Moore to the Point
Hello, fellow wayfarers. No, I’m not over January 6. … Social media tends to make persuading and reconsidering viewpoints a lot harder. … My bad time with Bono … This is this week’s Moore to the Point.
Russell Moore
No, I’m Not over January 6

Today at CT, I published an essay of reflections on the state of the church one year after the January 6, 2021, insurrectionist attack on the Capitol. In reference to the “Jesus Saves” signs at the insurrection, I wrote about what this means for an evangelical movement that has lost its way: 

Some have sold literal or metaphorical bunker supplies for the imminent collapse of civilization sure to come because of Y2K or sharia law or the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision or critical race theory or a plot to shutter churches permanently due to the pandemic or whatever. Many sectors of evangelicalism have become apocalyptic about everything but the actual Apocalypse.

As with the insurrection (and virtually every authoritarian movement in history), an apocalyptic moment is an emergency requiring emergency measures. Thus we get the cognitive dissonance of people who support law and order (sometimes by quoting Romans 13) beating police officers and breaking through windows to shut down Congress’s constitutional duty to count electoral votes. These are the people who can ridicule the very words of Jesus Christ about turning the other cheek as naïve and weak.

This kind of emergency, we’re told, can’t worry about constitutional norms or about Christian character. The reasoning goes that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t a suicide pact and the way of Jesus works only with enemies more reasonable than these, like, I suppose, the Roman Empire that crucified the one who gave us such teaching.

Such is the sign not of a post-Christian culture but of a post-Christian Christianity, not of a secularizing society but of a paganizing church.

It would be one thing if this were just a matter of the crowd attacking the Capitol that day. It’s quite another when people—including people with highlights in their Bibles and prayer requests on their refrigerators—wave the attack away as a mere protest from which we should “move on.” This represents more than a threat to American democracy—though that would be bad enough—but a threat to the witness of the church.

You can read the whole thing here.

As I wrote that essay, I went back to read what I wrote in this newsletter at the time, one year ago. I remember how reluctant I was to write it. After all, I was a dissident from the Trumpist turn from the beginning and stayed so. I knew there were good-faith fellow evangelicals who disagreed with me. I didn’t want to be heard as saying anything approaching “I told you so.” But I wrote anyway, and looking back, I can feel the anguish of what I feared might be true: that evangelical Christians would find some way to minimize or even justify the acts of that horrible day:

If you read nothing else, read this: If you can defend this, you can defend anything. If you can wave this away with “well, what about …” or by changing the subject to a private platform removing an account inciting violence as “Orwellian,” then where, at long last, is your limit?

After pleading with people to hold accountable the insurrectionists and their inciters, to make sure that this never happens to our country again, I wrote to elected officials and to ministers of Christ’s church:

Is that easy? No. Will people say you’re a “closet liberal.” Yes. Will people threaten “psychological warfare” or conduct endless investigations against you? Maybe. Will people send threats to kill you and your family or to destroy your reputation and ministry? Perhaps.

You can survive all that. Trust me.

Maybe I was writing those words to you, or maybe I was writing them to my future self. “You can survive all that.” I could be wrong. But whatever part of me wrote those words knew something my conscious mind often doesn’t.

The question is whether our country can survive “all that,” can survive a cultural context that is, if anything, even more perilous now. I think we can, and I think we will.

If by we I mean the United States of America, then I am confident in a country that has withstood demagoguery and violent uprisings before.

If by we, I mean the church of Jesus Christ, then I am not just hopeful but certain. The promise made at Caesarea Philippi still stands: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18).

Across evangelical Christianity, green shoots are breaking through burned-over ground, often by people who don’t want to call themselves evangelicals anymore but who still believe the old, old story of the gospel.

These are tough times. Churches are divided. Friendships have been destroyed. Families have been riven apart. The country braces for what could yet come.

But we can survive all that. We can do the right thing. I hope that’s not the (quite vast) foolish part of me speaking but the (much smaller) wise part.

When I look back next January 6 and read these words that speak to hope and a brighter future, I hope I have the right to say, “I told you so.”

Why Social Media Divides Us 

Over the Christmas holidays I read a fascinating account in Robert Wright’s Nonzero Newsletter of his epiphany about social media and political polarization. Wright had listened to a podcast in which psychology and political science professor Philip Tetlock “noted that once people have taken a position publicly, they have trouble abandoning it, even if evidence against it accumulates.”

“People who make public commitments to a position are going to be motivated to bolster it,” Tetlock explained. “They’re going to become better and better at generating reasons why they’re right and their would-be critics are wrong.”

This is hardly new insight into human nature, Wright acknowledges, but it had never occurred to him how much has changed in this respect over the past 30 years.

Wright recalls his early days as a journalist, in which the options for asserting opinions to a public audience were limited to print magazines, newspapers, radio, or television appearances. All of these were scarce, and very few people found themselves with the kind of audience those platforms provided.

Wright discloses how it felt when a letter to the editor arrived at the New Republic contesting the facts he had written in an article. “It was a feeling of vulnerability—as if I was up on a stage in front of a bunch of people and in danger of being embarrassed,” he writes. He would find himself looking for reasons why his position was right and the letter writer’s was wrong.

“These days,” Wright argues, “there are way more people who can have that on-stage feeling, because there are way more people on stage.” This stage is, of course, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media platform.

The problem is not so much that these platforms broadcast people’s views, stirring up division between them; it’s the speed at which they do so. Once someone has committed publicly to some viewpoint or other, to some tribal allegiance or another, (fallen) human nature is a strong deterrent to reconsidering the issue.

I mulled this over for a while and thought about how often I have changed my mind on things (whether theological, social, political, or even just personal). I am on a lot of public panels on many different issues, and I don’t remember a single time on any of those that I have responded to someone’s argument with “You’re right; I now agree with you.” Yet I’ve done that many times when there’s no spotlight on me, when I have the time and space to think something through.

I have a conversation and ponder it. I read a book and think about it. How many times have I read something and thought This is nonsense until the argument seeped in and I could see the connections to what I knew to be true? There can be a big difference, for almost anybody, between reconsidering a viewpoint and losing an argument.

Social media doesn’t mean that conversation and persuasion are impossible, but it sure makes them a lot harder.

A Cringe Memory of U2

Taking note of the Desert Island Playlist submission below, I was transported in memory to my growing-up years, somewhere in the 1980s. I will admit it took me a while to warm up to U2. At first, I did not like them at all, and I would groan when their songs played on the radio. (Kids, radio was like a streaming service, except the shuffle function was controlled by someone else.)

My cousin, who is quite possibly the kindest, happiest person I know, was at my house. Think Erin from The Officeexcept smart. She rarely said anything about what she disliked, but she mentioned some band or song (I don’t remember) that she couldn’t stand.

I replied, “I hate U2.” When I saw a mist of tears come to her eyes, I realized she thought I had said “I hate you too.”

I eventually warmed up to U2 (though I can still live with or without them), but I still cringe and feel guilty about making my cousin cry.

Desert Island Playlist

This week’s submission comes from reader Matt Kincade, MD, from Northwest Arkansas, who instead of a song playlist sent along the “five crucial albums” he would want on his desert island. This has to be the first time the phrase Shake Your Money Maker has appeared in this newsletter—or any Christianity Today publication, for that matter—but who am I to judge?

1. Dawes, Nothing Is Wrong—With tracks like “If I Wanted Someone,” “Coming Back to a Man,” and “A Little Bit of Everything,” this album from Southern California–based Dawes shows that we are all very flawed people who are much needier than we would like to admit. Highly recommended for its lyrical richness and great musicianship.

2. Led Zeppelin IV—Only eight songs, but there’s not a weak one in the bunch. From “Stairway to Heaven” to “When the Levee Breaks” to “Black Dog,” this is rock and roll at its finest.

3. U2, The Joshua Tree—Perhaps my favorite album of all time. My wife and I saw U2 play this album in its entirety a few years ago live in Kansas City. It’s timeless and has the thread of the gospel running throughout its songs. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a fantastic embodiment of the “already but not yet” that we feel as Christians on this earth.

4. U2, Achtung Baby—From the unifying chorus of “One” to a song about the Holy Spirit in “Mysterious Ways,” this is U2’s second-best album and highlights their ability to change with the times.

5. The Black Crowes, Shake Your Money Maker—The debut album from the Georgia-based Crowes changed my perspective of music when I first heard the initial few notes of “Twice as Hard.” Their remake of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle,” their classic ballad “She Talks to Angels,” and “Jealous Again” make it my last must-have album for a desert island.

What do you think?

If you’d like to join in, ask yourself this question: If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one bookshelf or one playlist with you, what books or songs would you choose?

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

  • For a Desert Island Playlist, send me a list of up to 12 songs, not including hymns and worship songs. (We’ll cover those later.)

Include as much or as little explanation of your choices as you would like. You can send these to

Quote of the Moment

As long as we remain sheep, we overcome. Even though we may be surrounded by a thousand wolves, we overcome and are victorious. But as soon as we are wolves, we are beaten.

—John Chrysostom, Homily 34 on Saint Matthew, as quoted by Thomas Merton in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander


Ian Morgan Cron, The Story of You: An Enneagram Journey to Becoming Your True Self (HarperOne)

Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel (Simon and Schuster)

Luigi Giussani and Giovanni Testori, The Meaning of Birth (Slant)

Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life (Picador)

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Ask a Question or Say Hello

The new 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 the 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.

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Russell Moore

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