Please forgive me in advance for this, but I have a rant that I just need to get out. It’s driving me insane. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through “The Truth Project,” a DVD series put out by Focus on the Family. It’s a series that attempts to lay out a comprehensive Christian worldview, and it talks about 12 areas: veritology, philosophy & ethics, anthropology, theology, science, history, sociology, unio mystica, the state, the American experiment, labour, and community & involvement. (I understand that it’s not entirely clear what some of those refer to, but that’s not really important. If you want to know, look it up online.)
Now you may be asking, what am I doing going through such a series? Well, I went home the weekend before Father’s Day, and my dad came to me and asked me, “Would you like to give me an early Father’s Day present?” I said okay, and he asked if I would watch this series. They had been going through it in their small groups at church, and so he wanted me to watch it as well, as he thought it was sure to answer the questions I had. This kind of made me angry. I had actually glanced at it before, since it had caught my attention sitting on the table in the house. I actually was interested in watching at least a few of the lessons. But the fact that he essentially guilt tripped me into watching it sort of frustrated me. Like, seriously, how could I say no when he asks for it as a Father’s Day present? I found putting it like that a little distasteful, really. But at any rate, since I really didn’t have too much of a choice, I said yes, I would watch it, and I took it back to school with me.
Well, I’m now over halfway through it – I just finished watching the seventh lesson of twelve. My dad had said it was very “intellectual,” so I would probably like it. All I can say is that it is one of the least intellectual things I’ve ever watched (at least as far as theology/philosophy goes, anyway). The teacher, Del Tackett, has three degrees, all of which have to do with computer engineering in some form or another, so you know he knows what he’s talking about. Wait, what? Why is a former director of technical planning in the US Air Force teaching me about theology? Shouldn’t that be done by, you know, a theologian or something? I mean, the guy’s not stupid, of course, but he’s not an expert in any of the twelve areas that he teaches about. So why is he doing it? In the lesson on philosophy, I wanted to shoot myself in the head. He talks about his first philosophy class that he took, and he said that the teacher mentioned how he couldn’t prove that the chair he was sitting on was real – and he looked around and said, “I’m paying for this?” But my question is…why then is he teaching a lesson on philosophy when he obviously has no understanding of it? Defining what we can know as true knowledge is one of the characteristic philosophical pursuits, and it’s an important one. His mischaracterization of Plato’s and Descartes’ philosophies made me want to jump in front of a bus.
But the inaccuracies I could forgive. No one, after all, can be an expert in everything, right? Of course, maybe we should all just stick to teaching what we are experts in, but perhaps Focus on the Family just doesn’t know any respectable philosophers or something. I don’t know. At any rate, what really gets my blood boiling about these lessons is his horrible dualistic view of the world. In almost every lesson he says something about how “this area is where the battle is the fiercest.” He is always talking about how “the world” says this and “the world” says that, but this is ridiculous. Do you think that the world is some homogenous viewpoint – one massive, singular culture? Of course not. “The world” is made up of Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Jews and Sikhs and atheists and agnostics and liberals and conservatives and libertarians and anarchists and monarchists and Marxists and capitalists and communists and utilitarians and pragmatists and deontologists and social contractarians and…well, need I go on? “The world” does not say anything with one voice. The world is a jumbled up mess of millions of individual opinions, and to try to display the fight as “us against the world” is the most naive, ridiculous garbage I’ve ever heard. And this is from someone who used to say the same thing. I simply realize now that this view of the world is incredibly ignorant. Of course, what he really means by “the world” is something like “the American liberal media.” He talks a lot about how the world tells us that we should follow our own desires and that outer beauty is what’s important and that God is not important. It sounds to me like his only view of the outside world is through television commercials. Here’s a newsflash: Most of the world is religious. Most of the world holds the same general values and commitments that Christians do. They value family, community, love, acceptance, and peace, and although they don’t do it because Jesus is inside their blood-pumping organ, they still find just as much family, community, love, acceptance, and peace. And what’s more, even the non-religious people find it too. Now, if Del Tackett wants to go on an anti-consumerism diatribe, that’s fine. I don’t think that consumerism or capitalism is the be-all end-all, and I fully support it. But don’t try to couch it in some hidden agenda that says, “Christianity gives us peace and love, the rest of the world has only misery and pain.” That is refuted by simply looking outside the window. The statistics prove him wrong.
But I could even forgive that. I find the “us vs. the world” speech simplistic, but perhaps he really only means to attack the commercialism of our day and age. Fine. I’m not a big fan of corporate advertising myself. Even further than that, though, what makes me want to stick my head into a wood chipper are the various internal contradictions that he spews forth. You’d think that even if you were saying something completely wrong, like that the sky was green, you could at least keep yourself consistently wrong. But he can’t even seem to do that. The notes that I’ve taken have left me with a few wonderfully horrible examples. In Lesson 3, on anthropology, near the end he starts saying that the world advocates self-interest and following one’s own desires. He paints this in opposition to Christianity, which says that we need to reject our own desires and follow something higher than ourselves. Then, he shows a video clip of a person (I believe he was a counsellor or psychologist of some kind) who, before he plays the clip, he says is not a professing Christian. This person then goes on to say how “we need to find something transcendent to ourselves to make our lives meaningful.” Wait a second. So this person, who is not a professing Christian, is saying the exact same thing that a Christian would say? Isn’t this guy part of “the world”, though? How can Tackett in one breath say that the world says we should follow our own desires, and then in the next give an example of a guy from “the world” who says the exact opposite? Can he not see how ridiculous that is?
Here’s an even better example. This one literally made me laugh out loud. And then I died a little inside as it was so painfully contradictory. In Lesson 5, on science, at one point Tackett mentions how man has a tendency to see his own position. He gives an example of a football game where one group of people sees a touchdown and another group of people sees an incomplete pass. They both witness the same data, but they instantly reach different conclusions based on their own biases. Then, literally in the very next sentence, he mentions that the more data that come in, the more we see the glory of God, and that the evidence supports this. What?! How can he honestly say that right after saying that we tend to see our own positions?! How can he say that the evidence supports seeing the glory of God, when he just said that based on the same evidence, we can see radically different things? Don’t you think he might be just a little biased toward seeing God in creation? My goodness, if I had a thousand faces and a thousand palms, I still could not facepalm myself enough times to account for this contradiction. That short section is the ultimate epitome of stupidity.
So no, I don’t find what my dad said to be true. I don’t find it intellectual. In fact, I find it very anti-intellectual. Oh, he uses big words and defines lots of things and tries to appear intellectual. But at the same time he denigrates the men and women who actually use their intellect in the fields of philosophy, science, and anthropology (to name a few) and have come up with amazing discoveries about us, about the world around us, and about the nature of reality itself. I don’t think that anyone who starts a section about philosophy with the verse that says to be careful that “no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” can be called intellectual. Such a person has set up mindguards to protect himself from intellect. What disturbs me most is that the people who will actually be watching this series – Christians, mostly – will drink it up without even noticing the horrible straw men arguments, the dualistic generalizations, and the outright contradictions inside it. That truly frightens me. It frightens me to think that we may be producing yet another generation that fails to see the crucial importance of developing critical thinking skills. I don’t mean to say that no Christian ever thinks critically. But anti-intellectualism and critical thinking do not mix well, and to embrace one means to leave the other behind. I just hope against all hope that we as humans can see the necessity of critical thinking. But I guess that’s something that “the world” must be giving out nowadays.