Christianity oversimplified

By Steve Rutledge

Lally Gartel has consistently presented one-sided accounts of Christian thinking and contributions to society. On March 1, she unfairly conflated white evangelical support for President Bush in 2004 with current evangelical views on global warming.

As early as 2005, the Washington Post ran an article entitled “The Greening of Evangelicals” that reported “polling has found a strengthening consensus among evangelicals for strict environmental rules” citing that evangelical support for stricter environmental rules has risen from 45 percent to 52 percent. Later on Feb. 6, 2006, the New York Times reported what became a national story, that 86 prominent evangelical leaders – including such names as Rick Warren (of megachurch fame) and the presidents of 39 Christian colleges – called for an “Evangelical Climate Initiative” to fight global warming.

Certainly one could fairly criticize some evangelicals’ stances on environmentalism – and I would join such criticism – but Ms. Gartel did nothing to represent burgeoning evangelical thought on the subject. Her current article does little better.

She explores Daniel Dennett’s apparent notion that religion can contain toxic elements that should be removed so the more “benign” aspects of religion can arise.

While Gartel admits many will find his proposition controversial, she does nothing to present the controversy – concluding without any type of balancing discussion that “religion represents a vehement kind of life purpose; one which makes us believe this life is not singular and therefore not as important as what is to come.”

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A more balanced discussion of the impact Christian thinking has had on individuals and the world should also include monumentally positive groups like WorldVision and the Salvation Army; iconic individuals such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta, William Wilberforce, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; and countless local heroes who run homeless programs, drug addiction programs, and do countless unnamed acts of charity – all as a outgrowths of their supposedly nefarious “kind of life purpose.”

Her presentation of, at least, the Christian world view is a gross oversimplification: Jesus taught that life has the dual purposes of loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Thus, for the Christian, “living for what is to come” is in fact intertwined with the here and now reality of loving others. I do not object to Gartel’s potentially enlightening criticisms; what I do object to is the oversimplified, one-sided manner in which she presents the Christian faith when she writes.

Steve Rutledge

graduate student