Younger Evangelicals are rejecting the style and methods of the Christian Right but they are not becoming liberals, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, contended Tuesday at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum. Instead, they are embracing a counter-cultural, “freakish” message tied to the Gospel.
The culture wars are entering a new phase, Moore said, and in this new era, Christians should be more like the Grateful Dead than Merle Haggard.
In the early days of the Christian Right, Christians adopted a language similar to Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” two 1969 country hits that viewed liberals of the time as out of touch with the rest of America, he argued. Moving forward, Moore said, Evangelicals’ message should be more like a line from the Grateful Dead’s 1987 hits “Touch of Gray:” “It’s even worse than it appears but it’s alright.”
“I don’t think the culture wars are over, but I think the culture wars are moving into a new phase and will be different from what we saw in the last generation of the Religious Right,” he said.
Whereas an earlier generation of Evangelicals saw themselves as part of a moral majority fighting a small, elite group of liberals, the new generation will be seen as “freakish” and “strange” to the surrounding culture, Moore believes, and this is a positive development for Evangelical Christianity.
Evangelicals have lost the illusion that they are a majority in America, he said, and “I think that is a good thing for the Gospel and for the Church.”
While Americans have traditionally viewed church participation as necessary for acceptance in their communities, Moore believes that will no longer be the case. This means that there will be fewer “nominal Christians,” or those who call themselves Christian but are not committed to the faith. With this “reverse rapture” of nominal Christians leaving the Church, Moore sees an opportunity for the Church to rediscover its true mission.
“Moving into a more secularizing time gives the Church the opportunity to refocus on what the Gospel is,” he said. Citing 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul advises the Church in Corinth on how to deal with sexual immorality in the Church, Moore added that the Church needs to draw lines between “those on the inside from those who are on the outside … not in terms of level of discernment but in terms of accountability.”
SOURCE: NAPP NAZWORTH