Nellie Smith

When You Argue With a Fundamentalist You Don't Know What You're Asking For

One of the biggest questions I received after writing about Trump, evangelicals, and the end of the world for RD was this: how do we talk to people who see the world as collateral damage in the pursuit of the Heavenly Kingdom? Is it even worth trying to nudge people out of that worldview? 

My post-evangelical advice? Be very, very gentle—you don’t know what you’re asking.

Here’s an exhibit. When I was twenty-one years old, someone finally knocked it through my thick head that the earth was old. I was halfway through Geology 100 when, on one otherwise dull afternoon, the professor said something—I don’t even remember what—and a puzzle piece snapped into place. I sat up straight. The earth was old. Not six thousand years old. Billions of years. What did that mean?

I’d grown up evangelical Christian. We weren’t as conservative as some—and, to the outside eye, we probably looked pretty normal—but like so many others, we were fully immersed in the evangelical worldview. While you wouldn’t find us picketing abortion clinics, all the core ideas were there under the surface: we were Biblical literalists and against same-sex marriage. We believed America was God’s country, voted Republican and pro-life, and expected the rapture at any minute. We were also six-day creationists, with science textbooks that warned us to beware of any statement that contradicted the Bible.

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