Rick Perry, evangelicals and evolution as ‘a theory’s that’s out there’

Melina Mara THE WASHINGTON POST Presidential candidate for the GOP nomination and Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, faced a … Continued

Melina Mara


Presidential candidate for the GOP nomination and Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, faced a tough crowd Thursday.

At a New Hampshire campaign event Thursday, Rick Perry was asked about his views of evolution and the age of the earth, a not-so-veiled attempt to get the Texas governor to explain where he stands on Scripture and science. From ABC’s version of the exchange:

Perry went on:

During Perry’s time as governor the Texas Board of Education has faced intense national scrutiny for its re-framing of controversial subjects including evolution. In 2009, with Perry’s support, a bloc of social conservative school board members was able to change the state’s educational guidelines on evolution “to encourag(e) schools to scrutinize ‘all sides’ of scientific theory, a move some creationists hailed as a victory,” according to a CBS story.

Watch the exchange after the jump:

Perry has his roots in the Methodist Church but, according to reports, more frequently attends Austin’s Lake Hills Church, an evangelical church in Texas with Baptist ties.

And what does Lake Hills Church teach about evolution? In the sermon below, the church’s pastor, Mac Richard, calls those Christians who unquestioningly believe in Scripture’s literal version of creation “an absolute intellectual cop-out.” But Richard also called Darwinists like Richard Dawkins “arrogant” and called for “strict Darwinists” to instead approach the subject with “humility.”

“Could God have done creation in 24 hour periods?,” Richard asked in the sermon. “He’s God! He could have blinked universes into existence and make it look like they’ve been here for billions and billions of years. Or God could have initiated creation and used an evolutionary process that defies ever fully grasping what happened. Again, he is God. And to be able to step back and worship him as God, to be able to humble ourselves to say that we are not God is the ultimate message of biblical creationism.”

A number of news reports in recent weeks have examined evangelical views on evolution, an issue that many observers say threatens to divide the Christian movement. R Albert Mohler, an On Faith panelist and president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty that the debate “goes to the heart of Christianity,” and has said that “the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures.”

Image via Christianity Today.

And in a June cover story, Christianity Today wrote that the religious debate over evolution has the potential to become a “groundbreaking science-and-Scripture dispute.”

Still, skepticism about evolution goes far beyond evangelical circles. A 2009 Gallup poll showed that only 39 percent of all Americans “believe in the theory of evolution.” The rest were unsure or rejected evolution outright. Gallup also found that “those who attend church most often are the least likely to say they believe in evolution.”


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
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