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Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics Hardcover – April 5, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Dudley clearly feels discussion, reasoning, and reconciliation rather than intransigence and rigid partisanship ought to be characteristic of popular evangelicals. Excellent argumentation, by no means only, though especially, for evangelicals."

"Jonathan Dudley is a young man on a mission, and in Broken Words he makes a significant contribution to fulfilling it."
-The Presbyterian Outlook

"Dudley's potentially controversial book is cleanly, persuasively written and based on in-depth theological and historical scholarship."
-Hopkins Medicine Magazine

"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, CNN.com, 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. 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385525265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385525268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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