In its latest issue, Time magazine “assembled some of the smartest people we know to identify the trends that are most likely to affect our future.” Among those selected was Malcolm Gladwell, who had this to say about religion:
One of the big trends in American society is the transformation of the evangelical movement and the rise of a more mature, sophisticated, culturally open evangelical church. Ten years from now, I don’t think we’re going to have the kinds of arguments about religion that we have today. Even the fight over intelligent design, to me, is a harbinger of a trend, which is that the religious world is increasingly willing to put its issues on the table and discuss them in the context of the secular world. Let’s argue about evolution vs. creation, using the framework that secular science has given us.
This is part of an ongoing transformation. We will not continue to have this kind of divide between Evangelicals and the rest of society. I just went to an interesting evangelical conference, and throughout, rock bands were playing. The rock-’n'-roll culture within the evangelical world is indistinguishable in terms of the sound of the music from the rock culture that came out of a very different, irreligious secular tradition, except that the words are about Jesus–love and all that. They’re not resisting outside culture, they’re embracing it and kind of making it their own. I think intelligent design and Christian rock are similar. It’s about taking up form from the outside and trying to Christianize it. Does the debate over evolution matter? Isn’t it really a nondebate?
Gladwell seems intent on making a big point about the transformation of the evangelical movement, but the other panelists could not get beyond their disdain for intelligent design. I am interested in understanding Gladwell’s larger point, for which he uses intelligent design as a (counterintuitive) example. Rock music is his other example of “embracing” outside culture and “making it their own.”
But what is the point, exactly? Why are we not “going to have the kinds of arguments about religion that we have today”? Because evangelical Christians will become more secular or because the dominant culture will become more Christianized? Or something else?