Kevin Bauder on Anti-Intellectualism
Years ago, Kevin Bauder’s address “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving” was helpful and influential for me.
Admittedly, high culture—and especially academic culture—can provide an occasion for arrogance. People who invest years of their lives perfecting their mastery of an art or a learned discipline tend to become a bit testy when critiqued by dilettantes. Furthermore, they sometimes assume that their study grants them authority outside their areas of expertise. Even within those areas their competence may actually be less than they imagine.
Yet avoidance of high culture is not exactly a prophylactic against pride. Ugly as pride of intellect may be, it is not noticeably less sinful than pride of ignorance. Who, after all, is more arrogant: people who believe that they have a right to express an opinion because they have invested years of effort in the study and mastery of their subject, or those who believe that they have a right to express an opinion simply because they occupy space?
As for the objection that one had better spend his time winning souls, it supposes that those who spurn high culture will actually employ a comparable amount of time in witnessing or other spiritual pursuits. The fact is that they rarely do. People who refuse go to the concert hall or the art gallery do not simply go to church. They also go to the ball game. Those who reject education rarely give themselves only to evangelism. They also watch television or go fishing. That is not necessarily a problem: ball games and fishing are enjoyable and legitimate activities, but they are hardly more spiritual than hearing Mozart or looking at a Rembrandt.