Russell Moore & The Prophetic Minority
I know some of you just hate my blogging about SSM and the culture war, and if you are one of those people, avert your eyes for the next few posts. I’ve had to do a lot of reading on the issue in the past few days for the story I’ve written for the next issue of the magazine, and I want to post some of the more interesting things I’ve come across.
I interviewed Russell Moore for the piece. He’s 42, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s new man in Washington. Smart, faithful conservative. One of you readers posted a Naomi Schaefer Riley piece about him that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. He told her some of the same things he told me. The interview is by no means focused only on same-sex marriage; it’s all well worth considering. Excerpt:
His cultural revival plan is also to focus more on local churches. When the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage came down in June, Mr. Moore sent a message to pastors to help them talk with their congregants about the Southern Baptist opposition to the law. “We don’t hate our gay and lesbian neighbors,” he says, but redefining marriage on their behalf is another matter.
There are a couple of reasons why Christians are losing the debate over gay marriage, Mr. Moore says. One is that even many Christians don’t have a real understanding of what marriage is. “We have embraced certain aspects of the sexual revolution,” he says, like the “divorce culture.”
Another is that many people assume “my marriage is my business”—why should they care if their neighbors marry someone of the same sex? Mr. Moore says the part of the marriage ceremony when the pastor asks if anyone knows of a reason why the couple should not wed is like a “vestigial organ.” No one ever objects “except in romantic comedies,” but there was a time when a couple’s marriage decision was thought to be of church concern. He would like it to be again.
As a “prophetic minority,” Mr. Moore thinks his most profound political task will be defending religious liberty from the assaults of a secular government. The cause is at the heart of his plan to fight the contraception mandate in ObamaCare. President Obama may have thought that religious employers would accept being forced to pay for contraception, the morning-after abortion pill or sterilization under the law. “But we are not adjusting to the new normal,” Mr. Moore avers. “We are not going to go away or back down.”
Baptists are returning to their roots as a minority at America’s founding. He mentions how 17th century Virginia passed a law requiring that all ministers be ordained by the Anglican church—then the established church of the colony. Many Baptist preachers were jailed for resisting the law, which is said to have influenced James Madison’s views on religious liberty.
One of the jailed preachers was the prominent evangelist Jeremiah Moore, who wrote in 1773: “God himself is the only one to whom man is accountable for his religious sentiments simply, nor has he erected any tribunal on earth qualified to judge whether the man worships in an acceptable manner or not.”
History turns, but the fight for religious liberty is eternal. Says another Moore, 240 years later, “We are not going to go quietly into the night.”
I feel about Moore getting this high-profile position in DC the same way I felt when Ross Douthat landed his columnist gig at the NYTimes: that finally, somebody of my generation who thinks more or less like me has won a position of real leadership!
Anyway, it’s interesting to think about the concept of Christians as a “prophetic minority” in America today alongside Pope Benedict’s idea of contemporary European Christians as a “creative minority” (a concept Benedict borrowed from Toynbee).