August 18, 2013

Southern Baptists as a 'Prophetic Minority'

Vectorized Southern Baptist Convention logo, d...
Vectorized Southern Baptist Convention logo, derived from File:Image:SBC logo.jpg ( edit · last · history · watch · unwatch · global usage · find cats · logs · purge · w · search · links · DR · del · undel ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Russell Moore was recently announced as the choice to take over as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. We wondered what changes his leadership might bring, noting that he has a reputation for being more tech-savvy and comfortable with other aspects of modern culture than his predecessor (Richard Land). The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on Moore, and there were several parts worth noting.

The opening sentence of the article quotes Moore as claiming, "The Bible Belt is collapsing." He goes on to say that this is actually a positive thing for the church because "we are no longer the moral majority. We are a prophetic minority." Yes, for a group whose identity largely seems to be wrapped up in a persecution complex, I suppose this would be somewhat welcome.

Still, it does sound like Moore could differ from his predecessor in some important ways.
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.
Could it be that evangelical fundamentalist Christians are finally beginning to realize that they cannot continue on their present course as the culture increasingly leaves them behind?
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.
If the author of the article is right that this is what Russell plans, then I have to say I'm a fan of it. I think it would be wonderful if more Christians saw their role as being one of modeling their allegedly superior morality for the rest of us instead of attempting to legislate it. Yes, I suspect that Moore and his colleagues will continue trying to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, but it sure would be a welcome change if they decided to model them instead. I would certainly be a fan of that.

Despite Moore's claimed desire to move away from the Christian right and seeking a new tone, it sounds like he opposes reproductive freedom and marriage equality. So perhaps he's not calling for that much of a change after all. No matter how much one tries to change the tone of one's bigotry, it will still be recognized as bigotry. In any case, it sounds like he will be someone to watch.

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