on anti intellectualism

In a very general way, what is referred to as “anti-intellectualism” is an attitude that tends to devalue so-called “intellectual” pursuits and as such often shows distrust in things like science, art, history, theology, and similar such things not unusually read in books. It can also tend to see academic study as pointless and vain and think those who pursue do so do it for vanity or to be elitist. It can be especially prominent in populist and religious circles (not always or only Christian ones either, but typically more conservative circles of such). One could go on…

When a strongly anti-intellectual attitude is voiced this is and can be very painful (if not traumatizing) to those who might have an intellectual bent or even have “intellection” as a “strength” such as with Clifton’s Strengths Finder (it is in my list of top five “strengths”) and see their strengths as being despised. The reality is, God has wired some to be this way – it is part of who they are – while others he has wired to be different but I think an anti-intellectual attitude is more taught and caught than it is something ingrained. Instead of appreciating one another’s strengths, we tend to play down such strengths as boring or morose. We prefer to keep things easy and simple.

It is sometimes seen as an enemy of faith and values when in fact much of our faith and values were formulated by those with an intellectual bent (the Apostle Paul was anything but an anti-intellectual). More often we tend to hold up Acts 4:13 as a model for this – Peter and John being “unlearned” and “ordinary” men. My view is that this was from the view of the overly intellectual Sanhedrin more so than the reality of the situation with Peter and John (both were well trained in the Torah as well). Instead, I think the Sanhedrin was feeling threatened so such labels were thrown about.

It is true too there are elitist persons who are intellectuals and who look down their noses at who they think might call more “low brow” kinds of people. This isn’t right either. Somehow there as to be a way for the twain to meet and to appreciate one another’s gifts and not disdain one another’s strengths.

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