Four years ago, our current President said he personally opposed same-sex marriage. Today, the Supreme Court has found a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, contra all recorded sociopolitical, religious, and human history.

Few today are surprised at the Court’s ruling. This has been the prediction of most politicos and social commentators for a while. But simply because we are not surprised does not mean we are also not appalled. On the contrary, the Court’s ruling is indeed a moral and historical disaster. The Court has interpreted the United States Constitution as guaranteeing American adults the kind of autonomy that denies children the stability and flourishing that comes from having a mother and a father. We ought not be coy about the generation’s worth of confusion that this decision will facilitate.

As Christians, we believe in marriage. We believe that it is from above, not below. We believe that it matters supremely to agree with God about the definition and purpose of marriage and family. So today we grieve for our country and solemnly pray that soon God would grant the leaders of our nation new hearts to see the beauty of biblically defined marriage law.

And yet, because we are Christians, we don’t just believe that great harm has been done. We also believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only sovereign over history. We believe that the Supreme Court, powerful and important as it is, cannot put the resurrected King of Kings back in his graveyard plot. Because we are Christians, we believe that not even the gates of hell can overcome the Bride for whom Christ died. Ours is a quiet confidence, rooted not in Gallup but in the Gospel.

So, “how now shall we live?” How shall we teach and preach and counsel and love in such a way to point people towards the truth about marriage, even as we do so in contradiction to the legal systems of our nation? Thankfully, we have a paradigm to follow: The pro-life movement.

For over 40 years, the pro-life movement in this country has overwhelmingly modeled what compassionate, counter-cultural, and quietly confident public engagement should look like. Even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Roe v Wade, courageous public voices came forward to challenge popular opinion and advocate for human dignity. Many churches became mobilizing and stalwart forces for the pro-life cause, not just by legal advocation but by actually ministering to the needs of women, men, and babies in crisis.

Indeed, it was these churches that held to a holistic vision of human dignity and the value of all life that have been most effective in the fight against abortion culture. Whether through establishing crisis pregnancy centers, offering free health clinics, modeling the Gospel through adoption and adoption advocacy, or welcoming the wounded, abused, and frightened into the friendship of the local congregation, pro-life churches that don’t just preach pro-life as a political talking point but as a spiritual reality are the ones that we should thank for the remarkable victories we’ve seen.

That means that we in 2015, under the shadow of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, have both an encouragement and a warning from the pro-life movement. The warning is that political victory does not equal cultural persuasion. It is possible to win the White House but lose the neighborhood. Churches that put their energy in electing the right candidate or repealing the wrong law, to the exclusion of actually living out mercy and justice in their communities, should not expect meaningful victories for traditional marriage.

We also have an encouragement. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973, by God’s grace, we are seeing small but crucial turns in our national and political culture towards valuing unborn life. We are a long way from where we need to be, but we are certainly not where many predicted we would be. There is strong pro-life sentiment in this country that was unimaginable 30 years ago. This should be a sober reminder to us today about the power of prayer and the sovereign grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.

The pro-life movement’s victories were only possible because its champions understood that legal consensus is never the final word. Imagine how much different the cause for life and dignity would look today if that first generation of pro-life advocates decided that being on the wrong side of the Supreme Court and the wrong side of history was just too high a price to pay. Thank God that was not them, and God forbid it should be us. Let’s follow their lead onward.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

I have lots to be grateful for, but one of my recurring thoughts of gratitude is also really sad. I am grateful to God that, as a Gen-Xer, I came of age right before the digital revolution. That’s because I know that I would have been swept away in a world of temptation that I could not have handled. And I’m not sure what that would have done to me. I say this is sad because I know that my children’s generation, and every generation hereafter has to contend with temptations I didn’t know. As I think about this, I am increasingly perplexed by professing Christian families giving their children smartphones and tablets with unrestricted Internet access.

It’s not that we don’t have the data to know what happens when sexually-forming minds are exposed to pornography. And it’s not that we don’t know the kind of pull to temptation, especially among young males, that comes with the promise of sexual “fulfillment” with the illusion of anonymity. It’s not that we don’t know about the way unsavory characters use the Internet to troll for naïve children to exploit.

So why would you put your child in a situation of that sort of peril?

Given what we know about a.) sexually developing adolescents and pre-adolescents and b.) the Internet itself, it is impossible to rank unrestricted access to the World Wide Web in a category with allowing your child to watch television or to freely roam the neighborhood. It’s more akin to sending your adolescent son to a strip-club for the night because you trust him not to look up from his Bible, or allowing your adolescent daughter to grow marijuana in her room because she likes the bud as a decoration.

We ought to know better than this. By “we” I don’t mean that Christians ought to know better. It’s worse than that. We as human beings ought to know better. It doesn’t take the indwelling Holy Spirit to know that turning a teenager or pre-teen loose with unrestricted Internet access is insane.

Jesus described the Fatherhood of God by noting that no one, not even an evil person, would give his son a serpent when he asked for a fish (Matt. 7:10). Why not? It’s because natural affection propels a father to seek to protect his child from something harmful.

Sadly, though, we see a culture, even among Christians all too often, that is willing to give a child a serpent, as long as he really wants it. After all, all his friends have access to venomous reptiles and we don’t want him to feel different. Plus, we think he’s trustworthy as a snake-charmer.

Brothers and sisters and friends, this is madness.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the digital revolution is largely a good thing. I think children should be reared to see technology as a tool to be used for kingdom priorities. But there’s far too much at stake to turn a developing psyche loose, with no boundaries, with a technology that could psychically and spiritually cripple him or her (and a future family, too), for a lifetime and thereafter. Technology is good. Turning our children over to the cyber-wilderness is not.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

Is America Post-Christian?

We hear a lot these days about America being “post-Christian.” This sort of language has accelerated in recent weeks, with the Pew Center survey demonstrating a spike in the numbers of Americans who claim no religious affiliation. I’ve discussed the survey elsewhere, and have addressed the larger trends for years, but what about this language of a post-Christian America? Is this true?

The language of a post-Christian America is used in two divergent circles, both of which are built on faulty assumptions. The first circle is progressive secularism, which sees supernatural religion as a throwback to less enlightened times. In this view of reality, human history is the slog from the swamps to the space age, and religion is superstition that a scientifically aware humanity needs less and less. The problems with such a viewpoint are many. The world is not getting less religious, as any global survey will demonstrate. The primary question is not whether America is post-Christian but whether Christianity is post-American.

More importantly, this sort of utopian millennialism, whether of the religious or secular sort, has a unanimously bad historical track record. As the self-proclaimed pagan Camille Paglia puts it, “History is littered with the remains of eternal empires.”

I’m more concerned, though, with the other circle using the frame of a “post-Christian” America, the circle identified with the church itself. In this reading, the “post-Christian” nature of America is not to be celebrated but lamented. The language used is one of decline and of loss. The same people who not long ago trumpeted “reclaiming America for Christ” are now some of the same who speak of America in dire “post-Christian” terms. This isn’t accurate either.

The decline and fall of Christian America trope requires several steps of us, all of which move us away from the gospel and from the Bible. To think of America as “post-Christian” means that we must think of America as “Christian” in the first place.

This is akin to my describing myself as “post-tall.” You would look at my five foot-seven inch frame and ask, “Were you tall before?” No. Truth is, were I to talk this way would mean that I just like “post-tall” better than “small” as an identifier. Or it would mean that I am in some sort of delusion. Or it would mean that I’ve been living in a land of pygmies where I have no concept of what “tall” actually is.

The idea of America as “Christian” requires a concept of the nation as in covenant with God. Usually, this entails applying the promises made to Israel to the United States, even if only the generic “heal your land” promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 as interpreted by God and country civil religion. And yet, Israel’s promises had a goal—and this goal is not the United States of America. The goal of Israel’s promises is the seed of Abraham, the son of David, Jesus of Nazareth (Rom. 9:4-5; Gal. 3:29). All the promises of God find their “yes” and “Amen” in him (2 Cor. 1:20).

Moreover, the idea of America as “Christian” means that we define “Christian” in ways that disconnect Christianity from the gospel. The mission of Christ never calls on us to use nominal Christianity as a means to acclimate people to Christian “values” as pre-evangelism. To the contrary, the Spirit works through the open proclamation of the truth, renouncing cunning tactics (2 Cor. 4:1-2). The gospel does not need idolatry to bridge our way to it, even if that idolatry is the sort of Christianity that is one birth short of redemption.

Nominal Christianity is not just a deficient form of Christianity. It is the opposite of gospel Christianity. This is because nominal Christianity doesn’t start where the gospel starts: with the sinner’s inability to come before God without a Mediator. This is not just inadequate; it is damning. Nominal Christianity can keep people from doing some of the things they want to do, but it sends them to hell as it does so.

The gospel does not come to the righteous, Jesus tells us, but to sinners. Søren Kierkegaard warned long ago that a nominal, civil form of Christianity is the greatest apostasy, in which pagans live thinking they are Christians. But since, he argued, the illusion that we are Christians in a Christian nation is so persistent, “it looks indeed as if introducing Christianity amounts to taking Christianity away.” He concluded: Nevertheless, this is precisely what must be done, for the illusion must go.”

The idea of America as “post-Christian” then calls the church to a sort of freaked-out nostalgia. We identify our focal point in some made-up past—whether the founding era, or the 1950s or the 1980s or whenever. That makes us all the more frantic when we see the moral chaos around us. We see it in terms of “moral decline” instead of seeing it the way the Bible does, in terms of not decline but of Fall.

We are not time-travelers from the past. We are pilgrims from the future. We have not come to reclaim something that was lost. We have come to proclaim Someone who has found us. So let’s stop our handwringing and our rage-venting. Let’s reclaim our mission, and reframe our perspective. We have the promises God has made to Christ. We have the Spirit a resurrected Christ has poured out on us. Jesus didn’t need traditional values or American civil religion at Pentecost, and he doesn’t need them now.

If we take the opportunity to be the church, we may find that America is not “post-Christian,” but is instead maybe “pre-Christian.” It may be that this land is filled with people who, though often Christ-haunted, have never known the power of the gospel, yet.

In any case, what’s important for the church is not so much whether the United States of America is post-Christian as whether Jesus of Nazareth is post-dead. And we know the answer to that.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

Twenty-one years ago today, I was waiting in a hallway right next to the baptistery where I was immersed a decade before. Within a few moments, I stood in front of my home church to greet my bride, Maria Hanna, and to pledge to her before God and those witnesses my love and my life. Today, I look back and wonder what all we’ve learned in these twenty-one years together. The main thing is that I’m glad we didn’t wait until we were ready to get married.

I knew on our first date that I loved her and wanted to spend my life with her. But many told us, “Wait until you can afford it before you get married.” It’s true. We had nothing. I was a 22 year-old first-year seminary student; she not much out of high school. I worked and reworked budget scenarios, and never could find one that would suggest that we could pay our bills. That’s why I kept delaying asking her to marry me, even after I knew she was “the one.” I thought I needed stability and a put-together life before I could ask her into it.

My grandmother wisely asked one night when I was finally going to ask “that girl from Ocean Springs” to marry me. I answered, “When I can afford it.” She laughed. “Honey, I married your grandpa in the middle of a Great Depression,” she said. “We made it work. Nobody can afford to get married. You just marry, and make it work.”

Apart from the gospel, those were, and remain, the most liberating words I ever heard. I bought a ring that wouldn’t impress anyone, then or now, but we were headed for the altar. My only regret is that we aren’t today celebrating our twenty-first anniversary instead of our twentieth.

My grandmother’s wisdom is akin to what sociologist Charles Murray talks about in his book The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead as the difference between a “start-up” marriage and a “merger” marriage. A merger marriage is the sort one sees every Sunday in the weddings pages of the New York Times, with a groom who’s a hedge-fund manager with a master’s degree behind him and a bride who’s a film professor with a Ph.D. and tenure. They each have their lives, and they merge them. A “start-up” is where the marriage isn’t the capstone of the life, but the foundation. It’s where the husband and the wife start their grown-up lives together, often with nothing but each other.

We weren’t ready to get married. That’s true. But our finances were the least of our worries.

I wasn’t ready, at twenty-two, to know how to console a sobbing wife when she learned that her parents were divorcing. I wasn’t ready to collapse into her arms when I heard that my grandfather had died.

I wasn’t ready to pack up and move all our hand-me-down furniture into a moving van for years of doctoral work in Louisville. I wasn’t ready for miscarriages. I wasn’t ready to hear that we’d never have children. And then I wasn’t ready for an adoption process that took us to the former Soviet Union and back with two very special-needs babies. I wasn’t ready for the doctors to be proven wrong, and kind of suddenly be the parents of five sons. I wasn’t ready to be celebrating our twentieth anniversary with a two year-old toddler in the house. And I could go on and on.

Of course, I wasn’t ready for all those things. In a very real sense, “I” didn’t even exist. The life that I have now is defined by our lives together. That’s why the Scriptures speak of marriage as a “one flesh” union, of a head and a body together. These aren’t two separate lives, bringing their agendas together. This is two people joining together for one life, life together. One can prepare oneself to be a husband or to be a wife. But one can never be really “ready.”

As I look back, I can see the intense joy in our lives that would never have made it into our daydreams about the future. We loved those nights eating only cheese sandwiches because that’s all we could afford. We loved doing youth ministry together, and figuring out what to do when a teenager showed up on a mission trip with marijuana in tow. We loved sitting up together while I wrote a dissertation on kingdom ethics, taking breaks to watch “Frasier” reruns together. We loved holding each other’s hands as we prayed for the money we needed to adopt (we weren’t ready for that either).

And, even now, when I am blasted by some Planned Parenthood abortion activist or some neo-Confederate white supremacist, I love sitting down with her to remember that it doesn’t matter to me what anyone thinks of me or my ministry, as long as I please the King I pledged my life to in the baptistery of that little church and the girl I pledged my life to at the altar.

Truth is, there’s no way we could have made that budget work. And there’s no way we could have grown up enough to be “ready” for what providence had for us. We needed each other. We needed to grow up, together, and to know that our love for each other doesn’t consist in our having it all together. It didn’t start that way, and we still had us.

When I look back at those wedding pictures from twenty-one years ago, I see faces of people, some of whom are now gone. I see my grandmother’s face there, and I think how right she was. I see a boy and a girl in love, though not as much in love as now, after twenty-one years of, as my friend Andrew Peterson puts it, “dancing through the minefields,” together.

Were we ready? No. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

—–

A version of this article originally appeared on May 27, 2014.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

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