The Culture of the Christ-Haunted South

Russell Moore, the president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, begins his latest book, Onward, by telling a story.Onward Russ had a college friend, an atheist, who wasn’t antagonistic towards the Christian faith so much as he found it simply irrelevant. Russ and he had friendly coffee-shop debates about the existence of God, and on a number of occasions Russ had shared his faith with his unbelieving friend. So when his friend, out of the blue, asked Russ to recommend a church for him to attend, Russ thought the friend must have had a Damascus Road-type conversion. His friend quickly corrected Russ:

He rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe any of that stuff,” he said. “But I want to go into politics, and I’m never going to be elected to anything in this state if I’m not a church member. And I’ve looked at the numbers; there are more Southern Baptists around here than anything else, so sign me up.”

I was stunned into momentary silence as he stopped to check out a girl walking past our table. He then took a swig of coffee and continued, “But seriously, nothing freaky; if anybody starts screaming about hell or pulling a snake out of a box, I’m out of there.” (2)

Russ makes his point well. There has been a serious downside to the culture of the Bible-Belt, a milieu he calls “the culture of the Christ-haunted South.” For many persons, claiming to be a Christian became so expedient that it blinded them about the actual claims of Christ.

Russ argues that the collapse of the Bible-Belt provides the Church with a new opportunity. “We ought to see the ongoing cultural shake-up in America as a liberation of sorts from a captivity we never even knew we were in” (7). In Onward: Engaging the Gospel without Losing the Culture, Russ Moore makes the case for a clear-eyed optimism. I think he’s right.

Cross-posted at

In Case You Missed It: Supreme Court Edition

Today, the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. In case you (somehow) missed it, here are some of the more helpful summaries and responses to the decision. Responses against and in favor are included below.

1) For the full decision, read it here. The summary of the decision: “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.”

2) At the Daily Signal, Ryan Anderson provides his take on how to respond to what he calls “judicial activism” at play in this case.

3) Russ Moore offers a balanced, hopeful, and biblical response to the decision: the church should not cave nor panic.

4) At the Atlantic, David Perry discusses how, in their eyes, the Court established a new right on the basis of the history of marriage.

5) President Obama and the White House celebrate. See Twitter (@WhiteHouse, @HuffingtonPost, @nytimes, etc), the Internet at large, or this article.

6) At TGC, Trevin Wax culls the top 10 quotes from the dissenting justices.


In Case You Missed It

1) Russ Moore offers a compassionate reminder for churches to remember those who want to be but cannot be mothers on Mother’s Day.

2) At 9Marks, Jonathan Leeman answers several questions, including whether or not elders can be single and if young earth creationism is a primary or secondary matter for local churches. What are your thoughts on these topics?

3) At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher offers a pointed evaluation of the evangelical response (past, present, and future) to the advance of the gay rights movement in America. Among other points, he argues, “I think it’s simply true as a general matter that you can be as nice as you can be, and the world will still hate you. This is massively true when it comes to the gay rights question.”

4) An interesting explanation of what constitutes an insult of Muhammad for Muslims, from Daniel Akbari at WND. Akbari points out that insulting, not depicting, Muhammad was the spark for the recent attack in Garland, Texas.