Last week, Russell Moore, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, gave C-Span an interview in which he discusses the role of religion in American politics and culture. In his new role leading the ERLC, Moore will promote honest and civil discussion regarding ethics and social issues, reminding Americans that religion must have a voice in the public square. I’ve always been a fan of Moore’s thoughtful advice regarding how Christians ought to engage the world around them. Toward the beginning of the interview, the host asks Moore if he thinks that he’s on the losing side of the culture war. His answer sums up his approach:
I don’t like to think in terms of culture wars. I don’t think we are at war with one another in this country. I think we have very deep disagreements on issues that matter, but we come to that with civility and in conversation.
Moore recognizes that social conservatives who let the Bible shape their worldview are a decided minority in America. He claims that this minority needs to realize their position and speak prophetically. During the course of the interview, Moore fields questions from callers on both sides of the political divide. Callers from the left are angry with him because of his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Callers from the right can’t understand his position on immigration and can’t understand why he doesn’t want to use the rhetoric of “culture war.” I suppose that these callers have a right to be confused because they probably haven’t heard someone talk like this before. Moore offers an intelligent, cool-headed position, and most Americans have never experienced intelligence and cool-headedness in the context of discussing religion’s role in politics.
As Moore points out, Baptists have a tradition, hearkening back to the American founding, of supporting freedom of conscience. Supporting freedom of conscience is not the same thing as supporting an I’m-okay-you’re-okay policy. Too many Americans have forgotten how to talk about these complex issues. On a side note, the host also asks Moore to address Fred Luter’s comments linking North Korea’s aggression with same-sex marriage. His response was much more civil (and probably appropriate) than my critique. I’m glad Moore is filling this important position on the ERLC. I believe his leadership there will bring some sanity to America’s public discourse.