One man’s “pullback” is another’s “full-scale retreat.” For that very reason, social conservatives have a right to raise questions about the new course ERLC president Russell Moore is setting for the Southern Baptist Convention.
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In this week’s Wall Street Journal, Neil King, Jr. offers a frankly disturbing profile of Russell Moore, the new head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
The tone is set by the title of the piece, “Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback From Politics, Culture Wars.” Since one man’s “pullback” is another’s “full-scale retreat,” social conservatives have a right to raise questions about the new course Moore is setting for the SBC.
Conservative Catholics are already expressing alarm at Pope Francis’s rebuke of the Church for being “obsessed” with issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of marriage. If the SBC were also to abandon the field of cultural conflict, as Moore seems determined to do, the two largest organized religious bodies in the United States will have ceded the field and the contest to our adversaries in the battle over societal values.
The Journal notes that Richard Land, whom Moore has replaced as head of the ERLC, unhesitatingly spoke of a “radical homosexual agenda.” Moore instead warns conservatives that gays and lesbians are not part of an “evil conspiracy.”
While most homosexuals aren’t in some kind of sinister partnership with nefarious forces, the same cannot be said of homosexual activists. Wikipedia lists no less than 72 groups in the United States alone whose mission is to normalize the “infamous crime against nature,” to demand special rights on the basis of aberrant sexual behavior, to radically redefine marriage and the family, and to demonize pro-family organizations as “hate groups” for disagreeing with them.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) are in fact part of an evil conspiracy to celebrate behavior that according to Romans 1 is “contrary to nature,” consists of “shameless acts” and causes participants to “receiv(e)...in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Yet Moore says that marriage shouldn’t be seen as a “‘culture war’ political issue.” When bakers, florists and photographers are being punished by government, when members of the military are being court-martialed for supporting natural marriage and told that pro-family groups are threats to national security, and when the SPLC hate map is used by a shooter to take a gun into the offices of the Family Research Council, that’s about as cultural and political as it gets. Someone must stand in the gap and fight for the First Amendment rights of these victims, especially their fundamental right to the free exercise of religion.
We cannot and must not surrender when our most deeply cherished values and the Constitution itself are being shredded. This is no time for the sunshine soldier and the summer patriot.
According to the Journal, Moore says we must “tone down the rhetoric and pull back from the political fray,” largely because of what he calls the “visceral recoil” to conservative positions on social issues among younger evangelicals.
But this is to allow the least mature, least experienced, and least wise among us to shape our message to the culture. Moore in this instance seems prepared to follow rather than lead, to go with the flow rather than swim against the current. But leaders do not follow public opinion; they shape it, especially when the issues are matters of biblical morality.
Moore warns that we must not be “co-opted” by the political process. But this seems to be what has happened to him. Even the Journal says he “is responding to this (cultural) drift.” He appears to have been co-opted by the slide of young evangelicals into moral relativism and by the Republican Party elites who want the GOP, in the Journal’s words, “to back off hot-button cultural issues.” Moore’s softer, gentler Christianity will give him a place in their inner circle. But it is more important to stand for the right principle than to sit at the right table.
Moore seems to have forgotten that Christ has not called us to be nice but to be good. Nice people never confront evil, but good people do.
At one point, Moore says “Christianity thrives when it is clearest about what distinguishes it from the outside culture.” I could not agree more. But the clearest distinction we can draw between our values and the values of secular society are precisely on the issues of life, marriage and family.
The one value Moore seems to be prepared to fight for in the public arena is amnesty for those who are criminal trespassers on sovereign U.S. soil. That hardly seems to reflect the biblical and American value of respect for the rule of law.
Ralph Reed says the conservative movement has experienced “a tough defeat” and now must adopt a “shift of tactics.” Someone needs to tell Mr. Reed and Mr. Moore that surrender is not a tactic.
Bryan Fischer is director of issues analysis for the American Family Association. He hosts "Focal Point with Bryan Fischer" every weekday on AFR Talk from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. (Central).
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