As you’ve probably already heard, churches all over the United States are going to be simulcasting and broadcasting the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate. They’re catering food, converting their sanctuaries into live theatres, and turning the affair into a huge publicity event—but why?
Is it because Christians simply love debating? Whether the topic is about abortion, gay rights, Calvinism, gender roles, politics, or evolution, nothing seems to attract American Christianity’s attention like a doctrinal conflict, especially concerning creationism—the very explanation of our existence.
In many ways Bill Nye is the perfect villain for many Evangelical Christians. He’s a TV star, a scientist, a liberal—representing everything that’s wrong with our secular society.
For many eager and excited Christians that are anticipating this showdown, Ken Ham will victoriously and authoritatively strike down Nye via the righteous truth of Jesus our Lord and Savior—it’s a guaranteed victory, even if the polls or data or anyone suggests otherwise. But what is the real message being broadcast to our world? How does this event reflect on Christianity?
When non-Christians watch tonight’s debate, I pray that they’ll understand that this is just one man (Ken Ham) who couldn’t possibly represent the complex and diverse and expansive belief system of Christianity that consists of millions of people and includes an infinite number of variances and differences.
And yet the legions of people utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Cable TV, Blogs, and other forms of media may not make such a careful distinction.
Unfortunately, I’ve already seen the descriptive labels that are being used to promote the debate: “Christian vs. Scientist” “Faith vs. Reason” “Creationism vs. Science” along with a litany of other descriptors that paint Christians as illogical and unscientific morons.
Whether I like it or not, my faith is being represented by someone other than myself. I’m guessing that the contest will quickly devolve into a war of words involving both scientific and Christian jargon that will become almost impossible to understand, but for me, the information won’t be nearly as important as the tone by which it’s delivered—and this makes me nervous, because as a Christian, my faith is about to be associated with terms, actions, attitudes, and information that I may—or may not—necessarily agree with.
But this is the world we live in, where our faith is often projected onto huge platforms that we have no control over. In the end, we’re often left to do damage control within our real lives—to the people we interact with daily—because of various “Christian spokespeople” that boldly represent us—whether we want them to or not.
Even more disturbing is that while Christians and churches are hyping up tonight’s debate, there’s far more serious problems that are receiving almost no attention: war, violence, poverty, economic inequality, human rights violations, and a variety of other horrible injustices.
Are churches scrambling to have their parishioners attend a fundraiser for the poor? Are they inviting people to donate their time and energy and money towards ending war and literally saving the lives of others? Are they simulcasting the violence in Syria or the famines in Sahel or the millions of people living in poverty-stricken conditions around the world? No, that stuff can wait, because right now we have more important things to do—like watch Ken Ham debate Bill Nye.
I wish it would end there, but it won’t. Because after the debate there will be post-debates, and debates debating the post-debates, and Facebook posts, and hundreds of back-and-forth Twitter wars concerning what Nye said and what Ham said and why this was right and that was wrong. Meanwhile, people will die and wither away, and the church will become distracted by something else. God help us.