In June 1999, then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) appeared on the House floor to reflect on the Columbine massacre, and he proceeded to blame science textbooks for the murders. These tragedies happen, DeLay said, “because our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup.”
I remember thinking at the time that this was among the most offensive things I’d ever heard from a public figure. Here was a prominent congressman – a member of the House GOP leadership at the time – blaming lessons on modern biology for madmen killing 13 people.
DeLay’s comments came to mind over the weekend after I saw this tweet from megachurch pastor Rick Warren (via Jamelle Bouie).
In fairness, I should note that Warren didn’t specifically say he was referring to the tragic violence in Aurora, and he later deleted the message altogether. But the prominent evangelical leader did publish the tweet on early Friday afternoon, just hours after the public learned about the shootings. If his message was unrelated to the massacre, the timing was quite a coincidence. (Update: Warren insists the two are unrelated, and that he was talking about sex-ed. I have no evidence to the contrary, though given what most Americans were thinking about on Friday afternoon, it seems odd someone in his position could be so tone-deaf.)
Indeed, Warren’s tweet seems to suggest public school science classes necessarily lead young people to act like “animals,” which is offensive on its own, but is especially outrageous given the events of Friday morning.
Perhaps Warren’s political influence should be reevaluated given comments like these?
Jamelle added Warren’s “reactionary moralism – and willingness to pander to the prejudices of well-off suburbanites – is emblematic of what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.” That seems more than fair.