Evangelicals must persuade, Moore says

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Evangelicals in post-Christian America must seek to persuade those who disagree with them to recognize the importance of human life, marriage and religious freedom, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said on a nationwide telecast Easter Sunday.

Speaking April 20 on ABC's "This Week," the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said America has changed from the days when religious conservatives would speak of a moral majority in the country.

"It's a different time, and that means ... that we speak in a different way. We speak to people who don't necessarily agree with us," Moore said during a panel discussion on the political power of evangelical Christians.

"There was a time in which we could assume that most Americans agreed with us on life and on abortion and upon religious liberty and other issues, and we simply had to say, 'We're for the same things you're for. Join us,'" he said. "It's a different day. We have to speak to the rest of the culture and say, 'Here's why this is in your interest, to value life, to value family, to value religious liberty.'"

Statistics cited in an April 18 profile of Moore on "CBS This Morning" demonstrate the shift in the United States. Nearly one-third of Americans 65 years of age or older identify as evangelicals, but only one in 10 Americans 18 to 29 years old describe themselves as evangelicals, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

When "This Week" host Martha Raddatz cited a significant drop in church membership over the last two decades, Moore said he is not worried about the development because it seems to represent "the collapse of a cultural, nominal form of Christianity."

"We're at a point now where Christianity is able to be authentic and Christianity is able to be authentically strange," he said. "Many people now when they hear about ... what evangelical Christians believe, the response is to say, 'That sounds freakish to me, that sounds odd, and that sounds strange.'

"Well, of course it does," Moore said, "when we believe that a previously dead man is now the ruler of the universe and offers forgiveness of sins to anyone who will repent and believe. That's the same sort of reaction that happened in the Greco-Roman empire when Christianity first emerged."

This context "offers an opportunity for the church to speak clearly, articulately about what it is that we believe, to give a winsome and clear message about what the Gospel actually is," he said.

This requires a certain tone, Moore told reporter Jan Crawford April 18 on "CBS This Morning."

"Our message to the outside culture cannot simply be: 'You kids get off of my lawn,'" he said.

"We shouldn't be angry; we should be convicted, which are two very different things."

In her report, Crawford said a "different tone only goes so far." While some say the church should back off social issues, Moore disagrees, she reported. Same-sex marriage is one of those issues.

Crawford asked Moore, "Is homosexuality a sin?

He replied, "Yes. I believe that any sexual activity outside of marriage, which is the conjugal union of a man and a woman, is a sin."

Research shows the evangelical church's view is at odds with most Americans, Crawford reported. One-third of Americans say they have left the religion of their childhood because of its views on gay rights, the report said, citing the Public Religion Research Institute.

Moore said, "We have to speak to the outside world about why it is that we believe in the Christian sexual ethic. It's not because we hate people. It's not because we're bigots. It's because we really do believe this is how God designed the universe."

Also appearing on ABC's "This Week" panel with Moore were Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse; Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; and ABC analyst Cokie Roberts.


Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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