Written by: Everett Piper, Ph.D.
“What you have just seen is the difference between those who voted on the basis of religion versus those who voted on the basis of science.” Ron Reagan, 2004
It was ten years ago: Presidential election night, 2004. Ron Reagan, the left-leaning son of the former president, was serving as a political commentator for CNN. As the polling booths closed and the nation’s votes were being counted, a major newsflash was developing. It was the story of the “values voters”—the millions of people who said in the exit polls that morality, social standards, and, yes, even religion had been a determining factor in their respective votes. It was a story about “red states” vs. “blue states.” In Ron Reagan’s opinion, it was a story about science vs. religion.
As he looked in the camera on that November night in 2004, Reagan was visibly discouraged. He was honestly chagrined that so many people would permit their personal values and/or their respective religion to actually influence their political opinions and consequent vote. Ron Reagan, in fact, was disgusted. That night, as I sat in my living room watching his commentary, it was apparent that he simply couldn’t believe that in the modern era, our cultural direction could be swayed by a bunch of uneducated, red-state buffoons who actually think religion has a place in the public square.
Ron Reagan’s key premise was this: Religion is a private matter. Believe what you want but don’t confuse your personal faith with scientific facts. The head and the heart must be kept in separate spheres— segregated, if you will— so that we never use religion to inform our science, or science to inform our religion. Do your church thing on Sunday but don’t bring it to work on Monday, and, by all means, don’t ever let your faith and any corresponding personal values influence anything you do in the voting booth, in the workplace, or in the classroom.
Question: Do you believe this model of separating the head from the heart, fact from faith, science from religion is the best route to becoming a truly educated person? Or does your instinct tell you that we somehow lose the benefits of synergy and the magic of unity when we protect one set of ideas from another and, thereby, contrive the conversation to fit our own preconceived notions of what is right or wrong, true or false? Do you believe that we are standing alone as islands unto ourselves, or does your personal experience tell you something different: That nature, humanity, society, culture, and the world-at-large are somehow tied together by a common thread of certain unalienable rights and God-given responsibilities and endowments—what C.S. Lewis called the Tao? Do you believe in the segregation or integration of ideas?
I often think of this question and the corresponding story of Ron Reagan when I am asked to explain why I am so passionate about Oklahoma Wesleyan University vs. Michigan State University , one of my alma maters. You see, I believe you can get good education at Michigan State (I know—I am a Spartan) but I don’t believe my MSU diploma is great. There is a huge difference between MSU and OKWU and OKWU and almost all other colleges. When you boil it all down, it is the difference between segregation vs. integration. The difference is that we at Oklahoma Wesleyan seek to teach our students to think about biology, psychology, math, and business from the context of a comprehensive and unified “Truth.” We believe education is never complete if it ignores the verity that all truth is an integrated whole. Education that separates fact from faith, head from heart, and science from religion ultimately falls short. The best education teaches us to confront the false dichotomies of our day. Good education becomes great when it emboldens us as a community of learners to demand that our faith informs our facts and our facts inform our faith as we enter into the town square so confident in our beliefs that our behavior follows accordingly.
So, I have to admit, yes, I am one of those red-state folks who believes that my religion should influence my daily life and that my faith should permeate and guide everything I think, say and do.
Yes, I am “ignorant” enough to believe that science and religion both lead to the same end.
And finally, yes indeed, I am one of those “uneducated buffoons” who believes that the best education is one that instinctively eschews segregation of all kinds and, conversely, embraces the integration and application of all ideas into a meaningful and consistent worldview, (i.e. a life of integrity,) as nothing about which to be discouraged or angry.
As you read through this issue of the OKWU Tower, consider this: Segregation of any kind, whether it be racial, moral, political, theological or ideological is, in reality, an attempt to separate public life from private life. It is the opposite of integrity. It is hypocrisy. Integration, on the other hand, demands that we practice what we preach and that we “be” (notice the active verb here) the “salt and light “Jesus describes in Scripture.
Don’t forget that the fourth pillar of the Oklahoma Wesleyan mission statement is the “practice of Wisdom.” Don’t forget that God makes it clear that an active, obedient and integrated life is not optional, but to the contrary, a demand for those who claim to be believers in Christ. Don’t forget that impacting culture with the Lordship of Jesus Christ is not optional, but to the contrary, a demand of God.
Note to reader: This is an edited version of a chapter out of Dr. Piper’s book “Why I am a ‘Liberal’ and Other Conservative Ideas.” For further reading, visit here.