There was a rather large controversy in the Evangelical world recently when the humanitarian-aid group World Vision decided that it would recognize same-sex marriages. There was a huge outcry from traditionalist Christians and, as a result, World Vision reversed its decision within two days.
One of the most prominent voices raised against World Vision’s initial decision was that of Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (he is the immediate successor, in this position, of the legendary Richard Land). His statement on the issue read, in part, as follows:
This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth.
At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.
So we can all agree that Dr. Moore is a conservative Baptist Christian in good standing. Which makes all the more interesting what he said in an interview a couple of days ago about the current religious-liberty controversies:
One of the problems is that for a long time evangelical Christianity, at the lay populist level, has had a narrow vision of religious liberty, because we haven’t had a lot of threats to it in a real sense. . . .
You have some people who haven’t thought through that what our Baptist forebears were saying is right — that religious liberty is an image-of-God issue; it’s not a who-has-the-most-votes issue. . . .
That means we’re the people who ought to be saying the loudest: ‘We don’t want the mayor and the city council to say that a mosque can’t be in our town.’ . . . The mayor and the city council that can say that is a mayor and a city council that has too much power.
The government doesn’t decide that. . . . We’ve got to be the people who are saying that.
And then secondly we’ve had a lot of people who have cried wolf over situations. . . . They’ve cried persecution when there is no persecution.
So you have kind of these fake senses of where we’re aggrieved, we are persecuted, because the lady at Wal-Mart says ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ . . .
What happens when that goes on long enough and it’s every single year the same sort of thing happens, then you wind up with people saying, ‘Well that’s what they always say.’ . . . So they don’t pay attention to you when there really are serious restrictions of free exercise of religious liberty that are now coming upon us.
To summarize all of the above: Russell Moore is willing to endure the rage of a) gay activists, b) liberal and moderate Christians who want to recognize gay marriages, c) people who try to stop the building of controversial mosques, and d) people who love to complain about the “War on Christmas.”
I do not ask whether readers agree or disagree with any of the particular points I have quoted from Dr. Moore. We pretty much all have our opinions on all of them, and I doubt that there are very many people who will agree with Moore on all of the above. But can anyone honestly disagree that this is one genuinely courageous man? He sounds like the kind of guy who, as soon he gets up every morning, reads the text of Galatians 1:10 he’s Scotch-taped to his shaving-mirror.