S5:E30 The Scopes “Monkey” Trial Part 2

S5:E30 The Scopes “Monkey” Trial Part 2

Did William Jennings Bryan kill fundamentalism when he took the stand?

The trial was basically over. The prosecution won. John Scopes was moments away from being convicted of teaching evolution in Dayton, Tennessee. The ACLU and the prosecution had what they wanted. But Clarence Darrow did not. He wanted to make a monkey out of William Jennings Bryan, the famous “fundamentalist”. But how?

Clarence Darrow sets a trap for William Jennings Bryan

Darrow knew that if he turned down the chance to make a closing argument that Bryan would not be able to make one either. That meant that Bryan’s carefully crafted words would never get heard. But he had one more trick up his sleeve. He would call Bryan, the lawyer for the prosecution, to the stand. Imagine that! The case was no longer about the defendant. It was about the lawyers trying to flex.

Bryan took the bait. He got on the stand outdoors next to the Rhea County Courthouse in front of an audience of millions. Darrow, in a masterstroke, hit him over and over with the questions of any village atheist. Did Jonah really get swallowed by a large fish? Did the sun really stand still because Joshua prayed that it would? And Bryan… floundered on live radio.

Inherit the Wind gets the story of the Scopes trial all wrong

This event was made even more famous by the long-running play Inherit the Wind on broadway, which was followed up by a movie adaptation. But the play got it all wrong. Edward Larson, professor at Pepperdine University, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Summer for the Gods, joins Chris to uncover what really happened on that muggy summer day.

Helpful Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • Bryan believed in majoritarianism. What is that idea? What do you think of it?
  • Do you think Bryan should have gotten on the stand? Why or why not?
  • How did Bryan do on the stand in your opinion?
  • Does this court case matter in your understanding of fundamentalism?
  • How and when should Christians make stands for their beliefs? When should we stay quiet?
S5:E27 Eugenics

S5:E27 Eugenics

The history of eugenics and Buck v. Bell

Eugenics. It’s one of those words that gets thrown around these days, often by people accusing “the other side” of wrongdoing. But what is eugenics?

I invited law professor Paul Lombardo, author of “Three Generations, No Imbeciles”, to join me to try to answer that very question. It turns out that that question is harder to answer than you’d think. In the early 1900s, the word “eugenic” was often used to mean “pure” or to imply that a product was healthy for babies. But that word also extended into segregating certain populations from society and forced sterilizations.

It is important to understand the history of eugenics because some Christians use the fear of eugenics as a lens to understand the Scopes “Monkey” trial. I think that is an accurate connection, but we really should understand it. Did William Jennings Bryan support eugenics? Can Christians support eugenics? Many did. There were even competitions that rewarded pastors for writing pro-eugenics sermons. That was especially true for liberal pastors.

In this episode, we attempt to answer some tough questions. I hope you enjoy it!

Helpful Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • What is eugenics?
  • How did the term “eugenics” differ in the early 1900s from today?
  • Are you in favor of eugenics? Why or why not?
  • How is eugenics tied to evolution? How is it not?
  • Do Christians have a responsibility to play when it comes to protecting people with special needs?
  • What can we do to help those with special needs?