Dichotomies, False or Otherwise

Over the past week, I’ve been talking about intelligent design, evolution and the fracas in Kansas with a co-worker (hi, Glen!). What I’ve noticed is that the loudest voices in this situation (the Kansas situation, that is) ask us to choose — you’re either an evolutionist or a religious person. Contemporary politics does much the same — you are either a conservative or a liberal. There is little room for alternate ideas, or the middle way. We are a society that desire cultural warfare — we want to draw a line in the sand. And though both sides would have us believe it’s only the other side that does it, it happens everywhere. Conservatives? Well, they support the family, but also support the invisible hand of the Market that forces us to work longer hours for less pay. Liberals? Remember Robert Casey?

This isn’t to say that compromise is the best and only solution. But, we are asked everyday to compromise our beliefs. In the ID/evolution debates, labels are set by both sides, and you are expected to fall to one side of the fence or the other. Anything less and you are “compromising” your beliefs. The Religious Right would have Christians think there is simply one side of the issue — evolution, as currently taught, is un-Godly. Creationism, and its philosophical extension, intelligent design, is our only choice. But ID is not science, really. There aren’t scientists in the lab or the field doing ID-specific research — they are testing the limits of evolutionary theory. But, point this out loudly in the current debate, and, as a Christian, you’ll be branded a liberal, and possibly a heretic.

Politically, we are boxed into the same corner. Examine our choices as Christians. You can vote for the Republican party, and feel good about yourself for supporting a pro-life administrator, but hate yourself for their disregard of the environment and their idolatry of the marketplace. Alternately, you can vote for the Democratic party, sacrifice your pro-life vote, support a greener stance toward the environment, and keep the market on a shorter lease. We can’t form a coherent ideology founded upon our faith because we are encouraged to be single issue voters. We are asked to compromise our beliefs in the name of not compromising our beliefs.

So here we are. The cultural wars leave us on the razor’s edge of dichotomies — right, wrong, or otherwise. We’re being asked deep, nuanced questions, and we’re expected to give a binary response. Anything less than that binary answer, and we’re not standing up for our beliefs. I’m not advocating relativism — actually, quite the contrary. There are right and wrong answers to many of the questions we are being asked — unfortunately the list of answers we’re presented with often doesn’t include them.