At a time when many people see politics as the primary means to change culture, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is placing his attention on a very different institution: the family.
Moore, who recently released the new book “The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home,” told The Billy Hallowell Podcast that he believes many people struggle when it comes to familiar situations and dynamics.
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In fact, he sees these struggles as an equalizer of sorts. Listen to Moore’s powerful words about the Bible and the family:
“For as long as I've been serving in ministry I've realized that the closest sorts of areas of peril that any of us have often have to do with family,” Moore said. “Sometimes even people who seem to be outwardly very confident, behind closed doors there's a great deal of chaos or woundedness as it relates to family and that transcends really all categories.”
Moore argues that much of the “chaos and the ones upmanship happening out in the culture” is actually being learned within the family and that these negative dynamics are then replicated outside of the home in other relationships and scenarios.
“I think the real issue with family is that we either take it too seriously or not seriously enough,” he said. “Those of us who are conservative evangelicals are probably more familiar with the way that people can not take family seriously enough — with their argument that sometimes people in the secular world will make that family is just a social construct; that marriage is irrelevant or it's endlessly malleable or so forth.”
Moore said that evangelicals are familiar with these arguments, but that, on the flip side, there’s also real danger in taking family too seriously. By this, he meant those who see family as the “ultimate” end all, be all; it’s a dynamic that Moore believes can spark some major problems.
“If you have people with an idealized view of marriage … ‘My marriage partner is to be my ultimate soulmate who's going to meet all of my needs’ and then that person runs into what every marriage does, which is to call for self-sacrifice and suffering, then they leave disappointed and sometimes even wreck their lives over that,” he said.
Family dynamics impact everyone — those who are married, single or divorced. Family, Moore argues, “starts at the cross” — something he explained by diving deep into the scenarios unfolding in the gospels.
“Our understanding of the cross reshapes the way we ought to view the family, because when Jesus says ‘take up your cross and follow me’ —… we should expect lives of tumult and we should expect to pour ourselves out in sacrifice — that applies to the family as much as it does to our individual lives,” he said.
And while authenticity is essential in any healthy family, Moore said that the world is also looking at Christianity and other institutions today and wondering, “Is there anything real there?”
“And that's a very real crisis that applies to all sorts of things,” he said. “It applies to the way that some Christians have allowed their politics to reshape and reclaim even the things that they previously said about family or about faith or other things.”
Moore said he believes we’re living today in a culture that has “made politics into an idol” and a religion of sorts — a system that unfortunately has people looking to it for “transcendent meaning.” But the faith leader warned that Christians must avoid this sort of “herd mentality.”
“As Christians we ought to be those who are the least likely to fall into that kind of herd mentality, because we don't just have a tribe,” he said. “We have a church, we have a kingdom that transcends all of those things.”
Moore is hoping that readers come away from “The Storm-Tossed Family” with a sense of hope, especially people who might feel alone as they navigate difficult familial situations.
“The Bible tells us that family is a beautiful picture of the gospel,” he said, noting, though, that it shouldn’t surprise some when their family dynamics experience some spiritual warfare. “It's going to be hard. You're going to have the possibility of being hurt, but it's worth it.”