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We Must Differentiate Between Violent And Non-Violent Muslims, Christian Leader Says


The Muslim faith of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack has led to a great deal of speculation about whether religion played a role in this attack. Muslim leaders have been quick to condemn the shooting and say it had nothing to do with Islam. Yesterday, we asked evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore to come in. He's president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the author of "Onward: Engaging The Culture Without Losing The Gospel." I asked him whether he worries that the shooter's faith will make things difficult for other American Muslims.

RUSSELL MOORE: As an evangelical Christian, obviously I disagree with Islam fundamentally. At the same time, I'm very disturbed when I hear the sorts of talk that we've been hearing over the last several months about shutting down mosques, about identifying Muslims in this country. That is a very dangerous place to be, both in terms of - at human rights level but also in terms of religious liberty. So it's easy to stand for one's own religious liberty and one's own freedom of conscience, but we need to be standing up for one another as well. And that means differentiating between our Muslim neighbors who are not violent and are not radical, and those terrorists who do mean to do us harm.

WERTHEIMER: This has obviously been a terrible week for mass shootings. Just one week ago there was a mass shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and three people were killed. Again, we don't know how much the shooter was motivated by Christian beliefs. What do you say to those that have been suggesting that people like this shooter ought to be called a Christian terrorist?

MOORE: Well, I would say the same thing to people who say that that I would say to people who suggest that because radical Muslims are terrorists that that means Islam is itself necessarily dangerous and violent. Because there is no mainstream pro-life leader who has called for violence. As matter of fact, every mainstream pro-life leader has condemned any act of violence. It's antithetical to what it means to be pro-life. And I really think the pro-life movement has been a model for civility of rhetoric.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, there has been violence coming from the pro-life side of the argument...

MOORE: And in every case, in every case condemned by pro-life leaders who called for justice to be done against those evildoers and perpetrators.

WERTHEIMER: The killings at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic last Friday did make, I think, a lot of people worry - and there was a lot of comment to this effect - that we could be returning to the culture wars of years ago, a time of very deep divides. Do you think?

MOORE: Well, I don't think we ever really left those great divides. In many ways, I think they are intensifying. I mean, just think of the sorts of conversations that we've had over the past several days about people rebuking politicians for saying that they're praying for victims of shootings and saying, well, you shouldn't be praying for someone, you should be doing something. I don't think that sort of divide would've ever happened just a few years ago. So I think in some ways, the divides are even deeper.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think it's possible that things could go the other way in American culture?

MOORE: So I think the newer generation of Evangelicalism that I consider myself part of is different, in some ways, from the last generation in terms of having a comprehensive list of political goals. But it's very much committed to engagement in the public arena.

WERTHEIMER: So do you think this is a purposeful turn, this kind of turn towards a more - a gentler kind of communication?

MOORE: Well, I think that what's happened - in American culture, we see secularizing forces. We see the end of a kind of cultural Christianity, where for a long time in American life it was necessary to be at least somewhat religious to be seen as a good person or a good neighbor...

WERTHEIMER: ...Church member...

MOORE: ...Church member - that's no longer the case. That's nothing that I panic about. I don't think we have more atheists and agnostics in America, I think we have just more honest atheists and agnostics in America who don't have to be a member of the local church in order to move on with their lives. I think that's good for the church because it provides the real distinction between the church and the world, and it enables us to have to articulate and to teach what is that we believe - not to simply assume that other people are going to get it.

WERTHEIMER: Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Thank you so much.

MOORE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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