Kristin Rudolph (@Kristin_Rudolph)
Two weeks before the Supreme Court announced its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Southern Baptist Convention hosted discussions on the topic of marriage at its annual meeting on June 11 – 12 in Houston, TX. Dr. Russell Moore, the new president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) directed conversations considering the implications of redefining marriage, and the broader challenges Evangelical Christians face in a culture that devalues marriage.
Moore said in a panel discussion that evangelicals “Have been slow train sexual revolutionaries. We adapt to whatever the last generation already accommodated to when it comes to marriage and sexuality,” which is why “homosexuality seems as normal to a 15 year old right now in our culture as divorce seems to a 45 year old in this culture.”
David Platt, a pastor and author emphasized the importance of consistency regarding all aspects of marriage, including divorce, within the church. “If we are not willing to do church discipline when necessary … then it’s going to ring very hollow,” he warned. To single out homosexuality and ignore other areas of sin amounts to “selective moral outrage.”
Moore urged pastors to get serious about wedding ceremonies in their churches, and recognize from a Christian perspective they are not intended to be a “celebration of the love of the couple … [instead] the marriage ceremony is about the people of God gathered as witnesses saying we are holding this couple accountable for the vows that are being made.”
Pastor J.D. Greear pointed out “We’re in a unique moment for the Gospel” with the differences between Christians and the culture growing increasingly stark. In response to holding to convictions concerning marriage, Greear said “We know we’re going to be spoken about as evil doers.”
In another session addressing questions from the “next generation” of SBC leaders, Moore criticized evangelical attempts to mold cultural mores to appear more Christian. In this process, he lamented “Evangelicalism was watered down.” He explained how “the last generation of evangelical Christianity wanted to remove the freakishness of Christianity in order to say ‘we’re really just good old Americans just like you are and if you add a little bit of Jesus to this you’re going to have an even better life than you have right now.’”
But this “freakishness” is the very thing that gives Christians a voice. Moore said “the influence that we have is not going to be because we are so big, it is not going to be because we have so much power, it is going to be because we are so strange.”
Further, instead of extreme sexual practices such as polygamy becoming mainstream as a result of redefining marriage, Moore predicted it is more likely that marriage will simply “become relatively meaningless in the way that it is in some more secularized societies right now.” As less people marry into lifelong, life producing unions, and cohabitate, marry multiple times, or are generally sexually permissive, Christians who live chaste lives in singleness or marriage will indeed look “freakish.”
Rather than focus narrowly on raising money for political campaigns and agendas, Moore said evangelicals should “love the people around us enough to have conversations with them. Not just have conversations about them.”
He pointed out that “we’re going to say things that are so strange that they are going to prompt further conversation. They’re going to shut down some conversation, but they’re going to prompt conversation.” Moore continued: “I honestly think the things that are going on right now in American culture, as sad as they are in the short term, in the long term, enable a very good recovery of evangelical Christianity.”
Following the Supreme Court’s rulings, the ERLC released a document outlining the changes resulting from the decision and the faithful Christian response. The brief document urges churches to love their gay and lesbian neighbors, remain calm in the face of shifting cultural morals, and strengthen their own commitment to preaching and practicing Christian marriage with integrity.