I had a sense of deja vu this week as I clicked on a 2,000-word Wall Street Journal profile of Russell Moore:
For years, as the principal public voice for the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s biggest evangelical group, Richard Land warned of a “radical homosexual agenda” and pushed for a federal ban on same-sex marriage.
His successor, Russell Moore, sounded a different note when the Supreme Court in June struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. ”Love your gay and lesbian neighbors,” Mr. Moore wrote in a flier, ”How Should Your Church Respond,” sent to the convention’s estimated 45,000 churches. “They aren’t part of an evil conspiracy.” Marriage, he added, was a bond between a man and a woman, but shouldn’t be seen as a “‘culture war’ political issue.”
Since the birth of the Christian-conservative political movement in the late 1970s, no evangelical group has delivered more punch in America’s culture wars than the Southern Baptist Convention and its nearly 16 million members. The country’s largest Protestant denomination pushed to end abortion, open up prayer in public schools and boycott Walt Disney Co. over films deemed antifamily. Its ranks included many of the biggest names on the Christian right, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
Today, after more than three decades of activism, many in the religious right are stepping back from the front lines. Mr. Moore, a 42-year-old political independent and theologian who heads the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says it is time to tone down the rhetoric and pull back from the political fray, given what he calls a “visceral recoil” among younger evangelicals to the culture wars.
“We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it,” Mr. Moore said in an interview in his Washington office, a short walk from Congress. “Christianity thrives when it is clearest about what distinguishes it from the outside culture.”
I kept thinking: Haven’t I already read this?
The mention of Disney, Robertson, Falwell, et al also felt a little stale — as if we’d plowed this same ground a time or two before.
But you know what? I kept reading, and the WSJ — as it so consistently does — enlightened me with insightful, well-sourced details and context.
Yes, the WSJ makes broad statements like this: