By Chelsen Vicari, Juicy Ecumenism.
You might say a Baptist dropped a bomb on the Justice Conference in Chicago on June 4. The annual gathering of young evangelicals is described as “one of the largest international gatherings on social and biblical justice” and is a project of World Relief. The Justice Conference customarily invites members of the Christian Left to Champion issues related to social justice. For example, last year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Cornel West, liberal political activist and Union Theological Seminary professor. So it’s a bit surprising that this year, wedged on the schedule between Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, was Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
During his twenty-eight minute discussion, Moore boldly laid out what it looks like to be a Gospel-centered social justice warrior. He tackled issues ranging from racial injustice, human trafficking, and refugees. But it was his mention of the sanctity of unborn life, sexual ethics, and the reality of Hell that had some in the room squirming uncomfortably in their seats.
Too often, Moore said, Christians are tempted to solely focus on the social issues that their peers or “tribe” approve. “When I’m speaking to people in my tribe of conservative confessional evangelicalism,” explained Moore, “I often have to say you are pro-life, and rightly so, but because you recognize the image of God and the humanity of God in the unborn child and in his or her mother, you must also recognize the humanity and dignity of God in people who might not be politically popular with you right now: with prisoners, with refugees, with immigrants. And that works the other way too.”
The bulk of Moore’s discussion urged his audience to recognize the dehumanizing of the unborn as equally unjust as the dehumanizing of other vulnerable groups more popular among younger Christians. “There are other justice-oriented Evangelicals who sometimes are very willing to speak out, rightly so on these issues of trafficking and racial injustice, but who are afraid to speak up on the issue of abortion…”
“If we are unwilling to speak to what is happening not only in our country but around the world with the dehumanizing of children because they are hidden with the wounding that takes place with women and men and societies by an industry that promises people an easy fix,” said Moore. “Then we will empower injustice and we will also signal to the rest of the world if you can just get the oppressed small enough and hidden enough and politically powerless enough, we will have nothing to say.