Russell Moore And The Southern Baptists
During this election season, Moore has sometimes appeared out of place in his own denomination—a Trump detractor leading a church largely peopled by Trump supporters. But he seemed comfortable in this uncomfortable position, perhaps because he has learned to accept the limits of his ability to change the world, or even to understand it. Moore thinks that the idea of a moral majority is wrong, and was probably wrong when it was created: he suspects that earnest, orthodox Christians have always been outnumbered. Like any believer, he wants his church to grow, but he doesn’t seem particularly threatened by the thought that it might not. He says that Christians in America must learn to think of themselves as a marginal community, struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile secular culture. In such a context, Muslims might seem less like enemies and more like allies in the fight for religious freedom.
This transition might be especially wrenching for Southern Baptists. After centuries of regional dominance, the denomination has been shrinking: last year, the church reported fewer than three hundred thousand baptisms, the lowest number in more than half a century, and a decline of about a third since the peak, in 1972. Moore’s critique of Christian triumphalism seems well suited to this not very triumphant time for his church. His promise is that the Southern Baptists can grow better, even if they are not growing bigger: he would like to be the leader of a moral minority.