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Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Dudley
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.84
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Abortion. Homosexuality. Environmentalism. Evolution. Conservative positions on these topics are the current boundaries of mainstream Evangelical Christianity. But what if the theological arguments given by popular leaders on these “big four” were not quite as clear cut as they claim?

     Growing up as an evangelical Christian, Jonathan Dudley was taught that faith was defined by the total rejection of abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and environmentalism. But once he had begun studying biology and ethics, his views began to change and he soon realized that what he had been told about the Bible – and those four big issues – may have been misconstrued. Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics assesses the scientific and cultural factors leading evangelicals to certain stances on each issue, shows where they went wrong, and critically challenges the scriptural, ethical, and biological arguments issued by those leaders today.
     In Broken Words, Dudley applies the Bible and biology to challenge the fixed political dogmas of the religious right. Evangelicals are confronted for the first time from within their ranks on the extent to which faith has been corrupted by conservative politics, cultural prejudice and naive anti-intellectualism. A re-ordering of American Christianity is underway – and this book is an essential part of the conversation.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


"Jonathan Dudley brings theological sophistication, scientific savvy and historical sensitivity to this astute analysis of four central issues in today's culture wars. Broken Words is essential reading for anyone who aspires to reclaim evangelicalism from the Religious Right." –Randall Balmer, Columbia University Professor of American Religious History and Author of Thy Kingdom Come

"Hands down, Broken Words is the most insightful, clear-eyed, and popularly useful overview to date of why and how Evangelicalism has come to be such a powerful and intractable political and doctrinal bloc in American affairs over the last half century. Written in vivid, conversational style, Words also carries within itself the gentleness of affection and familial courtesy, for Dudley was himself reared evangelical. There is no meanness of spirit here, no clanging of swords. There is simply an urgent demand that we look now and accurately at how politics has led many among us to reversals of our historic faith and practice and, ultimately, to divisive and destructive civil policies and prejudices." –Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
"Jonathan Dudley has rendered a great service with this brilliant book. By taking on the use by social conservatives of both science and scripture to push their agenda with regards to abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and environmentalism, Dudley exposes the inconsistencies and contradictions in their claims as well as their methods of interpretation and arguing. The remarkable aspect of Dudley's book is its astonishing juxtaposition of scientific and religious knowledge and sensibilities. Dudley is equally educated in theology, biblical studies, and biological sciences. The combination is unusual and notable. The writing accessible and elegant." –Dale B. Martin, Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University


About the Author

JONATHAN DUDLEY has appeared on CNN's Newsroom with Kyra Phillips and his writing has been featured on Slate,, Salon, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, AlterNet, and the Yale Daily News. He is a graduate of Yale University, holds an M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and is currently a resident physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Product Details

  • File Size: 1252 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 5, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4WN6C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,026 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really, Really Excellent August 12, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was skeptical that a person of Dudley's age and educational background would have enough knowledge to write a book like this, but I was wrong. This book has considerable depth. I have taught biological science to non-majors and evolution to undergraduates at a major university, and my conclusions are largely congruent with Dudley's on the science. I have also read Mark Noll's "Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" which Dudley cites, and Dudley's historical information agrees with Noll's where the data overlap. The approach to interpreting scripture that Dudley would seem to prefer is consistent with that presented in the Presybterian "Confession of 1967". I haven't yet attempted to check out Dudley's assertions about the political history, but this will be aided by the 40 pages of notes provided (representing 20% of the book).

The real eye-opener to me was the history of the four main topics that Dudley discusses. I had no idea that the Evangelical stance on abortion was so recent and so different from Christianity at other times in its history. Dudley suggests that these four issues (abortion, positions on homosexuality, environment, and evolution) are important to Evangelicals for reasons that go beyond their understanding of the Bible. This gets into the realm of motives, which are a bit more difficult to pin down, but I suspect that his analysis is correct.

The book is well-written, easy to understand, and not too polemical. Dudley is sympathetic with Christianity and his Evangelical roots, and seems to try to present these viewpoints fairly.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Book July 16, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I too am someone who grew up through the evangelical tribe from a sound evangelical church and two years at Covenant College.

My first years in college (Belhaven) brought me face to face with a world that had merely been viewed in abstract, and confronted me with perspectives that were new and mind blowing. My freshman biology professor was the first person I'd ever heard who spoke unapologetically about evolution, my sophomore philosophy professor introduced me to analytical thinking (instead of culturing belief as something handed down from people that you never question).

This is one of the 10 best books on Christianity I've read in the last 30 years for the following reasons:

1) It carries me through familiar territory, but shows me pathways and river crossings never encountered. I know many evangelical friends who are pro-life, but neither I nor they had come across(or disclosed) the information on Jewish values (pp. 31-34).

2) It introduces me to an historical turn of events that affected my friends and family but left me in the dark. I completely missed the historical moment when the evangelical antiabortion movement joined with the Catholic NRLC.

3) It recalls truths learned in school 3 decades ago. In one particular it reminded me of a class taken my senior year in college (The Philosophy of Science, at Western Kentucky University). On p. 80 Jonathan points out:

"But if our interpretative lens is "cemented to our face", to quote Abraham Kuyper, then it cannot be taken off when we read the Bible.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of clarity, scholarship and brevity. November 26, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are a committed evangelical Christian then don't read this book because Mr. Dudley, born and raised a conservative evangelical, will demolish your comfortable world by showing that much of what you believe is based on illusion.

If you are a skeptical Christian on a spiritual journey, such as myself, who has shied away from involvement in organized Christianity, then you will want to read this book. The author, now a medical student at Johns Hopkins, holds a BS in biology from Calvin College and an M.A. in Ethics from from Yale Divinity School. He is also that rarest of humans: an intellectual who can write with brevity and clarity about controversial subjects without forcing the reader to keep a dictionary or encyclopedia at hand.

His thesis is simple: the four main props of evangelical Christian belief are naught but a set of anti-intellectual fulminations against gay marriage, environmentalism, abortion and evolution. This is where the clarity of his writing is so potent. Because he must have spent hundreds of hours of thinking and discussion and study on these issues before writing the book, he expresses himself very clearly. There is no obfuscation in his writing, no confusion, no wandering. As a writer myself, I know how hard this is to do especially with complex and emotionally laden subjects.

His calm explanation of these four issues and their resonance for evangelicals is brief and to the point. Finally, his entire book is informed by his scholarship and deep knowledge of the Bible and of centuries of Christian philosophy and theology. There are many instances where he points out that evangelicals have seized upon an interpretation of a Biblical verse by some dolt who I will refer to generically as Pastor Billy Bob of the Yahoo Megachurch.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read...but unsatisfactory ending...
An easy read, but seems to just kind of ends.....No real wrap-up or insight into what would help change the hypocrisy.
Published 6 months ago by Cliff Anders
5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to a World View
A very interesting look at the decline of the Evangelical mind, and an explanation of the Fundamentalist world view. Read more
Published 10 months ago by John R. Robison
5.0 out of 5 stars Evangelical Unveiling
For those of us not from the evangelical tradition, it can be a frustrating to attempt discussing issues such as evolution, abortion, gay rights or environmental responsibility... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rebecca, Reader Not Reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Author Received Much Flack.
That is why I wanted to read it and encourage you to do the same. There are those who want to force their world view on others regardless of the facts. Read more
Published 13 months ago by @DrCarlHoffman
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview of the origins for four of the issues facing the...
An extremely well written book that uses the history of the four big issues in the modern evangelical movement to examine those issues and debunk them.
Published 18 months ago by J. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biblical resource on abortion, homosexuality, evolution and...
"Broken Words" is a very well written and engaging book. It looks at four major and important topics: abortion, homosexuality, environment, and evolution, using biblical truth,... Read more
Published 19 months ago by John Thornton
4.0 out of 5 stars The Evangelical Opposition to Science
When Americans are polled about their religious beliefs, the fastest growing group since the 1990s has been the "nones" who say they do not identify with any particular faith. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Paul Froehlich
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a studied read.
I recommended it as one of the 5 best non-fiction books of the year. A good deconstruction of the radical right's devisive views. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Pauline Louise Bothfeld
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful and Insightful
This book puts in a nutshell several of the reasons the Christian right needs to rethink itself. Whether you agree with his take on the issues or not, this perspective needs a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Kristen Rosser
3.0 out of 5 stars :-/
It was pretty good. I think he addresses all the hot button issues with an open mind but I wish SOMEBODY would stay IN the church and work for change from within!
Published on February 20, 2013 by N. Shirley
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More About the Author

Jonathan Dudley is a graduate of Yale, holds an M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and is currently a resident physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He has appeared on CNN's Newsroom with Kyra Phillips and his writing has been featured on, Slate, Salon, AlterNet, Religion Dispatches, The Huffington Post, and the Yale Daily News.

Contact the author at


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