasp! Stay with me, please.) Collins has said:
Aren’t the scientific and spiritual worldviews antithetical? . . . for me the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship. Many will be puzzled by these sentiments, assuming that a rigorous scientist could not also be a serious believer in a transcendent God.
Collins proceeds to argue that “belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science.” In my own deep weariness, I wonder why so many Christians forget that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). Science and faith do coincide.
Working with truth in politics
It seems much of the same anti-science crowd also struggles to accept the mathematics associated with the current political outcomes. In spite of the vote count conducted, verified, and now being certified by reputable individuals, judges, and other authorities, so many Christians are doggedly touting conspiracy theories.
With legal action taken by President Trump, many good people just shrug and say, “Well, he’s a fighter and law suits are his modus operandi.” That’s true, and there is no doubt that the current President has been on the side of conservative politics, successfully picked justices matching the pro-life cause, and has reinforced platforms in support of religious freedom for the Judaeo-Christian population. But with the seeds of doubt sown about election count, including proliferation of conspiracy theories, people everywhere are left scratching their heads. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who actually won the White House? And how can we know?
I am personally stirred to consider what lies beneath the pursuit of our answers. I believe there’s a bigger reason we should all be worked up about the election results. Again, cut-to-the-chase. Reality involves this vital thread: evidence matters, and truth matters.
It is not sufficient for either the right or the left to make their claims to winning the election, but then supply no substantive evidence. This is a principle known as burden of proof. T. Edward Damer explains:
In many cases, of course, one does not have to supply such proof, for we are not always called upon to defend our claims. But if the claimant is asked “Why?” or “How do you know that is true?”, he or she is logically obligated to produce reasons in behalf of the claim . . . one at least has the responsibility to provide evidence for the main thesis and for any questionable premise, if asked to do so.
In our current election outcome, President Trump claims there was election fraud. It is important to note that this was a concern he vocalized numerous times prior to his victory back in 2016. Burden of proof means that he and his team are obligated to produce reasons, substantive evidence that points to such fraud. It’s not sufficient to just claim fraud if you don’t like the election outcome.
Across these post-election weeks, many Americans have been open to seeing the situation with democratic vision, sincerely open to such Trump-side evidence potentially being produced. I wholeheartedly echoed the same sentiment. If such true evidence exists, by all means, it should be brought to light. Fraud should be held to account. The election should be decided based on genuine evidence.
Truth matters. Thoughtful, engaged, integrated Christians grasp how genuine faith is not a blind faith but a reasoned faith. (This is what Francis Collins is advancing in his statement above.) A reasoned faith is well-founded, credible, and grounded in the evidence of eyewitnesses. This issue—truth matters—is where things get very slippery today. In our current culture, people readily think truth is ultimately subjective. “Make up your own truth; you do you, and that’s what is true.” These are common mantras, prevailing thinking in our day. As a result, math, science, morals, and business ethics just don’t hold steady validity, even for some people who claim to be on the side of truth and faith.
In classic Christian understanding, all truth is God’s truth, whether it’s in the Bible or not. But under current popular thinking, actual objective counting only counts based on each person’s individual count as it coincides with one’s preferred outcome. So, premises, opinions, claims, and principles become highly subjective. With such current-day approach, truth is relative. You get to make up your own end to the story, even if history says it was different. You can make up your own math and craft your own science. You get to make up your own end to the election based on what you wanted for your candidate, your own sense of power, your worldview, and financial safety, even if substantive evidence says otherwise.
Evidence matters; truth matters. After all, if truth is simply “you do you,” then who can you believe? Who can you trust? It is never sufficient to simply make a claim. It would be like a head football coach of an NFL team who suddenly claims the outcome of a down-to-the-wire game was rigged and riddled with fraud. “WE won that game last night!” It would be that coach and team’s responsibility to produce credible proof that negates the calls of the officials and those other eyewitnesses to the game’s outcome. We know it in football. Credible eyewitnesses are essential to substantive evidence.
It’s vital we be open to our own biases when it comes to politicians and elections. I know I have biases. I was raised in a right-wing, conservative family. Our tribe voted for Ronny Reagan and lots of Bushes. Along with passionate friends, I snuck into a Clinton rally in Scranton in 1992. We held up STOP Abortion signs and almost got beat up. I am still a registered Republican, but in recent years I have modulated my political engagement and voting. I have aimed to be more integrated in my faith expression in politics, more prayerful and thoughtful in how I vote. (I’ve written about why and the theological underpinnings in previous articles.) I know, this confuses the heck out of some people. However, by many people’s criteria, I am still highly conservative in perspective, even with such modulation.
With honest recognition of my own biases, I have to be willing to affirm the evidence, because truth matters. The last time I checked, true Christians still believe in working with truth. If there is ample evidence from President Trump’s side, it should be allowed to be heard and win the day. Tough reality is, truth in outcomes can also go the other way, contrary to what you might wish or want. Because evidence is vital when working with burden of proof, I must be willing to accept an outcome that does not match my own biases, either way. And each of us should be willing to accept the truth, especially if the outcome rests squarely on solid math and ample evidence from multiple election officials across numerous states and credible vote counts. Let’s keep in mind, Secretary Clinton was not permitted to make up her own truth in 2016 when she won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. None of us just gets to make up his or her own truth.
Friends, whether you like an outcome or not, evidence and truth are so important for the health of family, coworkers, and neighbors during a pandemic. Evidence and truth matter for the ongoing health of democracy, for confidence in future elections, and for the peace and flourishing of people everywhere. God forbid anyone gets pushy and spills blood over this election’s outcomes. God forbid that families fragment and friends are sundered. God forbid that any leader, either leader, be allowed to lead a coup against our nation’s long-standing democratic process.
Please, please, friends, let’s be rational, committed to working on the side of truth. Let’s be honest, mature, calm, and steady when working with both science and politics. I’ve spent a chunk of time pondering my weariness over Christians’ reactions to both the election and COVID. I am reminded of Jesus’ insight when he noted there are times “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8). What an indictment. Let’s be wise enough to set aside our own biases, our self-absorbed opinions, and stand with wise truth, even when it feels uncomfortable.
Francis S. Collins, The Language of God. (Free Press: New York, 2006), p. 3.
T. Edward Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning. (Wadsworth Publishing: Belmont, CA, 1987), p. 4.
Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw, Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World. (B&H Publishing: Nashville, 2014), p. 12-14.