In the aftermath of the presidential election, many conservative Republicans are doing some soul searching. Are they out of step with most Americans? Have they been pulled too far to the right by their base? And are the culture war issues that have kept evangelicals in lock-step with the GOP for the last 30 years now doing more harm then good?
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is already testing the waters for a run for the White House in 2016, recently did an interview with GQ where he was asked about the age of the earth. Rubio ducked and dodged and finally said, "I'm not a scientist, man." Mr. Rubio's non-answer puts him at odds with last year's slate of Republican candidates. Eager to win conservative Christian voters, many of them spoke openly about their distrust of evolution.
Rick Perry made headlines when he called evolution "a theory" with "some gaps in it." Ron Paul was an outspoken creationist, as was Rick Santorum who garnered the early support of evangelical leaders. Mitt Romney, who ultimately became the Republican candidate, took a middle of the road stance saying he believed God created the universe, but he also said, "evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body."
The fact that Romney still won the evangelical vote by a wide margin indicates evolution/creationism does not determine the way most evangelicals vote. Still, Senator Rubio's refusal to engage the question may be a sign that at least the science front of the culture war may be winding down. Additional evidence came last week when Pat Robertson–who is no stranger to controversial statements–rejected the idea of a young earth as well.
Ken Ham, the young earth creationist behind the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio, slammed Robertson for his comments saying, "Not only do we have to work hard to not let our kids be led astray by the anti-God teaching of the secularists, we have to work hard to not let them be led astray by compromising church leaders like Pat Robertson."
Why are both Christian politicians and media figures abandoning evolution as an issue in the culture war? It may be too soon to say for certain, but perhaps losing ground both politically and culturally is causing some Christians to be more discerning about which battles are really worth fighting.
Dr. Joshua Swamidass is a professor in the Laboratory and Genomic Medicine Division at Washington University in St. Louis. In a recent column for The Wall Street Journal, Swamidass proposes that both Republicans and evangelicals need to provide a more sensible position on both evolution and science in general. He writes, "Christians who try to push their view of creation through political coercion are misrepresenting their faith. The ‘good news' is how God saves us. Not how he created us. And it is through persuasion rather than force that he brings us to knowledge of Jesus." Read his full article here.
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