On yesterday’s edition of the MSNBC chat show Hardball, host Chris Matthews had the following surreal discussion with Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention:
MATTHEWS: Let’s get to it. On Broadway right now, “Inherit the Wind” is playing. I hear Christopher Plummer is fabulous. I’ve always been a Brian Dennehy fan. Brian Dennehy is playing the William Jennings Bryant character. Are you surprised that three of the Republican candidates for president in our debate last week openly expressed opposition to a belief in evolution?
LAND: No. I’m not surprised at all.
MATTHEWS: Huckabee, Brownback and Tancredo, whereas John McCain basically said he is for evolution.
LAND: Of course, when I heard the question, I thought, you can’t answer that question in a brief sentence.
MATTHEWS: Let’s look at how they answered. Then I’ll let you do it sir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I believe in evolution, but I also believe when I hike the Grand Canyon and see a sunset, that the hand of god is there also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, somebody that, if you look at the Grand Canyon, you get one view of theology. You look over Flat Bush Avenue, you might have another one. Mankind hasn’t always improved on nature. I should say any where. What do you think of that answer? Was that a believers answer?
LAND: Yes, it is one that many believers would give. The first reaction I had when I heard the question–I watched the debate. And I thought, well, what do you mean by evolution? Do you mean the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins? That’s one question. Are you talking about evolution within species? Are you talking about inter-species evolution?
MATTHEWS: I think most people mean that mankind evolved from lower species.
LAND: Yes, well, I don’t believe that.
MATTHEWS: How many people in the evangelical world believe that even though it had the hand of god in our creation, that this was the way god created us, through evolution.
LAND: It would be a small minority among southern Baptists and a slightly larger minority among evangelicals. Sixty percent of American, across the board, say they believe in some form of creation.
MATTHEWS: Do they believe in the seven days? Do they believe in Genesis literally, the way it was written in scripture? Do they believe it that way? Or do they believe there is some license there in the writing and it could well mean–it could well conform even to what some people see as evolution.
LAND: Some do and some don’t. Some would dispute about how literal the Genesis account is, in term of the word day, whether the day was a 24-hour period.
MATTHEWS: We study that in school as kids.
LAND: Francis Collins is a strong believer, and yet he is a theistic evolutionist. The fellow who runs the Human Genome Project would tell you that he sees no problem between his understanding of evolution and his belief in the bible. So there would be, among evangelicals, not to mention Catholics and others, you would have enormous differences and gradations. But you would have a fundamental difference with the idea of the theory of Darwinian evolutionary origins.
MATTHEWS: Yes. If you say it was all an accident, and it was just a big bang a million years ago, and it ended up creating us sitting here now, a lot of people have a hard time with that, because it is unimaginable, that an accident led to somebody as serious as you sitting in front of me, that you could be created by accident is an amazing idea.
LAND: It takes a lot more faith to believe in the Darwinian theory of evolutions origins than it does–
MATTHEWS: I grew up Roman Catholic and we were taught evolution as part of god’s plan, that this was just the way he did it. You know, it wasn’t a challenge to our beliefs.
LAND: Well, I don’t agree with that, but it is an acceptable believe that many Christian have. By the way, I don’t think Catholicism is a cult.
MATTHEWS: We have to get away from that kind of debate. You know, there are some things we can’t debate on this show. Whether some religion is in or out is not our call.
LAND: I think it is preposterous for Americans to say that some religions are kosher and some religions aren’t. American have complete freedom of choice in religion.
MATTHEWS: By the way to believe in any religions a leap of faith. it comes with grace and it come with god’s help. And the idea that you can say one is better than the other is a hard case. Anyway, thank you.
LAND: Thank you.
The ecumenism of Land and Matthews is charming, but the fact remains the sort of Christianity to which both claim to adhere has as one of its main dogmas that non-Christians will spend eternity in Hell. I’d say someone’s passing judgment on which religions are, er, kosher, and which are not.
As for “the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins,” I’m not really sure what that means.
I’ll leave any further remarks to the comments.