WASHINGTON (BP) — The convictional but kind approach to cultural engagement promoted by the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist has gained the attention of one of the country’s top newspapers.
The Wall Street Journal profiled Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a front-page article Tuesday (Oct. 22). The article sets Moore’s approach since taking office in June — maintaining strong biblical stands on such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage while communicating kindness and grace to those who disagree — in the context of the change it represents from the previous tone often used by conservative Christian leaders.
[[email protected]@180=“We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it.”
–- Russell D. Moore]Evangelical Christians should soften their rhetoric on controversial cultural issues and resist political battles, The Journal cites Moore as saying. Yet, he “insists he isn’t seeking to return the Southern Baptists to a past in which [they] shunned politics entirely,” according to the article.
“We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it,” Moore told reporter Neil King Jr. “Christianity thrives when it is clearest about what distinguishes it from the outside culture.”
Evangelicals should refrain from becoming “mascots for any political faction,” Moore said.
Instead, he urges church leaders to address the “visceral recoil” among young evangelicals to the cultural war by being “winsome, kind and empathetic,” according to the article.
A political and cultural shift among young evangelicals, according to the article, helps explain why Moore faces a different challenge than did Richard Land, who served as the ERLC’s president for a quarter of a century before his retirement this year.
The transformation from an expectation of quick fixes politically and culturally demonstrates a new awareness among evangelicals, said Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
“What is happening right now with evangelicals is a disabusing of any idea of a simple victory of the right in a fallen world,” Dever told The Journal. “They realize that is not going to happen.”
While Moore calls for a kinder tone, the article reported that he has not shifted his positions: “He equates abortion with the evils of slavery, considers homosexuality a sin, and insists the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] will never support gay marriage.” Moore said there is “no doctrinal daylight,” as The Journal described it, between the SBC and him.
Moore began advancing what he describes as “convictional kindness” in cultural engagement after becoming ERLC president and offered his vision for such an approach in his first address to the SBC’s annual meeting in June and in his inaugural speech in September. The Journal quoted from both of those speeches in its article.
Evangelicals should continue to work for justice, but “we must also remember that we are not Americans first,” Moore said at his inauguration in Washington, according to the newspaper. “We belong to another kingdom.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Baptist Press Washington bureau chief. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).