July 25, 2000, marks the 75th anniversary of the infamous Scopes “monkey trial” verdict in Dayton, Tennessee. Already, many in the secular media in the United States have begun to commemorate the event (e.g., America’s national newspaper USA Today had a July 19 feature story on the Scopes trial as well as the creation/evolution controversy in the state of Kansas), but they are certainly not recounting it in a favorable light for Christianity.
It was actually Christianity that was on trial.Although the trial was over John Scopes’ illegal teaching of evolution in a public school in Tennessee, it was actually Christianity that was on trial because of the shrewd lawyering tactics of pro-evolutionary ACLU attorney, Clarence Darrow. He became a media darling, and remains so today for many in the print and broadcast media.
For example, a radio drama on the Scopes trial heard on public radio in Kansas on July 12 cast creationists in a highly unfavorable light, taking 10 days’ worth of court transcripts and condensing them to a 1-hour program. Much of the radio program focused on creationist lawyer William Jennings Bryan’s inability to defend the Bible and his Christian faith. The timing of this well-publicized radio broadcast in Kansas was intriguing: in November, some of the Kansas school board members who voted last August to mildly de-emphasize the teaching of evolution in its public schools are up for reelection.
More than one historian has declared that the 1925 trial was a turning point in the influence of the evangelical church in America. Sadly, the church was (and is today) largely seen as unable to defend the Christian faith and answer challenging questions, such as those posed to Bryan when he was on the stand during the Scopes trial (e.g., Where did Cain get his wife?)
Today, secular humanists are using the Scopes trial as a weapon to attack Christianity as a religion of blind faith—one that is unscientific and irrational.