Moore addresses environment, immigration

Baptist Press
Posted: Apr 22, 2013 5:52 PM
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Russell Moore, president-elect of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, addressed boycotts, immigration, the environment, the marriage debate and other issues in a series of short videos with Baptist21 now posted online.

Jonathan Akin, who interviewed Moore, founded B21 along with several other younger Southern Baptists to address issues relevant to Southern Baptists in the 21st century. Read a Baptist Press story about Part 1 of the videos here.

In Parts 2-4, Moore talks among other things about how Southern Baptists should engage the culture. That is done first, he said, by genuinely loving the people with whom they disagree.

"We can't have a 'You kids get off my lawn' mentality when it comes to people around us," Moore, who officially begins his duties June 1, said. "We believe that God loves them. We believe that Jesus died for them. That means that we are going to have a sense of tears in our eyes and a sense of affection for the people who are around us."

Southern Baptists must remember the example of the Apostle Paul in Scripture who was among the most dogged persecutors of the Christian faith but who God turned around in order to be an anchor of the advance of the Christian faith, said Moore, who currently is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

"So when we're talking to those people who are hostile to us, we ought to see those people as at least potentially not only our future brothers and sisters in Christ but as our future leaders within the community of Christ," he said. "That changes the way that we see things."

Southern Baptists, in their approach to engaging the culture, must recognize that they -- or even the broader evangelical community -- are not a majority, Moore said in a B21 video. The Christian faith always has been countercultural -- the narrow way that few find, he said.

"So appealing for political power because there are so many of us or because we hold some kind of political power is not only not effective, it's not genuinely Christian," Moore said. "We're not going to change the culture by power protests and boycotts."

Akin asked Moore specifically about boycotts, and Moore said he doesn't believe they are sinful and he can conceive of situations where a boycott might be the way to go. Generally, though, he believes they are ineffective.

"They're ineffective because they don't actually change the playing field and because they give us an illusion of those who are holding the kind of power where we're the powerbrokers, we're the consumers who need to be appeased," Moore said.

The mode of discourse that accompanies boycotts, he said, "helps people to fall into the trap of fighting like the devil to please the Lord."

"It tends to put people into categories of 'These are our people, those are our enemies. Let's fight them,'" Moore said. "I'm not so much worried about what it does to them as what it does to us in the way that we see ourselves."

Employing boycotts to change the culture, he said, becomes exhausting because "if we boycott everything that falls short of the Kingdom of God, then we're going to go hide under our beds and never go outside and never address anything at all."

As an example of engaging the culture, Moore spoke of how Southern Baptists should address the debate over same-sex marriage. It's a debate, he said, where "we don't simply step back and say, 'That's somebody else's discussion. We're not going to be involved in that.'"

While entering the debate, though, Southern Baptists must remember that the people they're arguing against are no more evil than "any of us as sinners," he said. "They're typically people who really believe that redefining marriage is going to expand marriage out."

"So as we're dialoguing with people and pleading with people, we're not seeing them as horned devils who are coming to destroy us. We see them instead as people with whom we have a profound disagreement and that what they're asking for isn't going to get them what they think it will. It's not going to do that," Moore said. "So I think we speak with kindness but we speak with very clear conviction because marriage and family is so critically important."

On immigration, Moore said most people agree more than they think they do on the issue. Very few people, he said, are for completely open borders, and very few people believe 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported.

"I'm for comprehensive immigration reform that would include a path to legal status including a path to citizenship for those among us who are willing to play by the rules and come out of the shadows and move forward," Moore said.

More important than a policy understanding, he said, is the way evangelicals must think of the sojourners among them.

"The kind of nativist rhetoric that often will happen toward immigrant communities reminds me very much of what we see happening in the abortion debate where it's easy for those who support abortion rights to do so once they depersonalize the child," Moore said.

Rather, Southern Baptists must lead in proclaiming that "the stranger among us fits exactly into that category that Jesus speaks of as the least of these," Moore said, adding that believers must speak with compassion, love and redemption.

Akin asked Moore how Southern Baptists should think about environmental protection.

"There was a time when any discussion of environmental protection among conservative Christians simply degenerated into Al Gore jokes," Moore said. "We don't have the option to have that kind of mentality toward the creation that God has given to us."

In the Book of Genesis, God assigned humans as stewards of the creation, Moore said, which is not the same as a dominion that destroys the environment with no consequences.

Christians will disagree about the best way to move forward, he said, but an extended dialogue is needed about what it means to be stewards of the earth.

On another topic -- the younger generation's thoughts on abortion -- Moore noted there are a lot of young adults who are exhausted by the abortion debate and want to move on and talk about other issues without addressing abortion.

"Abortion must be centrally before us because it deals with the number one responsibility of any society, and that is to maintain and to protect the right to life for the most vulnerable among us," Moore said in a B21 video.

Once a person realizes that all unborn children are created in the image of God and therefore worthy of life, "that changes the way that you see an entire range of issues from human trafficking to poverty to immigration to pornography to a list of other things," he said.

As he leads Southern Baptists to engage all of these issues, Moore has said he hopes his dialogue with the broader world will be characterized by "convictional kindness." In a B21 video, he explained that such kindness is not passivity but it's speaking to people with a genuine love, hoping they come to repentance and reconciliation.

"So we understand that the people out there around us aren't different than we are. All of us left to ourselves are hiding from the voice of God, as our first ancestors were," Moore said. "We hide behind different things. Some people hide behind Darwinism. Some people hide behind feminism. Some people hide behind hedonism.

"Some people hide behind a self-righteous Southern Baptist religion that doesn't have a heart transformation. We hide behind different things to get away from God."

The solution, he said, is to persuade people not by caricaturing their views but by speaking to them with gentleness that seeks to see them come to faith.

When asked if Southern Baptists are called to be culture warriors, Moore said they are called to be spiritual warriors, recognizing that they wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

It's important, he said, for believers to understand how the culture shapes even the way they hear the Gospel. For instance, there are passages of Scripture that lead people to ask, "Where are the asterisks in there that will make this actually palatable to the way that I live my life right now?"

"The convicting power of the Holy Spirit says, 'No, this is the Word of God. Adjust yourself to it. Don't adjust the Word of God to you,'" Moore said.

An example of that, he said, is the issue of divorce, which often is spoken of in churches in therapeutic categories such as helping people recover from divorce. Rarely are people standing up and prophetically speaking against divorce the way John the Baptist did, Moore said.

"So I think we have to be discerning people who recognize and know that sometimes the most dangerous ethical questions are not the ethical questions that we hear debated on the radio and on television," he said. "They're the ethical questions no one is asking about because they seem to be settled in our own minds."

Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

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