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Topics: Cultural Engagement, Current Events, Politics, Public Square

The Leading Edge: He Didn’t Call it a Pullback

October 25, 2013


The Story: “Should we Pull Back from Politics” by Dr. Russell Moore writing at

The Lead:

The recent profile in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a generational change in terms of the way evangelicals approach cultural and political engagement: toward a gospel-centered approach that doesn’t back down on issues of importance, but sees our ultimate mission as one that applies the blood of Christ to the questions of the day.

The headline, as is often the case with headlines, is awfully misleading. I am not calling, at all, for a “pullback” from politics or engagement.

If anything, I’m calling for more engagement in the worlds of politics, culture, art, labor and so on. It’s just that this is a different sort of engagement. It’s not a matter of pullback, but of priority.

What I’m calling for in our approach to political engagement is what we’re already doing in one area: the pro-life movement. Evangelicals in the abortion debate have demonstrated convictional kindness in a holistic ethic of caring both for vulnerable unborn children and for the women who are damaged by abortion. The pro-life movement has engaged in a multi-pronged strategy that addresses, simultaneously, the need for laws to outlaw abortion, care for women in crisis pregnancies, adoption and foster care for children who need families, ministry to women (and men) who’ve been scarred by abortion, cultivating a culture that persuades others about why we ought to value human life, and the proclamation of the gospel to those whose consciences bear the guilt of abortion.

Why it Matters:  I was glad to see this clarification from my friend Russell Moore.  Something was lost in the original story in the Wall Street Journal.  What the headline suggested (“Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback From Politics, Culture Wars”) is not what I know Dr. Moore stands believes . . . and I’m not convinced that’s what the story actually conveyed either.

But that last paragraph I quoted of Dr. Moore’s is more important than just adding clarity.  It’s revealing.  It is revealing because it accurately states what we (broadly, Christians in America) have managed to get right.  It took us almost 40 years and we are still not quite perfect at it, but at least we have arrived at a moment in our political dialog as Christians that we are speaking graciously, firmly, and intelligently about the issue of abortion – and doing so bathed in a Gospel message.  We need to do better, but I would like to think we are growing in our ability to speak the Gospel in the midst of this political dialog without sacrificing the integrity of one for the influence of the other.

Yet, it’s revealing in a secondary aspect.  By that I mean there are many, many other areas of political dialog (and daily life) where we are still attempting to walk and chew gum without tripping.  The difficult moral and political issue of homosexuality is an obvious area in which we struggle – and we struggle not only to begin and end with the Gospel (as Dr. Moore commends); we often struggle merely to speak.

After 40 years past Roe v. Wade, it seems Christians are finding their voice in the abortion debate.  But, friends, we must be quicker studies when addressing the issue of homosexuality and other areas of our secular, pluralistic, post-Christian society.  We will not have the equivalent of the ultrasound machine to reveal the reality of every moral issue we will face.  We must be able to identify the human reality of the socio-political issue du jour and articulate a principled and Gospel focused response – a response that does not wag a finger, but grips a shoulder and walks along side toward the redeeming hill of Calvary.

Or, as Dr. Moore put it:

We engage politically because we love our neighbors, we care about human flourishing. But we do so at multiple fronts. We engage on Capitol Hill (as I do), on issues ranging from stopping the abortion industry, to protecting religious liberty, to speaking out for human rights for the persecuted overseas. We cultivate churches that see the holistic nature of the kingdom of God and who shape consciences of people to live as citizens. But we always do that with a focus that we are not prosecuting attorneys but defense attorneys. We are seeking, ultimately, to point people to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

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