Saturday, February 27, 2016

Russell Moore doesn't like me

Russell Moore doesn't like me.

It's not that big a deal, to be honest. I've never had the privilege to meet the esteemed Dr. Moore. If I hadn't encountered his declaration “The word 'evangelical' no longer has any meaning,” embedded in a tweet by Rachel Held Evans, our paths would still have yet to cross, even online. But cross our paths did, at least online. And in that interactive noninteraction, something about me rubbed him the wrong way, and he decided he disliked me enough to take the time to block me from reading anything else that he tweets.

I don't meant to make a big deal out of this, to be honest. I'm more amused than I am bothered, and even more puzzled than I am amused.

Moore, if you've never heard of him, is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Judging by his Wikipedia page, we have a few doctrinal differences. He believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, subscribes to the doctrines that one must be a Christian to enter heaven and that everyone else descends into a literal hell of eternal torment, and favors complementarian gender roles. I'm sure we could have some rather lively discussions if we wanted.

On the other hand, Moore also is the adoptive father of two children. Anyone who looks at orphans and says “They are my family” is someone who lives in the very heart of God. All his other work — be it as pastor, professor, theologian or ethicist — is straw compared to that bold act of love. That makes him good people in my book.

I encountered Moore's tweet embedded in one of Evans', and Twitter being what it is, I followed Moore's tweet back to Moore's stream. I found this particular gem, which amused me and reminded me of the old joke: Why do Baptists oppose premarital sex? Because it may lead to dancing!

Further down his feed came two tweets that I responded to. One had to do with Planned Parenthood and federal funding, and the other with the ongoing debate over whether it's discriminatory for Christian business owners to refuse to provide cakes or floral arrangements for same-sex weddings, or discriminatory not to allow them to do so.

Here are the two tweets and my responses, in their entirety. First is a retweet he had made on the subject of abortion and Planned Parenthood funding. It's not evident from the tweet or the rewteet, but I assume Moore is opposed to both.

The second, a tweet of his own, on the issue of catering for same-sex weddings:

Now, I don't want to be too hard on Moore. I'm sure he has no idea who I am. It's possible he missed the John Bunyan reference, and assumed that "Wicker Gate" is a reference to something horrid. Importantly, @WickerGate isn't my main Twitter account. I created it a little more than two weeks ago as a platform for voicing my religio-political views separately from my more personal tweets. In that time the account has acquired zero followers of its own.

It's quite possible Moore felt that I was trolling him, even though my comments were polite and conversational in tone. I really can't blame him. The Internet is full of trolls, and he probably deals with them on a regular basis. It's not like I'm a well-known blogger like Rachel Held Evans or Samantha Field.

But then, that's kind of the point, isn't it? Moore doesn't know who I am. He doesn't know if I'm looking for answers, if I'm hoping to initiate a discussion from his tweets, or if I'm just weighing in with a different opinion. He can't tell any of those things about me, and yet he still blocked me. In itself, that's not a big deal.

But I keep having these encounters with evangelicals once they begin to suspect that I don't belong in the camp, which is odd when one considers that evangelicals proclaim themselves the possessors of the eternal truth of salvation in Jesus Christ, and want everyone to come into the fold with them. It's hard to come into the fold when the fold keeps turning you away. And yet it does.

An editor at a Christian magazine wants to buy something I wrote about surviving cancer -- until he discovers that I support same-sex marriage, and then suddenly he wants nothing to do with me. A woman at the church we've been attending for 18 months is friendly and welcoming – until she discovers that I plan to vote Democratic, not Republican, in the upcoming presidential election. Then, suddenly, I shouldn't even bother coming to church.

I'm a voice worth listening to, until it becomes apparent that I'm not a six-day creationist and don't believe in the Rapture. The negative reaction gets even stronger when I profess my belief in the humanity of Jesus. God only knows how the church would respond if I were openly gay, transgender, polyamorous or otherwise declaring an alternate sexual or gender identity.

Actually, I don't need divine revelation to know how that would work out. I have plenty of friends whose experiences illustrate quite clearly the dangers of being out in a conservative evangelical setting. In the end, this is nothing like any of those. In terms of offense, being blocked on Twitter by a complete stranger ranks far closer to 1 or 0 than it does to 10.

I leave it to the reader to determine what lesson, if any, is to be drawn from my recent experience on Twitter with Russell Moore. I don't know Moore's heart, or what sort of evening he was having. In the final analysis, here is all that happened: On a Friday night in February, I logged onto Twitter and tried to engage with Russell Moore.

And he closed the door in my face.

Copyright © 2016 by David Learn. Used with permission.