Alan Jacobs Can Evangelicals and Academics Understand Each Other? 

But, Dr. Harding wondered, aren’t anthropologists supposed to be interested in cultural structures and practices that are different from their own? Why would they be repelled by the idea of studying such differences right next door, among people who vote in the same elections they do? The title of her essay is “Representing Fundamentalism: The Problem of the Repugnant Cultural Other,” and the phrase “repugnant cultural other” (RCO) neatly describes one of the most common impediments to thinking rationally about those with whom we disagree.

Many academics would be surprised, I think, to discover how many evangelical Christians are political moderates or simply apolitical and how much they do to help the poor and needy in their communities with no spiritual strings attached. Similarly, many evangelicals would be surprised to learn how hard many academics work, whatever their political views (and many of them are apolitical also), to be fair to all their students, regardless of the students’ beliefs, and how much they worry about not being as fair as they should be.For many academics, evangelical Christians are the RCO; for many evangelical Christians, academics play that role. And having an RCO is one of the best ways to form and maintain group identity. Recent research by the political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood indicate that, in terms of social belonging, “outgroup animosity is more consequential than favoritism for the ingroup.” That is, it’s more important to hate the RCO than to affirm and support the people who agree with you. How do I know you’re One of Us? Because you hate the right people.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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2 Responses to Alan Jacobs Can Evangelicals and Academics Understand Each Other?

  1. Pingback: Evangelicals vs. Academics – Campus Edge Fellowship

  2. Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink says:

    The quote illustrates for me why Christian Reformed campus ministry is so important: because the Christian Reformed Church loves both the life of the mind (academics) and loving Jesus with one’s whole being (evangelicals), and CRC campus ministers have had years of practice in getting both academics and evangelicals into the same room to listen to and appreciate each other, and even work together.

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