For God and Country: Russell Moore on Love and Humility in American Politics
In October 2016 just prior to the Presidential Election, we interviewed Dr. Russell Moore—an Evangelical ethicist, theologian, and preacher who has been named one of the top 50 influence-makers in Washington. Dr. Moore was dubbed by then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump on Twitter as “truly a terrible representative of American Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!” Well, we disagree. Listen as Dr. Moore shares his thoughts on love, humility, and power in American political life.
.@drmoore Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2016
0:00—Show introduction and all about Russell Moore (including a shout out from @realDonaldTrump)
3:22—Russell Moore on his vocation
4:00—The 2016 presidential election and beyond
6:45—Nicholas Carr, Utopia is Creepy
7:00—The 2016 election and other elections—what’s different now?
8:25— Humility and the presidential office
11:35—What’s the role of the church in public life?
11:46—Reference to Dr. Moore’s book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel
13:00—Mentions Pope Francis’ culture of disposable people (his first major statement as pope)
15:25—The current state of Christianity in America
15:40—Christians and the Moral Majority
17:04—“A genuinely authentic Christian witness is always going to be counter to the way of the flesh and the way of the world.”
19:00—Jesus’ definition of power and ours
20:50—Christian “engaged alienation”: What is it? How does civic friendship fit in?
21:55—Proper ordering of love
23:25—”We can be Americans best when we’re not Americans first.”
24:00—Why does religious liberty matter?
28:10—How should the church interact and cooperate with the state?
29:06—Religious freedom and the importance of sexual ethics within major religions
31:17—Loving those we disagree with
35:04—End interview, credits
Quotes by Russell Moore
- “We can be Americans best when we’re not Americans first.”
- “We’ve seen ‘we’, as being the United States of America first, rather than seeing ‘we’ first as the global body of Christ, as a member of the church of Jesus Christ.’ That changes the way that we see people on the outside. It changes the priorities that we have.”
- “Our love has to be defined primarily in terms of who we are as the kingdom of God.”
- “If we have an unbounded patriotism, then we end up with an alternative religion and we end up with an idol. If we have the patriotism that is bounded, the patriotism that is a subordinate love, then it’s something that is deeply powerful and quite right.”
- The Table is sponsored by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and The Blankemeyer Foundation
- Theme music is by The Brilliance
- Production and engineering by The Narrativo Group
- Edited and mixed by TJ Hester
- Production Assistance by Laura Pelser
- Special thanks to Russell Moore, Sam Dahl, and Gary Lancaster at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
- Evan Rosa on Twitter
- CCT on Twitter
Evan Rosa: “The Table Audio” is made possible by the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust.
Dr. Russell Moore: We can be Americans best when we’re not Americans first. That’s not only a Christian principle, although it certainly is, but also is an American principle. In the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble of the Constitution, all recognize that the state is not ultimate and that even kinship and country, these things aren’t ultimate.
There is something beyond that that bestows upon us our rights which the Declaration refers to as God. That has to be kept in mind all the time, is how do we order our loves, and where do we see the priorities there?
Evan: I’m Evan Rosa, and you’re listening to The Table Audio, a podcast about seeking Christian wisdom for life’s big questions.
My guest for this episode holds a special honor. Well, sort of. In May 2016, leading up to the fever pitch of the presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted, and I’ll save you the impersonation, “@drmoore Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!” How’s that for an introduction?
I’m confident you’ll conclude otherwise after listening to this episode. Russell Moore serves the Southern Baptist Convention as the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which he describes as its morals and public policy arm. He’s an ethicist and theologian who bases his moral perspectives and theological views in the kingdom of God.
As someone deeply concerned with integrity between public and private, he champions the vulnerable. Those on the edges of society, such as the disabled, the political refugee, the undocumented, the working poor, and on the edges of life, such as the unborn and the elderly.
If this person is a truly terrible representative of evangelicals, well, then so much the worse for Evangelicals.
I interviewed Dr. Moore on October 2016, just weeks before an election that sent America and many in the American church spinning. Maybe, like me, you’re still a bit dizzy. His comments are just as relevant now as they were then, perhaps even more so.
In the time since Dr. Moore has continued to be a model of civility and conviction despite constant attacks and plenty of upheaval, has made it his goal to continue reminding both his own Southern Baptist denomination, as well as many Christians beyond what Jesus ethics imply about life today.
In this episode, Dr. Moore and I discuss the disaster of the moral majority mindset for the church. The Christian calling to engage alienation, and civic friendship, humility and love, and political life, as well as his views on the importance of religious liberty.
Dr. Moore, thank you for joining me today. I wonder if you might introduce yourself. How do you like to describe your vocation?
Dr. Moore: My vocation as I see it is to connect the kingdom of God to the way that we live our lives as families, as churches, as persons, as individuals. I do that right now as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the morals and public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Evan: You’ve been engaged in the conversation, especially, from the perspective of the evangelical world and conservative political perspectives in this recent election. I just wonder if you’d give us a snapshot as you see the election currently today. What are you thinking about this current election cycle? [laughs] What do you think?
Dr. Moore: Well, I don’t drink so that’s off the table for me.
Dr. Moore: Beyond that, my perspective right now is looking beyond the election to the massive rebuilding that is going to need to take place for the witness of the church after this election, no matter what happens. That’s where I’m looking right now.
What we see going on in this election season, right now, is the end result of some trends that have been happening for a long time in American life. I take a cue from that old Grateful Dead song, “Touch of Grey.” “It’s even worse than it appears, but it’s alright.”
Dr. Moore: Meaning that there’s a kind of resilience in the American republic. Then, of course, beyond that there’s the triumph ultimately of the kingdom of God. We ought to keep that in mind. We will survive this, but on the other hand we see [laughs] a situation I don’t think any of us even on our most pessimistic days would have predicted.
Evan: Part of the media message, it seems like this season, both the pundits and the commentators and even in the social media bloat around the election is that this election cycle is truly different. We reached a new low, you might say.
We need a long-term vision insofar as our hope does not come from a presidential election, but I wonder. Do you think that it’s true that this election cycle really is different, or is this just par for the course in contemporary, modern politics?
Dr. Moore: No, I think this election is different from what we’ve seen before. In previous elections, no matter how nasty they may have become, there was still a sense of the dignity of the office of president that continued through the campaign in a way that we don’t see this year.
We’ve always had candidates who were involved in scandals and so forth, but there was a sense of, at least, public shame about those aspects of that candidate’s life in a way that is not the case this year, really, across the board.
No matter what party, no matter what political movement someone is in, that’s different. There’s some cultural trends with reality television, with pornography and our view of women and other things that have come together in making this presidential election able to be what it is.
Nicholas Carr has a book called Utopia Is Creepy. He’s talking about how this presidential election is, in his view, different because it’s the first social media election.
Obviously, not the first presidential election where there has been social media involved, but it’s the first presidential election that is defined narratively by social media. The example that he gave was Richard Nixon in 1960 lost among other reasons.
One reason is because he was running a radio campaign in a television era. He didn’t understand how campaigning had moved into a television era in a way that John Kennedy did.
He said this year you have candidates ranging from Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton running a television campaign in the first social media election. He gives the example of all of these things that Donald Trump has said that would be disqualifying in any other year for any other candidate.
John McCain’s not a war hero because he was captured. Then all the various things about women and others. In a typical television election, a candidate, in order to survive that, would need to come forward and give some explanation, show some contrition in order to move on.
Now what you do is simply move on to the next thing. You just crowd it out with one more outrageous incident that keeps everyone talking.
Evan: Because the social media will forget that at some point.
Dr. Moore: It’s a social media world. It doesn’t follow the kind of narrative script we’re accustomed to. I think he’s right about that.
Evan: Some people would joke about this, but I take it seriously. Is it possible to be humble from the office of the president and bear that dignity and acknowledge the role of honor and shame that you talk about?
Is it possible to be a humble leader, to be a humble politician? Should we expect humility from our president?
Dr. Moore: Well, if you look at our presidents, what it takes to give one’s life, to going through what we expect a president to go through means there’s going to be a certain sort of personality type that’s going to do that.
Now it’s not always the same personality type. You contrast, for instance, an ebullient extrovert, like Bill Clinton, with President Obama who is more introverted, more reflective.
But still, there has to be a certain kind of confidence that would lead someone to say, “I can do that job. I can win that job and I’m willing to endure the sort of just everyday onslaught that comes by doing that job.”
If it’s true that hypocrisy is the hat-tip that vice pays to virtue, and I think that’s true. In the past, we’ve not always had humble presidents by any means, but we’ve always had presidents who, at least, gave a hat-tip to humility.
Presidents who understood that part of what it means to lead is to, at least, acknowledge a necessity for humility. You see that, really, across the board with our presidents in the way that they have spoken. Even Richard Nixon, for instance, would speak that way even if he’s not living that way.
This year, we really don’t even have that in the mix as part of the conversation. Humility itself is seen as weakness, and I think that’s…
Evan: Something to be joked about.
Dr. Moore: Yeah, something to be joked about. It’s something to be feared, and it’s something to run away from. A sense of humility or even a sense of not knowing immediately all of the answers, is seen as being a sign of weakness. That’s something that is deeper than politics, is something that has happened in American culture.
Evan: Which is to say that there’s this intellectual pride. There’s a stubborn dogmatism around it that prevents even the suggestion of a conversation.
Dr. Moore: I wouldn’t call intellectual, I would call it intuitional pride. Even the intellect is suspect. In order to, for instance, talk about sitting down with experts and coming up with a plan.
Evan: Listening to them.
Dr. Moore: Listening to them is itself a sign of weakness. What we’re prizing this year is a gut, a feeling that doesn’t need anyone. It doesn’t need anyone else. That’s quite different.
Evan: Power and weakness are themes that are emerging here. I wonder if we could just loop in the call and the role of the church in public life. What principles are foundational for you?
You talk about this in your book, “Onward,” about living in the tension and bearing witness to the kingdom of God while we’re still in the world. What are the foundational principles here for you that motivate the church’s engagement in public life?
Dr. Moore: The first thing is a robust understanding of the kingdom of God. Jesus tells us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” That applies to our personal lives. That also applies to the way that we live life together in neighborhoods and in communities.
We have to have consciences that are shaped and formed by the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, in my view, teaches us what matters ultimately and who matters ultimately. We’re the people who have a long-term view of life.
That shows up in our own lives in terms of, if one sees his or her life as being the next 60, 70, 80, 100 years. Then that’s going to change the things that you value, and the things that you prize.
It’s also going to change the things that you fear, but if you see your life as the next trillion years, that’s going to change that for you. The same thing is true in the way that we live together as cultural groups. Do we see ourselves long-term, or do we see ourselves short-term? Do we see other people in a short-term vision or a long-term vision?
When Pope Francis talks about a culture of disposable people, he’s exactly right. The way that we often see people in terms of their usefulness to us. People who don’t have the kind of power that we value right now are people that we don’t even pay attention to.
That runs the spectrum from unborn children to sex trafficked women, to immigrant communities, to minority communities.
Evan: They’re marginalized.
Dr. Moore: Exactly. We tend not to even pay attention to them. Where if you look at the New Testament vision of the kingdom of God, we care about the vulnerable, and we care about the poor, not out of a sense of charity in the way that we would define charity in contemporary American life, as we’re giving you something that you need.
Instead, we see those people, James 2, “Don’t you know that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” That woman in your congregation who can barely speak English, and who is working three jobs to feed her family, is someone who ultimately, if she’s in Christ, is a joint heir with Jesus and a ruler of the universe. Romans 8 teaches us.
That changes the perspective that we have of people. When we know that, and then we also know how the kingdom comes, that the kingdom is embedded right now in these local communities of churches that are bearing witness to the fullness of the kingdom coming later.
Then that changes our expectations, just as it does in our personal lives.
Evan: It does.
Dr. Moore: If you have someone who thinks, “Well, now that I’ve become a Christian, I’m going to be free from suffering.” Then you have somebody that doesn’t understand Christianity. You must suffer with him in order that you will be glorified with him.
Jesus says, “I’m telling you ahead of time, that these things are going to happen.” Same thing is true, socially and culturally. If we understand the fact that the kingdom is here, but Jesus is visibly ruling right now over His church not yet over the rest of the world, then we’re going to expect the tumult that we see around us.
We’re going to be people who bear witness to a different way, but not people who are panicked. That’s what is happening to many Christians right now, is a sense of fear and a sense of panic that can lead either to a numbing, where we don’t even pay attention to our neighbors anymore.
Evan: Or an apathy.
Dr. Moore: Or an apathy, or to a just perpetual outrage.
Evan: There’s been this perspective over the last several decades, and maybe even longer that Christians have thought about a loving public presence as merely legislating Christian morality and entrenching it into public life, by the means of the law.
That of course, requires a majority perspective. You need to convince and persuade people at a majority level to get these laws into action.
I wonder what you think about that approach in light of the fact that you talk about the recent immigrant and the weakness that is represented in those on the margins. The unborn, those at the end of life, those in racially divisive and poor communities, those are minority perspectives.
You have a term for this. You talk about prophetic minority as opposed to the moral majority. I wonder if you can put those in contrast, especially through the lens of humility.
Dr. Moore: Well, I think the moral majority mindset has been disastrous for the church. One of the chief ways that it’s been disastrous is because it’s built upon something that isn’t true. It takes a willed denial of reality in order to move forward.
That understanding is, well, we are the real America, and we represent the majority of people. Most people are either with us or they wish they were like us in American life in a way that that isn’t true nor has it ever been true. Not only in American life but in any culture around the world.
A genuinely authentic Christian witness is always going to be counter to the way of the flesh and the way of the world. In order to see ourselves as a majority, what we’ve had to do is to redefine the gospel.
That means that instead of centering ourselves around Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we’ve had to center ourselves around values, and the values that we can build a majority around.
That’s been disastrous for the witness of the church. Now, that doesn’t mean that building majorities is not important. We have to build collaborative majority. Sometimes issue by issue with persuading people about questions of justice and things that are important to our living together.
We don’t do that by redefining who we are. I think that’s what’s happened to a lot of us within evangelicalism.
We’ve seen we, as being the United States of America first, rather than saying, “We first as the global body of Christ, as a member of the church of Jesus Christ.” That changes the way that we see people on the outside. It changes the priorities that we have.
You think about the way the apostle Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 5, when he says, “It is not those on the outside that I judge. It is those who are on the inside.” He’s talking about the accountability that comes with discipline. We’ve often reversed that where we don’t confront and talk about our own sins on the inside of our body.
We instead seek to hold accountable people who are on the outside and to rail against them as though they were the enemy instead of our mission field. That’s not been good or healthy for the church. That majority mindset, it leads us to a sense of power that is contrary to the way that Jesus defines power.
Jesus defines power through the cross and through the witness that comes through the shedding of blood, and through crucifixion, and through the way of death.
We tend to define power often in carnal terms, in the way that the devil defines power in the temptations of Jesus, in ways that have caused us to become almost immune to the Gospel itself. We don’t recognize it when we see it. That’s been a problem.
Evan: For more from The Table and Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought, check out our website at cct.biola.edu. You can sign up for our regular email journal and get access to hundreds of free resources, like eBooks and short and long form articles, thought pieces, all sorts of videos and audio.
Everything we do features Christian perspectives on the big questions. What is love? Can we grow from suffering? Can we disagree? How can practices of humility, gratitude, and forgiveness lead us to the good life? What does it mean to be human?
For example, you can find original video interviews with philosopher, Eleonore Stump, or theologians, Stanley Hauerwas and Miroslav Volf, or event videos from Cornel West and Robert George on How to Disagree with Civility and Humility and psychologist, Robert Emmons, on the Proven Effects of Gratitude for Human Flourishing.
For these resources and much, much more, visit cct.biola.edu. Now, back to the show.
Evan: In your book “Onward,” you suggest that Christians are called to an engaged alienation, Christianity that preserves the distinctiveness of our gospel while not retreating from our callings as neighbors, friends, and citizens. This jibes with something I heard from R. R. Reno, the editor of “First Things” recently.
He came to be at the table conference with us. He suggested that the primary form of love in public life isn’t a zealous social action or maybe even love of enemies, but is a civic friendship. He’s talking about common devotion to one another, family life, so marriages, and friendships, and local communities.
He also incorporated a love of country, a patriotism in that civic friendship. I wonder what you make of your concept of engaged alienation with this idea of civic friendship. What is the presence of love that is going on there?
Dr. Moore: The two go together as long as the loves are put in the right priority. Augustine, when the Roman Empire was falling apart, was talking about the city of God and the city of man being defined by one’s loves, being defined by one’s affections.
Our love has to be defined primarily in terms of who we are as the kingdom of God, as those who love Jesus, and who love his kingdom, and who love one another, and who love our enemies because of that. Then all of these other subordinate loves flow out of that rather than the other way around.
One of the problems that can come with any idolatry, whether that’s nationalism or whether that is the way that we can make an idol, for instance, of the family. Family in the New Testament is important. We’re called to husbands love your wives, wives love your husbands, children obey your parents, fathers don’t exasperate your children.
Those are all very important messages of discipleship. And yet Jesus also says, “If one does not hate mother or father on my behalf, then one cannot follow me.” Now how do those two things fit together? It’s not that Jesus is saying that all family life is eradicated or that family affection is eradicated.
He’s saying, “It has to be put in the right priority of what it means to follow Christ.” The same thing is true with patriotism. If we have an unbounded patriotism, then we end up with an alternative religion and we end up with an idol. If we have the patriotism that is bounded, the patriotism that is a subordinate love, then it’s something that is deeply powerful and quite right.
What I often say is, “We can be American’s best when we’re not American’s first.” That’s not only a Christian principle although it certainly is, but also is an American principle. The Declaration of Independence and the preamble of the Constitution all recognize that the state is not ultimate. That even kinship and country, these things aren’t ultimate.
There is something beyond that that bestows upon us our rights, which the Declaration refers to as God. I think that has to be kept in mind all the time is how do we order our loves and where do we see the priorities there.
Evan: Speaking of priorities, I wonder if we could shift in the conversation toward religious liberty and thinking about placing this idea of the prophetic minority, an ordering of our loves, as well as a vision for power and weakness that you talk about.
Seeing the gospel vision of that as flipped upside down from the world’s vision, I wonder if you might introduce, for those that are maybe less oriented and need to find some footing. There’s some confusion, I think, in the broader church about just what is at stake in the question of religious liberty.
What would be a brief introduction to what’s at stake in American public life, being a prophetic minority, seeking first the kingdom, and yet balancing that with religious freedom to keep Christian convictions alive?
Dr. Moore: Well, you think about Jesus before Pilate. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting.” Sometimes, Christians will look at that and say, “That’s right. We’re standing where Jesus stood.”
That means that we should simply suffer whatever it is that we’re called to suffer, and we shouldn’t even work for justice and for liberty in those areas. My response to that is to say, you’re not only standing where Jesus stood, you’re also standing where Pilate stood.
In the sense that Romans 13 gives the sword to Caesar, to the governing authorities and says that sword has to be used in very limited ways. Now, in a democratic republic, you and I are ultimately the governing authorities of Romans 13. The question is not only whether or not we will be persecuted, the question is whether or not we will be persecutors.
When we defend religious liberty, what we’re not doing is saying, “Look how many of us there are. You really don’t want to mess with us, or else you’re not going to get elected.” That’s not religious liberty. What religious liberty is, is to say, there are certain rights that are given by God that the state has no ability to coerce.
We differentiate between the church and the state, and the church and the world. We keep those roles and those vocations very different, because if we confuse them, then we end up with a state that is making itself God. Or we end up with a church that is attempting to govern in ways that the church has no mandate and no competence to govern.
When we’re fighting and arguing for religious liberty, we’re not just fighting for ourselves, we’re fighting for all of our neighbors. Which is one of the reasons why, when I, for instance, argue against a local city council zoning a mosque out of existence because it’s a mosque, I believe that’s wrong.
Why? Is it because I think that Islam is equally true with Christianity? No. It’s just the opposite. If you give to the city council the ability to zone the mosque out of existence just because it’s a mosque, the city council is acting as though it can convert people into Christians that way.
It ends this so-called problem in the community. That’s not the way the gospel works. The gospel doesn’t work through coercion, or through pressure, or through political power. The gospel works through the open proclamation of the truth. The restriction of religious liberty is really a denial of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.
It’s the assumption that people can be reconciled to God through some sort of pressure, rather than through the transformation of the heart. We’re the people who stand up and say, ‘We’re for religious freedom for everybody because we don’t believe that the state is God, and because we don’t believe that the state has power over the conscience.”
That means that we don’t have less conversation in the public space about our religious differences, it means we have more. It just means that no one has the sword to be able to play referee between those competing views. We don’t need the sword. We have the sword of the spirit which is the gospel.
Evan: What would be a balanced perspective, especially insofar as we’re in but not of the world? There’s got to be some level of cooperation with the state, and how you define that cooperation.
It’s going to have certain forms of compromise, and it’s going to have certain forms of consensus and an agreement about the relative amount of power and privilege that the church and the state both bear.
Seeing the freedom to retain Christian moral perspectives in public life, and in some cases with public money, how much should we begin to accept a loss of that privilege? How do we put that on balance with fighting for the right to retain those convictions?
Dr. Moore: The first thing that we have to do is to spend time explaining why we hold the views that we hold to people who don’t necessarily assume those things. Again, that goes back to the loss of that moral majority myth. We’re having to articulate what it is that we believe and why.
One of the really fatal misunderstandings that is happening on the more secular side of American life, is this understanding that ultimately, if you just put enough pressure, whether economic, or social, or political pressure.
Then evangelical Christians, and Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, and others, are going to abandon their views about, for instance, human sexuality and get on the right side of history.
That’s just not true. If one looks historically at what these religions hold to, sexuality, marriage, family, those issues aren’t minor pieces of those religions, certainly not of Christianity. They’re very major pieces of those religions, and they wouldn’t still exist without a commitment to those things.
We have to spend some time talking about, this is why we believe the things that we believe. When we define marriage the way that we do, when we talk about sexual morality as being only within the bonds of that one flesh union of man and woman, defined biblically, here’s why we believe those things. You may not agree with us, but this is what we believe.
When you say, “Get with the program or we’re going to punish you,” what you’re ultimately saying is, “Change your religion.” We’re not going to do that. We have to spend a great deal of time explaining that, and also explaining how it’s not in the interest of our secular neighbors to go in that direction of coercion.
Once one moves in that step of the use of majoritarian power to coerce consciences, that’s not only something that harms people on the more conservative religious side of American life. Ultimately, it harms people on the more secular progressive side of American life.
Which is why in the founding era, the Baptists, who were certainly very, very conservative on issues of the theology and immorality, were able to make an alliance with Thomas Jefferson who was certainly not in either case. Why? They both understood how these principles were for the common good, not just for the good of one group or other.
Evan: How do we get into loving productive conversations? Humble conversations with people that we disagree with.
Dr. Moore: We’re in an election cycle that has essentially a month to go at the time that you and I are having this conversation. I don’t think we can rework and reclaim that, that quickly. I think instead what we have to do is to have a long-term project of doing several things.
One of those things is shaping and forming consciences. What that means is the kind of discipleship, and the kind of scripture saturation, and the kind of teaching that enables people to see our moral obligations to our neighbors across the spectrum.
One of the problems is that political parties and political ideologies have become an alternative religion in American life. That’s one of the reasons why people tend to be completely with their political ideology and movement right down the line.
The church ought to have a distinct word, and that means a long term teaching of “What does it mean to care about human dignity? What does it mean to care about the common good?” That takes a long time of teaching.
The other thing is to recognize that people who disagree with us are not only created in the image of God, but people who disagree with us quite possibly may be the very future of the church.
Some of the people who are the most hostile to you in terms of religion right now, if we really believe in the power of the gospel, not only can it be turned around in a minute as God did with Saul of Tarsus, and with Augustine, and with CS Lewis, and with Chuck Colson. Also be the people that God uses to build the foundation of His church. That’s significant and important.
Then we need to have churches where we really are able to bear one another’s burdens. That’s why you’re in a situation right now where you can have some Christians who will say, “Well, abortion really doesn’t matter as an issue.”
Well, that’s a Christian who really hasn’t confronted the issue of the humanity of the unborn child, and hasn’t confronted the burden that is carried by a woman who has experienced that violent solution of abortion or the man who has participated in that.
When you have Christians who are saying, “Well, racial issues don’t matter. Racial justice isn’t a moral issue along the lines of abortion, or marriage, or family.” That’s a Christian who is saying to his brothers and sisters in Christ, “You don’t matter to me.” That has some severe implications for the future.
Building those churches where we’re really holding one another accountable and shaping and forming consciences together is going to make us, on one level, more distant from our political movements because we’re going to be more skeptical of them.
It’s also going to enable us to be more engaged. To be the people who care about a wide variety of issues, because we care about the people who are implicated in those issues. The pattern of the world around us is one that defines influence, and defines power, and defines strength in ways that are alien to the kingdom of God.
We have to be constantly asking, “Where have I accommodated to that vision of what the world defines as worth, and identity, and strength, and power? That means being deeply prayerful, and it means being self-critical, and it means constantly asking not only what are the issues that are dangerous.
Sometimes, the church thinks the issues that are really dangerous to us in terms of the culture are the things that are being debated on Facebook right now. Actually, the things that are the most dangerous to us are the things that aren’t being talked about at all around us. The things that we don’t even think to bring up.
Having the relationships, we’re able to say, “Where am I patterning myself in the way that just goes with the grain here instead of cross bearing.” We’re going to get that wrong sometimes. We all fall in many ways, and that’s why we need people around us to pick us up when we do and to give us a word of gentle nudging, in some cases.
Sometimes, rebuke as Paul does to Peter in Galatians 2. We need those relationships within the church where we can do that.
Evan: Dr. Moore, thank you so much for your time. Especially, thank you for that Grateful Dead quote at the beginning.
Dr. Moore: [laughs]
Evan: It’s going to be all right. Thank you again for your time.
Dr. Moore: Thanks for having me.
Evan: The Table Audio is hosted by me, Evan Rosa, and is produced by the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which is sponsored by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and The Blankemeyer Foundation.
Theme music is by The Brilliance. Production and engineering by the Narrativo Group. More info at narrativogroup.com. Edited and mixed by TJ Hester. Special thanks to Russell Moore, Sam Dahl, and Gary Lancaster at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as described at The Table Audio.
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