Long-term view needed, Moore says of marriage

"[W]e have to be the people who keep the light lit to the old ways when it comes to marriage and family." -- Russell Moore
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Advocates for the biblical view of marriage should prepare for a lengthy effort to restore the institution to its rightful place, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said on CBS' "Face the Nation" June 28.

Christians and their allies need "to take a page from the pro-life movement and see this as a long-term strategy," Moore said

Moore told host John Dickerson an "increasingly elastic" concept of marriage cannot be sustained. "[W]e have to be the people who keep the light lit to the old ways when it comes to marriage and family," he said. "And that's going to be a generation-long skirmish. It's not going to be something that's resolved in a presidential election or two."

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) appeared on the program two days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the biblical and traditional definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman by legalizing same-sex marriage in all states.

The freedom for religious adherents to attempt a campaign of persuasion on the marriage issue should be safeguarded, Moore said.

"We understand that short-term things are very stacked against us here," he said, "but we ought to have the sort of pluralistic American environment where we can agree to disagree and where we can make our case without having our consciences paved over by those who would seek to do so."

The protections for religious liberty that will exist going forward are "really going to depend on what the victors in this ruling attempt to assert," Moore told Dickerson. "Are they going to take a French Revolutionary approach to the sexual revolution or not? And I think we have to hold by our First Amendment protections for people of faith and for religious institutions, because we're not going to be able to simply put our convictions in a blind trust."

Christians and others with "deeply held religious convictions aren't simply going to surrender those things. We can't," he said. "For us to change our views on marriage and sexuality would mean repudiating what we believe has been handed to us by Jesus and His apostles. We didn't make up our views on marriage and sexuality, and we can't unmake them."

The news media also looked to other Southern Baptist leaders for comments on the high court's 5-4 ruling.

Fred Luter, the Southern Baptist Convention's first African American president, told National Public Radio the decision would not alter his belief or practice or that of his church.

"It's the law of the land now," said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and SBC president from 2012-2014. "However, it does not make it biblically right, even though the Supreme Court did it."

In a news report Monday (June 29), Luter indicated he would not perform a same-sex wedding.

"There are hundreds of other churches [in New Orleans], and some probably will allow it," he said. "It's not going to happen at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church."

North Carolina Baptists remain steadfast in believing marriage is "the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime," Milton Hollifield told The Charlotte Observer June 26. Hollifield is executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

"As followers of Jesus Christ, we remain committed to God's Word and a biblical view of marriage," he said. "At the same time, Jesus instructed us to love and minister to everyone in a spirit of grace and truth, including those who may disagree with us on this issue and on other issues, as well."

Moore expressed a similar sentiment to Dickerson, saying, "[H]olding to our convictions doesn't mean that we dispense with human kindness and actually with Gospel, Spirit-driven kindness. It means that those two things must go together. We have to be people of both truth and grace, conviction and kindness. And I think that's what most Christians are doing now and have been doing for quite some time."

In a video recorded in front of the Supreme Court, Moore advised Christians on how to respond to the legalization of gay marriage. Churches throughout the country -- from small congregations to mega-churches -- showed the video during corporate worship June 28.

Christians should not panic but should be "the people of joyful confidence," he said in the video.

"We need to be the people who know how to articulate a Christian vision of marriage and sexuality that will be increasingly counter-cultural from this point on," he said. "We need to know how to explain what we believe and why we believe it, and then we need to embody that Christian vision of marriage and sexuality in churches that are holy and churches that are on mission."

Many who celebrated the ruling believe the justices have given them something that will "fulfill them and make them happy," Moore said. "[I]t won't do that."

"Our churches need to be the places who can receive the refugees from the sexual revolution, those who have been hurt and harmed by it," he said, adding churches that surrender the Gospel and the Bible's teaching on marriage and sexuality cannot fulfill that role.

"[W]e can't do that if we're angry at our neighbors and screaming at them rather than loving them and speaking to them about the Gospel that has saved us," Moore said. "And so let's stand firm in the Gospel."

A broad evangelical Christian coalition organized by Moore released a statement titled "Here We Stand" June 26 that declared opposition to the high court's decision and recommended ways the church should respond in the ruling's aftermath. The recommendations included praying for government authorities as Christians seek to rebuild "a culture of marriage," loving those who disagree and developing a "common culture of religious liberty."

By mid-day June 29, 12,500 people had signed the statement. It may be read and signed at erlc.com/erlc/herewestand.

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