An Excellent and Important Point by Russell Moore

by Mar 30, 2015Culture, Mission, Piety


Religious people all have secretly wicked motivations for their religiosity © Flickr

I find this point by Russell Moore to be very helpful and insightful:

Many of those leading the discussion of religious freedom have little or no understanding of what motivates religious people. This shows up in almost all of these conversations, whether over the Little Sisters of the Poor fight not to be compelled to purchase contraception insurance coverage or the legislative attempts to codify RFRA. If one cannot empathize with why defying conscience on a matter of religious exercise is a life-or-death concern, then one is free to impute all sorts of evil motives. Why doesn’t the employee at Abercrombie and Fitch just ditch the head scarf to work there? After all, that’s just fashion. Why won’t the Amish just drive in cars down the road like “regular people” do?

When secularized or nominally religious people don’t understand religious motivation, then they are going to assume that, behind a concern for religious exercise, is some sinister agenda: usually one involving power or money. That sort of ignorance is not just naive. It leads to a breakdown of pluralism and liberal democracy. I shouldn’t have the power to mandate that a Jain caterer provide wild game for some Baptist church’s Duck Dynasty-themed “Beast Feast,” just because I don’t understand their non-violent tenets toward all living creatures. I shouldn’t be allowed to require Catholic churches to use grape juice instead of wine just because I don’t understand transubstantiation.

And, from my reading this very day, an excellent example of what Moore is talking about. Here’s atheist Michael Ruse writing in the New York Times:

In parts of the world where people are allowed and encouraged to take [questions about God*] seriously and to think them through, people increasingly find that they can do without the God factor. It is in places where one is being indoctrinated from childhood and bullied in adulthood that people continue with God belief.

Did you catch that? The only or main (?) reason adults continue to believe in God is that we were first indoctrinated and now bullied! I find Ruse’s comment naïve—Ruse doesn’t indoctrinate his kids? He’s neutral? I also find it patronizing: shouldn’t I be allowed to determine whether or not I’m being bullied? Is it possible that my belief in God was not born under duress, that I sincerely believe, that I have no nefarious motives for that belief?

I’m not whining. Jesus said that unbelievers would say “all manner of evil things falsely” about us for His sake (Matt. 5:12ff.). I simply don’t want Christians to be weakened by such attacks, and I want us to be prepared not to whine when the culture refuses to see anything other than sinister motives behind our actions.

I urge you to read Moore’s brief piece.

*There’s a very unclear pronoun reference in the original piece. I think I’m representing Ruse accurately with this interpolation.

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