Moore to the Point
Hello, fellow wayfarers. Why our pro-life witness has to be about ways and means, not just ends … How a question about time travel changed my mind this week … Where to start if you want to listen to Hank … Plus, a Desert Island Playlist. This is this week’s Moore to the Point.
Russell Moore
Why the Pro-Life Movement (Still) Needs Jesus

This Sunday marks 50 years since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States.

It’s also the first year in which that date—marked every year by a March for Life in the nation’s capital—falls after Roe was repudiated by the Supreme Court in last summer’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

That means the focus this year—for those of us with pro-life commitments—will be invariably fixed on the next 50 years. This may be especially true for those of us who are also evangelical Christians.

And it’s true not just with what we say and do but also with how we say it.

In letters to his son, also a pastor, the late Eugene Peterson noticed that our evangelical movements and ministries are often missing “ways and means.” We must be attentive, he argued, to the how as well as to the what.

“When the missional ‘how’ is severed from the worship ‘who and what,’ the missional life no longer is controlled and shaped by Scripture and the Spirit,” he wrote. “And so mission becomes shrill, dependent on constant ‘strategies’ and promotional schemes.”

This is difficult, he wrote, in an American context in which “doing the right thing in the wrong way” is seen as less important than the “success” of whatever project is undertaken.

“But if we are going to live the Jesus life,” he argued, “we simply have to do it the Jesus way—he is, after all, the Way as well as the Truth and Life.”

Peterson was addressing local church ministry, but for those of us who are born-again Christians, the same principles ought to apply in any social reform or human rights movement.

What the world needs from believers is not just effective strategies in ending abortion or even in addressing the underlying causes of an abortion (or euthanasia) culture. The world also needs Christians to embody the Way, the Truth, and the Life—both in where we stand and in how we get there.

The passage Peterson referenced, of course, comes from an interaction between Jesus and his disciples. After reassuring them that he was going away to prepare a place for them and that his Father’s house has many rooms, Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:4).

Jesus’ follower Thomas was immediately perplexed, no doubt thinking that Jesus had given a set of directions, some oracles to be pronounced, or a ritual to be enacted to get them to where he was going. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going,” he said, “so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’ answer here encapsulates, I suppose, all the rest of the Bible. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v. 6).

Any commitment to protecting innocent human life must tell the truth. We must pay attention to every time the value of human life is eclipsed with distancing language—a way to see at least one of the vulnerable parties involved as an “it” rather than a “you.”

This happens when the woman in desperation becomes a problem to be solved rather than a person with all the mystery that comes with that. Or when her child becomes a “pregnancy” or an “embryo”—an abstraction—rather than a neighbor whose value isn’t dependent on his or her “wantedness” or usefulness to society.

The disintegration of persons and of communities, Wendell Berry wrote, usually starts with a disintegration of words. Telling the truth about the mystery of human life, the image of God, and God’s care for the vulnerable will require a people free from the fear of tribal slogans. Such slogans try to define for us which of our neighbors we should talk about and which ones should go unmentioned.

This also means we recognize the truth that no pro-life vision of any sort can coexist with the sort of sexual anarchy that—intentionally or unintentionally—assigns value to women based on their sexual attractiveness or availability to men. The consumption of pornography is not a separate issue from the sanctity of human life.

That means telling the truth that men and women, mothers and fathers are not just interchangeable and socially constructed fictions. Women are uniquely vulnerable, both in the nurturing of children within the womb and the care of those children afterward.

Likewise, we must tell the truth that a pro-life vision cannot coexist with any kind of racial supremacy, nationalistic idolatry, “bro-culture” misogyny, or culture of cruelty.

As Christians, we stand for life not just in the abstract but, as the apostle John put it, “with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Right now, there are women in our communities who do not know how they will pay rent or even how they can take off enough time from work to give birth, much less to support a child. Right now, within our communities, there are children in poverty who can’t imagine how the future could bring anything other than suffering. We must care not only about life in general but also about each of those individual lives.

Despite all the corruptions and disgraces of American Christianity, evangelicalism, at its best, carries the promise of newness of life.

Wherever a pro-life movement has worked with consistency and sustainability, the message is not just about the injustice and violence of abortion or euthanasia but also the marvel of grace—that Jesus is not shocked or repulsed by people who sin but loves them. So much so that, in him, they can receive cleansed consciences and everlasting life.

Behind all this truth and life is what Eugene Peterson called “the Jesus Way.” It involves refusing to use not only human lives themselves but also our value of human lives as means to an end—or to use our value of human life to justify acting in ways that degrade human dignity.

When “winning” is the primary objective, one can justify any allegiance, immorality, or idolatry as “necessary” to achieve the goal. Can that sometimes produce political or social “wins”? Yes—in the same way that an embezzling banker can get rich or an adulterous spouse can have sexual pleasure. But what is at the end of all that? What happens to you?

If a person’s character is expendable for “the cause,” whatever the cause is—is that not the very mindset the pro-life movement means to contradict? The life of any person, no matter how addicted or impoverished or elderly or new, is never the price of exchange for anything else, whatever the consequences. The same holds true with a human soul. A Machiavellian pro-life movement would be a victory for a culture of death, no matter how much “winning” it does along the way.

All of this matters because we are talking not about a set of issues but about a Person. He does not just point toward the Way; he is the Way. He does not just tell the truth; he is the Truth. He does not just offer life; he is the Life.

For the next 50 years, we need a pro-life commitment to human dignity in vulnerability. Who knows what challenges to such dignity will come next—whether through gene editing, “compassionate” suicide, or maybe even the trans-humanist abandonment of the limits of human nature itself.

We will need to pursue the pro-life cause with consistency—even when that puts us out of whatever tribes to which we think we belong. And we will need to do so with persuasion, recognizing that no legislation or court decision can protect human life if the people themselves do not value it.

But, along with and above all that, we need Jesus.

Does the Church Have a Future?

This past week, I was with a group of Christians and someone posed the question, “If you could go back in time 50 years to 1973, with 10 billion dollars and a passion for gospel ministry, where would you put it?”

As one who has been known to ask tricky ethical dilemma questions of students a time or two, I found the thought experiment really tough to answer. I kept coming back to the butterfly effect. How would I know that the 10 billion dollars wouldn’t change the situation for the worse?

One person cleverly answered, tongue in cheek, “I’d invest in Apple stock and then use the residuals to fund missionaries and church planters for the next thousand years!”

Yet the most interesting answer came from a woman who said that the real value would not be the money—even that much money—but the knowledge. A time traveler from the future would have invaluable counsel as to what is around the corner of time, what matters, and what doesn’t. She’s right.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the value isn’t just the knowledge; it’s the very presence of the time traveler.

After all, just the announcement “I’m from the future, and the church is still here; the gospel is still spreading” would inject confidence and renewed commitment—especially in the gloomy time of Vietnam and Watergate-era despair, in which the church believed it was in the “terminal generation” of the “late great planet earth.”

And then I rebuked myself.

After all, we do have a time traveler from the future who has told us just that. Jesus—the Alpha and Omega who stands in eternity beyond and over all our sequencing of time—has, in fact, told us, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5).

That ought to free me from all my grumbling and handwringing, whether about my own life or about the church’s future.

I happened upon a book in which Catholic spirituality thinker Martin Thornton wrote this:

Every Christian in the world could be slaughtered tomorrow, every church, chapel, and cathedral razed to the ground, every Bible and prayer-book, every word of Christian theology and devotion, could be destroyed; and it would not make the slightest difference to the existence of the “Church.” On the surface “the Church cannot survive” sounds a reasonable prophecy, “the glorified humanity of Christ cannot survive” sounds ridiculous; yet both statements mean exactly the same thing.

If Jesus and his body are inseparable, then his point is exactly right. “Will the church survive?” is essentially the same question as “Will the glorified humanity of Jesus survive?”

Jesus has not only seen the future; he’s already there. And he has more than 10 billion dollars with him.

Where to Start with Hank Williams?

Several folks wrote in after last week’s newsletter on Hank Williams and asked where they should start if they want to listen to his work.

The answer kind of depends on whether you’re, like me, okay with melancholy. If so, then I’d start with these: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” followed by “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Mansion on the Hill,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You),” and my favorite “You Win Again.”

If you’re looking for more upbeat songs, try “I Saw the Light,” “Lovesick Blues” (I know it’s about having the blues, but the music itself is more light than dark), or “Jambalaya (On the Bayou).”

On second thought, scratch that. If you don’t like melancholy, maybe skip Hank Williams.

Desert Island Bookshelf

Every other week, I share a playlist of songs one of you says you’d want to have on hand if you were stranded on a desert island. This week’s submission comes from reader Aaron Weber, who writes, “Thank you for your newsletter each week! Music has always meant a lot to me, and one of my passions is exploring different eras of music and ‘retrieving’ from them the way we do with theologians. I think my playlist reflects that a bit.”

Here’s his list:

  • “Perth” by Bon Iver—Opener to one of my favorite albums. Amazingly creative, and Justin Vernon uses his unorthodox singing to basically create another instrument.

  • “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer—One of the greatest guitarists of the last couple decades. This song showcases his ability to play simple and captivating parts that highlight his lyrics (and equally impressive bandmates).

  • “Old Pine” by Ben Howard—A song about a particularly rejuvenating memory. It helps us consider our own similar memories.

  • “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap—A nostalgic one for me. Her vocal effects perfectly capture the emotion she is processing.

  • “Atlantis” by Noah Gundersen (ft. Phoebe Bridgers)—Both of these artists can tell a story while sounding like soft tears are seeping out of their eyes. Their combination gives me chills every time.

  • “Dismantle. Repair.” by Anberlin—Another nostalgic one. My favorite band when I was younger. Stephen Christian is an underrated songwriter. This one explores the power of words. Helps bring their excellent record Cities to a close (second-to-last song).

  • “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd—This has the greatest guitar solo of all time (“Stairway to Heaven” is no. 2). It showcases every strength of this remarkable band: lyrics, guitar effects and ability, instrumentation. It’s so good.

Thanks, Aaron!

Readers, what do you think? If you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life and could have only one playlist or one bookshelf with you, what songs or books would you choose?

  • For a Desert Island Playlist, send me a list of 5–12 songs, excluding hymns and worship songs. (We’ll cover those later.)

  • For a Desert Island Bookshelf, send me a list of 5–12 books. If possible, include one photo of all the books together.

Send your list (or both lists!) to, and include as much or as little explanation of your choices as you would like. (And be sure to include the name of the town or city where you live!)

Quote of the Moment

It is the magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, our selves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.

—C. S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man

Join Us at Christianity Today

Founded by Billy Graham, Christianity Today is on a mission to lift up the sages and storytellers of the global church for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why don’t you join us as a member—or give a membership to a friend, a pastor, a church member, someone you mentor, or a curious non-Christian neighbor? You can also make a tax-deductible gift that expands CT’s important voice and influence in the world.

Ask a Question or Say Hello

The Russell Moore Show podcast includes a section of grappling with the questions you might have about life, the gospel, relationships, work, the church, spirituality, the future, a moral dilemma you’re facing, or whatever. You can send your questions to I’ll never use your name—unless you tell me to—and will come up with a groan-inducing pun of a pseudonym for you.

And, of course, I would love to hear from you about anything. Send me an email at if you have any questions or comments about this newsletter, if there are other things you would like to see discussed here, or if you would just like to say hello!

If you have a friend who might like this, please forward it, and if you’ve gotten this from a friend, please subscribe!

Russell Moore

P.S. You can support the continued work of Christianity Today and the public theology project by subscribing to CT magazine.

Christianity Today 465 Gundersen Dr. Carol Stream Il. 60188

*You are receiving this at because you are subscribed to Russell Moore's newsletter
If you would like to stop receiving member-only communication, click here to opt out of future email notifications.
Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr, Carol Stream, IL 60188, United States