Russell Moore–identified as one of those mythical “Lutheran Baptists“–is the new spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention on social issues. He is taking a different approach from the conventional political activist on the “Christian right.” He says that Christians have lost the so-called “culture wars” and that the loss of Christian cultural dominance may actually be good for the church. He says that Christians need to stop thinking of themselves as “the moral majority.” Instead, they have to see themselves as the “prophetic minority.”
After the jump, excerpts from a Wall Street Journal piece on Dr. Moore by the outstanding Christian writer Naomi Schaefer Riley, who interviewed him for her story.
From Naomi Schaefer Riley, The Weekend Interview With Russell Moore: From Moral Majority to ‘Prophetic Minority’ – WSJ.com:
‘The Bible Belt is collapsing,” says Russell Moore. Oddly, the incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission doesn’t seem upset. In a recent visit to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Moore explains that he thinks the Bible Belt’s decline may be “bad for America, but it’s good for the church.”
Why? Because “we are no longer the moral majority. We are a prophetic minority.”
The phrase is arresting coming from such a prominent religious leader—akin to a general who says the Army has shrunk to the point it can no longer fight two wars. A youthful 41, Mr. Moore is among the leaders of a new generation who think that evangelicals need to recognize that their values no longer define mainstream American culture the way they did 50 or even 20 years ago.
On gay marriage, abortion, even on basic religious affiliation, the culture has moved away. So evangelicals need a new way of thinking—a new strategy, if you will—to attract and keep believers, as well as to influence American politics.
The easy days of mobilizing a ready-made majority are gone. By “prophetic minority,” he means that Christians must return to the days when they were a moral example and vanguard—defenders of belief in a larger unbelieving culture. He views this less as a defeat than as an opportunity. . . .He is definitely pushing a new tone for this generation of evangelicals. “This is the end of ‘slouching toward Gomorrah,’ ” he says. Not only is the doomsaying not winning Christians any popularity contests, but he doesn’t think it’s religiously appropriate either. “We were never promised that the culture would embrace us.”
He also questions the political approach of what was once called “the religious right.” Though his boyish looks bring to mind the former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, Mr. Moore is decidedly not a fan of the “values voter checklists” the group employs. “There is no Christian position on the line-item veto,” Mr. Moore says. “There is no Christian position on the balanced-budget amendment.”
Which is not to say that Mr. Moore wants evangelicals to “turn inward” and reject the larger U.S. culture. Rather, he wants to refocus the movement on serving as a religious example battling in the public square on “three core issues”—life, marriage and religious liberty. . . .
His cultural revival plan is also to focus more on local churches. When the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage came down in June, Mr. Moore sent a message to pastors to help them talk with their congregants about the Southern Baptist opposition to the law. “We don’t hate our gay and lesbian neighbors,” he says, but redefining marriage on their behalf is another matter.
There are a couple of reasons why Christians are losing the debate over gay marriage, Mr. Moore says. One is that even many Christians don’t have a real understanding of what marriage is. “We have embraced certain aspects of the sexual revolution,” he says, like the “divorce culture.”. . .
As a “prophetic minority,” Mr. Moore thinks his most profound political task will be defending religious liberty from the assaults of a secular government. The cause is at the heart of his plan to fight the contraception mandate in ObamaCare. President Obama may have thought that religious employers would accept being forced to pay for contraception, the morning-after abortion pill or sterilization under the law. “But we are not adjusting to the new normal,” Mr. Moore avers. “We are not going to go away or back down.”
So what would that look like, shifting from the Moral Majority mindset to the Prophetic Minority?
HT: Les Sillars