The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) today wrapped up its Leadership Summit about human sexuality. The atmosphere at the summit was frank and unsettling at times, occasionally punctuated with slightly nervous laughter.
Summit attendees heard sermons, panel discussions, speeches, and academic presentations, including a data-driven talk by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas. Regnerus reported younger Americans at large have rejected biblical sexual ethics, but all is not lost.
“Among the 18- to 39-year-old pack, you thought you were losing them all on the culture-wars issues,” Regnerus said. “I don’t think you really are.”
Regnerus also serves as senior fellow in sociology for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. He said 11 percent of evangelical 18- to 39-year-olds support same-sex marriage. About 20 percent are not sure about it.
ERLC President Russell Moore said the data showed that the myth of the evangelical, millennial liberal is just that. He also said evangelicals can learn a lesson from the Mormon church in building a lasting faith in young people.
“Some of us ought to sit back and say, but we also need to learn from [Mormons] on what is it that you do in order to raise up children to think and to believe the way that you’re teaching them to think and believe,” Moore said. “I think we really ought to explore ways to look into that sociologically without giving any ground theologically or missiologically.”
Moore is still in his first year as president of the influential Southern Baptist group. Less than two months after his selection as the SBC’s public-policy chief in Washington, President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage. Then, just weeks after Moore took office, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal statute defining marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman.
Moore said the key to engaging a sexually broken culture is being honest about the difficulties of following Jesus. He criticized what he called the “dime-store prosperity gospel,” the idea that while God might not make you rich, God will give you everything you want to be a “normal American person.”
“What we need to do is to say exactly what Jesus is consistently saying, following Christ is difficult. … Jesus is saying this is bearing a cross and following after me,” Moore said. “And so we have to be very realistic in order to stand up and say, you are going to be fighting not only against your own biological impulses, which are good and given by God, you’re also going to be wrestling against principalities and powers in the heavenly places, and, guess what? That’s not going to end at your wedding day. That’s going to be what you are going to have be facing every single day of your life until you hear that beeping flat line in the hospital.”
Publication date: April 29, 2014