Since becoming the political point man a year ago for the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore has more than once been interpreted as sounding a political and cultural retreat.
The Wall Street Journal last fall put Moore on its front page, under the headline, “Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback from Politics, Culture Wars.” More recently, Moore attracted attention when he called the idea of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman “a politically ridiculous thing to talk about right now.”
Such comments by Moore, who last year replaced Richard Land as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, have been seen by some as one of many signs that conservative Christians will stop talking about gay marriage and perhaps focus instead on less divisive issues such as human trafficking and immigration reform.
In a recent interview, Moore, 42, was eager to push back against that notion, as well as against the idea that he is advising anyone to stop advocating for traditional marriage. He also rejected the idea that conservative Christians should focus only on preserving rights of conscience and religious liberty, while ceding ground on the question of traditional marriage versus gay marriage.
“When the prevailing cultural narrative is that people who believe that marriage is a man-woman union are the equivalent of white supremacists or segregationists, then — that’s not true, first of all,” Moore said. “Second of all, we can’t simply say, ‘Well, let’s just assume that we are and let’s protect our religious liberty.’
“I think we have to work to protect our religious liberty while at the same time we are articulating why this is a reasonable view to have,” Moore said.
Below is a partial transcript of Moore’s interview with The Huffington Post, edited for brevity and clarity.
What were some of the fundamental errors that you think led evangelicals to take a head-in-the-sand approach to [gay marriage]?
For a long time, evangelicals assumed that American culture was with us on the values question here, and that same-sex marriage was simply isolated, something that some elites on the coast held to. The argument we would often use is that any time it came to a vote in a state, the state always approved traditional marriage. It was only when a court has imposed it that we had same-sex marriage. And for a long time that was true, but it was ignoring the cultural efforts that same-sex marriage proponents were giving their energy to, and ignoring some of the legal undercurrents. Many evangelicals assumed that this was something that would be relatively easily fixed by electing a Republican president or Senate or House, and not understanding the cultural current and not understanding the legal current, thinking of this simply as a short-term political issue, rather than a much, much bigger cultural issue with a political component.
So you’ve talked to many evangelicals who thought the momentum would change and go their direction depending on elections? You’ve talked to lots of people who think that?
Yeah. Because, for instance, when it comes to the issue of a constitutional amendment, I support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman. I think that would be a very good thing to have. But a constitutional amendment is a very difficult thing to actually get passed. One has to ask, suppose we do have a constitutional amendment ever pass: What’s between now and then? It reminds me sometimes of the sort of language I’ve heard before as it relates to the budget deficit, when we say, ‘What should we do about the deficit and debt?’ and the answer is, ‘A balanced budget amendment.’ And then one responds, ‘Well yes, but there’s not the votes in the Senate.’ It becomes a way to avoid the question, rather than a way to answer the question. We need to take on the posture of the pro-life movement, but the pro-life movement as it exists in 2014 in the equivalent of 1973, rather than having an evangelical movement and a social conservative movement that was — apart from the Roman Catholics — really taken by off guard by Roe v Wade, and it took several years for a multi-pronged pro-life movement to emerge. We need to have the same thing happening as it relates to marriage and sexuality, which means addressing these issues theologically, culturally, legally, and across the whole gamut, and equipping people to be able to articulate why we believe the things we believe about marriage, when those concepts seem very strange to the outside culture.
When they showed the Michael Sam footage when he got drafted, Colt McCoy’s younger brother, who I think is a quarterback at Texas, tweeted something like, ‘Really, ESPN, are you serious right now?’ Is that the type of perspective you’re talking about?
Yeah, what I often tell people in churches and at Christian conferences is about a conversation I had with a lesbian activist, a secularist, about a Christian view of sexuality. She said, ‘I don’t know anybody who believes the sorts of things that you people believe about marriage and sex and it sounds incredibly strange to me.’ And my response was to say, ‘Yes, and we believe even stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is going to show up in the sky on a horse.’ In order to try to say to our people, ‘You know, Christianity didn’t emerge in Mayberry. Christianity emerged in a Greco-Roman environment that found the Christian sexual ethic just as shocking and strange as American culture increasingly does now.’ So what do we do? We don’t run from strangeness. We instead learn to articulate it with clarity and with mission. And also to say you can’t find a shelter to keep you from having to engage these issues.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post