I have been a lurker of the “Is Evolutionary Theory a Fallacy” thread for a bit and one comment by OP really struck me:
“Part of the problem here, I think, is that for some years I was a pastor and evangelist, so I tend to speak what I believe to be the truth without a lot of overly tentative qualifications.”
After my youth and own exploration of Christianity increased beyond basic tenets, I started to realize that most people and especially at the pulpit, spoke with authority on many things even in the faith that they only have tentative access to a limited certainty.
I remember learning serious challenges to various perspectives on science, interpretation, and the bible itself while the opposite was said in church despite knowledge of these issues. I found it dishonest and harmful.
I can understand our imperfect knowledge, beliefs, and ability to constantly move towards more true things is a limiting factor.
Sometimes it just seems that many places and people want to reinforce a certain variation of belief system. I would love a sermon with qualifiers, citations, and humility.
Perhaps the next time we get such a visitor we should start by asking for qualifiers and citation first, before diving any deeper into a question. I don’t think we can ask for humility, it’s either there or it’s not. More often not.
This reminds me of something that I picked up on when I was reading some of Bart Ehrman’s books 10-20 years ago (so I cannot remember the exact specifics). He seemed to be struck by the contrast between the degree of nuance and tentativeness expressed in an academic setting (including to preachers-in-training in seminaries), with the degree to which this is all stripped away at the pulpit.
You might want to check out your local UCC. Questions and doubts are treated as important aspects of faith (even discussed in sermons), instead of sweeping them under the rug, which appears to be the rule in many churches. Please don’t take that as a guarantee, as I’m sure there are exceptions.
In part this can probably be expected in many congregations because people want an authority figure to give them certainty, even with matters unrelated to the Bible. They don’t want nuance or complexity. I’m thinking about what I’ve personally observed in many areas of the Southern USA (because that’s where I’ve been in recent years) where lots of people want a pastor to confidently-without-any-reservations reassure them of what they already prefer to believe:
“Vaccinations are worthless.”
“Masks do no good and they exist mostly because the government wants to control us.”
“Climate change is a hoax, so we can burn all of the fossil fuels we want.”
“X is absolutely true” [without any analysis because that is the tradition I’ve known all of my life and I prefer to think that all of the traditions I prefer are absolute truths.]
Why has this happened? In part it is because Christian media has significantly changed in recent years to where much less of the airtime is devoted to the teachings of Jesus. That airtime has been replaced with a series of angry and dogmatic MAGA-conservative talk radio personalities who focus on politics and science-denial while making occasional generic references to Christian vocabulary.
The economist in me makes me ask, what created the demand for that media ‘product’? I cannot help but think that this “significantly changed” Christian media would not have been so successful if there wasn’t already a latent demand for it waiting to be exploited.
As a former Christian, who still has a good deal of sympathy for some aspect of Christianity, I cannot help but regret the de-emphasis of teachings of Jesus – which strike me as a more positive message than, for example, the Old Testament smiting and exclusionary tribalism, or the apocalypticism of some other parts of the New Testament.