When The Good Samaritan saw the beaten up man on the side of the road, he stepped into the ditch. He stepped into the filth, mud, and danger with that man. The Samaritan was a prosperous man. He had a fair amount of money with him, as well as soothing oils and wine. It would have been easy for him to think, “Why risk those robbers coming back? Why make myself a target?” Instead, he took pity and entered into the beaten man’s situation. Just so, Dr. Russell Moore stepped into the trenches with abuse victims and survivors. He stepped into the hate, gaslighting, and slander which we face every time we try to get help or call out evil.
When I first heard about the Caring Well Conference, I was stunned that any major church group would coordinate such an event. In my experience, no one in the church talked about abuse. It was shameful. It was hushed up. To speak truth was “slander” and to ask for help was “gossip.” But this is not how Jesus responds to evil, nor how Dr. Moore and his team at the ERLC did. A few weeks later, when I received an email from Dr. Moore inviting me to speak at Caring Well, I was elated and humbled. It was like being invited to a party I’d never felt worthy of attending.
The ERLC team, at the time, included Daniel Darling and Phillip Bethancourt. Besides my new friends at The Good Book Company, and of course, my husband Jason, I’d never met men – let alone church leaders – so willing to take a public stand against abuse. I found myself being built up and honored, and I was accustomed to being beaten down and shamed.
While some rightly point out that Caring Well wasn’t enough, the truth is, nothing we do will ever be enough. Nothing can be enough until Jesus returns to wipe evil away (Isaiah 25:7-9). This is why I sometimes tweet, “We are one day closer to seeing Jesus face-to-face.” This is a count down. We’re standing in the gap. Until The End, the war with evil will not end. And make no mistake, abuse is evil, and those who perpetrate it, perpetuate it, and cover it up are evil. Nevertheless, by God’s grace, we endure and we persist, because the battle is not ours, it is God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15).
In the months following Caring Well, I was dismayed to read of frivolous investigations, false accusations, malicious gossip, and divisiveness. It was that feeling of expecting something bad, and then being disappointed when you’re right. But this reminded me of the environment I grew up in, and it starkly contrasted the new Christian culture I was entering into. Despite the opposition, and at great personal cost to himself, Dr. Moore stood strong.
Sadly, gossip, gaslighting, and slander is what abusers do to victims who talk, and to anyone else they perceive as a threat. You stand up to evil, they throw you under the bus. This is also what people do when they’re stuck stubbornly in a mindset or culture that enables abuse. As sinners, we trend toward evil, and in some circles, evil is trendy. I had hoped that Caring Well signaled a much broader change in church culture, but God’s people are still God’s people, and the wicked are still wicked. Despite my disappointment, I was still surrounded by more godly people than I’d ever known before. As distressed as many of them were about the negative responses they were receiving, I was elated that our dissenters had such Christlike examples to gripe about.
There are many people who will take up a good cause thinking it will make them look righteous, clever, or cool. There are not many people who will take up a good cause knowing it will get them hatred and blowback. It is my belief that Dr. Moore and his team knew full well that they would be slandered, falsely accused, and blackballed following the Caring Well Conference and Caring Well Initiative. Of course, no one is ever quite prepared for how stressful and isolating that blowback feels (even if you’ve been through it many times), but I think they knew what they were stepping into, and they stepped in anyway. They got down into the ditch with the beaten man, despite the dirt, filth, and robbers watching from the shadows.
While I’m sad to see Dr. Moore leave the ERLC and I grieve with my friends there, I’m happy for him and his family, and eager to see how God continues to work through him at Christianity Today. While I think the SBC has lost a powerful advocate for the church, I’m grateful that he and his family have found a new church home where they can rest, grow, and recover. And really, the SBC has lost nothing. Because the kind of man who will step into the trenches is not aligned to any one denomination or church; his allegiance is to Jesus Christ. As Christ continues to sanctify and purify the SBC, Dr. Moore’s ministry will continue to be used by God to do just that (Galatians 2:20).
In closing, I am also grateful for the faithful ministry of Maria Moore. It takes a strong woman and a wise wife to support and build up a pastor and a husband. This is especially true amid such trying seasons of discord and persecution. While some scoff at the idea that Christians in America are persecuted, all one needs to do is look at how Christians treat fellow Christians and you’ll see where the devil is busy. Dr. Moore’s persistence and endurance are a testimony to his character, and also to Maria’s compassion and grace.
And to Dr. Moore and Maria; I know these past few years haven’t been easy for either of you, or for your kids, but you showed us all how the church should respond to abuse. Thank you.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:11-13