There have been a wide variety of responses to the PZ incident. Quite a large number of us a busy laughing at the irony of it. There has been some criticism, for example see here, here, here, here, and here. The critics argue that we are playing into the creationists hands by providing free publicity (much the same way christian protests over The Last Temptation of Christ ended up promoting the movie and increasing attendance). They also argue that we should be seeking the middle and joining with liberal and moderate christians who value science. When we point to, say Cheri Yecke, Ken Ham, or William Buckingham, we get told we are focusing on the extreme outliers, that we should work with people like Francis Ayala or Ken Miller. So, okay, let’s look for the middle. Since I live in Missouri let’s start there.
The Missouri Baptist Convention is pretty big here in Missouri, perhaps we can find someone like Ken Miller there, someone we find a common cause with. Unfortunately, Project 1000 ended any hope of that. Project 1000 packed the Missouri Baptist convention with theologically and socially conservative pastors, which allowed them to take over the convention. It goes without saying that in the process a lot of liberal and moderate pastors got driven out. From Project 1000:
Our desire is to see the leadership of the Missouri Baptist Convention move from a …center-left majority that has been willing to tolerate liberalism, to a … center-right majority whose leadership will reflect a commitment to sound Biblical truth [emphasis mine - afarensis].
In 2006 they ousted 19 moderate churches.
Enter Ken Miller to try and talk to the Missouri Baptist Convention, I’ll ignore the fact that most Missouri Baptist Convention members I know think that the Catholic Church is, well I’ll be diplomatic and say evil, how successful will he be? You might think that since they are christians Ken can talk to them in their own lingo, but you would be wrong.
The boundaries between true belief and falsehood are most strictly patrolled, then, in the neighborhood where falsehood takes the form of other Christian doctrines. These other “believers” are the ones most likely to be held up to ridicule and condemnation from the pulpit; and it is against them that believers must defend themselves in everyday confrontations. Precisely because these outsiders also claim to be Christians and say they are headed for heaven, Southside members must devote a good deal of energy to defining their own distinctiveness. When they look for differences, they find enough to conclude that many other “Christians” are not part of God’s family. [emphasis mine - afarensis]
The above quote is from a book called Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World by Nancy Ammerman and states in a nutshell why Ken Miller simply can not speak in any meaningful way to conservative christians here in Missouri (or anywhere else). To make it quite simple Ken Miller and Francis Ayala are far worse, to conservative christians, than outright athiests such as PZ Myfgherdzs or Richard Dawkins, and the reason they are far worse is because they are compromising the truth of the Bible in their accommodation to modernity.
Okay, so the Missouri Baptist Convention is out. Ken Miller and Francis Ayala are both Catholics, so maybe we should try something closer to home and try talking to the Catholic Church. Let us try talking to the Archbishop, Raymond Burke. Unfortunately, he is not going to be able to help us. You see awhile back Bob Costas organized a charity concert to benefit the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. One of the guests scheduled to perform was Sheryl Crow, who has some strong views about abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. Even though Sheryl was there specifically to sing and would not be discussing her views, Archbishop Burke resigned as chairman of the board of the event. The Archbishop’s reasons were:
“Her appearance at a fundraising event for Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center is an affront to the identity and mission of the medical center, dedicated as it is to the service of life and Christ’s healing mission,” he said.
Like the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Southsiders, Archbishop Burke can not engage in what he considers to be a compromise of his theology. This is no isolated incident for Burke. He also banned Catholic participation in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for the same reason. He has also criticized Rick Majerus. Clearly, the Catholic church isn’t going to be of much help either. We seem to running out of places to look for the moderates and liberals to help our cause and even if we found them there would be few willing to make the same theological concessions that Miller and Ayala have made.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t find allies wherever we can, but I do think that making that our sole strategy is misguided and ignores the results of an entire field of study called the sociology of religion. It ignores the fact that religions do more than tell you how to go to heaven, rather, they also structure the believers relationship with the world, with the people in the world, and it creates and maintains boundaries which separate the believer from the nonbeliever (among other things). The boundary maintaining function is, of course, where the problem is, because even slight deviations from theological correctness are enough to get one labeled “outsider” or, more to the point Judas Iscariot. Nothing in the above criticisms tell us how to overcome this mechanism and so they are doomed to failure.