Being Pro-Life in a Culture of Death: An Interview with Russ Moore
Today, I have the privilege of posting an interview with Dr. Russell D. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Moore is a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church and the author of two books, The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective and Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches. I highly recommend my readers take a look at the transcript of a sermon Dr. Moore preached in chapel in late 2008: “Joseph is a Single-Issue Evangelical“.
Trevin Wax: What kind of setbacks should pro-life citizens expect now that we have elected Barack Obama, a strong supporter of abortion on demand?
Russell Moore: Pro-life Americans can expect a radical abortion rights agenda from Barack Obama. This is not an accusation because this is precisely what President Obama promised in his campaign for the presidency.
Not only will Supreme Court Justices be strongly supportive of the legal framework behind Roe v. Wade, but President Obama and the new Congress will also support expansive funding of abortion in North America, and through foreign aid, abroad. By year’s end, we should see abortions taking place regularly on American military bases all around the world.
Trevin Wax: Statistics show that younger generations tend to be more pro-life than their parents. You have stated that this commitment to pro-life principles is more theoretical than realistic because abortion rights is now deeply embedded in our cultural ethos. Are you saying that younger generations are less committed to the pro-life cause than they think?
Russell Moore: I do not take great comfort in opinion polls stating that younger generations are more pro-life than their parents. I believe that this is largely because the abortion issue is off the table in many ways politically.
Few people realistically expect that abortion will be made illegal. So pronouncing one to be pro-life these days is more akin to a person speculating what side of the Spanish Civil War he would take rather than a person articulating a deeply-held view on a matter of current import.
Trevin Wax: Should evangelicals appeal to Scripture in their arguments against abortion when they debate in the public sphere? Or should they argue from moral and logical positions instead (e.g. Francis Beckwith)?
Russell Moore: Yes, I believe evangelicals should appeal to Scripture in their arguments against abortion. This does not mean that such arguments should be limited to biblical appeals. After all, the pro-life position on abortion rights is demonstrable from human biology, yes.
Nonetheless, there are biblical reasons why evangelicals and Roman Catholics hold to the personhood of vulnerable unborn babies. We should not be hesitant to say why we believe such things, even as we join with others of good will in articulating our opposition to the killing of the unborn.
We should gladly join hands with atheist pro-lifers such as the Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff or with Mormon or Hindu pro-life citizens. We also should articulate that we believe this is so important precisely because we serve a King who has told us that we will be judged on the basis on how we treat the most vulnerable among us.
Trevin Wax: Should evangelicals should join hands with pro-choice politicians committed to reducing the number of abortions? In other words, is there room for us to work toward reduction of abortions instead of just working toward elimination of abortion?
Russell Moore: I do not believe at all that pro-life Christians should join hands with pro-abortion politicians speaking of “reducing the number of abortions.” This is akin to civil rights activists joining hands with pro-lynching vigilantes in the early twentieth-century America to “reduce the number of lynchings” through better funding of segregated African-American school systems.
The issue at hand is not simply the number of abortions, although that number is atrocious. The key issue is that the personhood of the unborn is denied. That cannot be ameliorated simply by more federal spending and certainly will not be reduced by “comprehensive sex education” as many of the pro-abortion activists are advocating.
Trevin Wax: Do you believe that in the next ten years evangelical commitment to the pro-life cause will increase or decrease?
Russell Moore: I believe that evangelical commitment to the pro-life cause will neither increase nor decrease because all orthodox Christians believe in the personhood of all human beings, born or unborn. This was a distinctive of the church from its earliest beginnings in the Roman Empire, attested to by extra-biblical, non-Christian sources as well as by the Scriptures themselves.
Trevin Wax: How can the typical evangelical church be committed in practical ways to the pro-life movement?
Russell Moore: Evangelical churches can be committed to the pro-life cause in the following ways:
First, we must teach our people that the Romans 13 responsibility given to the state weighs upon every citizen in a democratic republic. Those who vote for candidates who tell them up front that they are committed to denying the protection of the unborn will be held accountable at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This means that abortion, for Christians, is not a political issue or even a “moral issue.” It is a theological and spiritual issue.
This articulation though is not enough. Christian churches must, as our Lord’s brother James commanded us, care for the widows and orphans in their distress. This means that God calls Christian families to adopt unwanted children. It means also that Christian families and churches are to shelter unwed mothers and pregnant women who find themselves in a time of crisis.
There are various ways that a church may follow this calling but it is not optional for any church to obediently respond to Jesus in these ways.