Home      Podcast      Subscribe
Hello, fellow wayfarers. Why a Ugandan law threatening the death penalty for homosexuality is not an application but a rejection of biblical authority … What zombies getting faster can tell us about this era of online mobs … How the idea of the human brain as a machine can’t explain human life … Plus, a Desert Island Bookshelf … This is this week’s Moore to the Point.

Russell Moore

Don’t Pretend the Ugandan Homosexuality Law Is Christian

In this day of social media mobs and troll-fueled extremism, it’s not unusual for a politician to be digitally attacked for being too weak and “not really one of us”—on a seemingly infinite number of topics.

Even so, one might be surprised to see Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)—not known for repudiating the far extremes of his base—labeled on various social media platforms as soft, weak, and compromising. Some even suggested that Cruz was rejecting the Word of God itself. His radically “progressive” idea? That Uganda shouldn’t criminalize homosexuality and execute gay people.

Normally, a social media controversy is the most ephemeral of pseudo-events. People who want to be noticed post shocking and even ridiculous things (“Y’all! It’s not just Target that’s gone woke; let’s boycott Chick-fil-A too!”) to get attention, knowing they’ll be denounced and quote tweeted, which will amplify their reach. They think that retweets and followers will somehow give them the belonging and significance they crave. Often, the best course is to ignore such things in the spirit of Proverbs 26:4—“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.”

Sometimes, though, their kind of trolling can lead to two catastrophic ends that should concern those of us who follow Christ: the unjust killing of human beings made in the image of God and, at the same time, the bearing of false witness about what the Christian gospel actually is.

At issue is a harsh new law signed by Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni that would not only outlaw homosexuality but also mandate conversion-therapy-type “rehabilitation” for gay people who are arrested and require a kind of surveillance culture in which citizens are criminally liable for not turning in people they know to be gay. But most chilling of all, the law would impose the death penalty on categories deemed to be “aggravated homosexuality.”

Of course, repressive regimes violate human rights all the time and all around the world—and there are vast limits on how much other nations can do about it. But in this case, many are wondering whether the primary problem is that Uganda is taking the Bible out of context.

Some of those sniping at Cruz—especially for his categorization of the Ugandan law as “horrific” and “wrong”—argue that the senator’s issue is really with God. After all, they say, doesn’t the Bible dictate that “if a man has sexual relations with a male as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable [and] are to be put to death” (Lev. 20:13)?

I am an evangelical Christian committed to the verbal inspiration of the Bible, meaning I believe that every word of it is exactly what God intended it to be, by the power of the Spirit. I am also committed to the inerrancy of the Scriptures: that the Word of God speaks truthfully. Jesus’ view of the Bible—“Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35, ESV)—settles those issues for me.

I am also a Christian who agrees with the teaching of both the Scriptures and the church—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, for 2,000 years—which is that marriage is a one-flesh covenant between a man and a woman and that sexual expression outside of that covenant is wrong.

And yet my repulsion at the Ugandan state violence in this law is not despite those commitments but precisely because of them.

One does not honor the authority of Scripture if one obscures its meaning. Leviticus 20 explicitly condemns almost every form of sexual immorality—premarital sex, extramarital sex, and nearly every other kind of nonmarital sexual expression. Sexual sins are included alongside occultic practices, necromancy, and the cursing of one’s mother and father.

Of course, this is consistent with the rest of the biblical witness (whatever one thinks of its authority). Yet the penalties of death that come with those violations are situated in a very specific context in redemptive history. God revealed that the theocratic civil code, as well as its punishments, was for a purpose: to separate his people from the rest of the nations to prepare them to enter the inheritance of the land (Lev. 20:26).

To cite such passages of the old-covenant civil law as a mandate for a civil state outside that covenant is a misinterpretation that doesn’t fit with any historic, apostolic teaching of Christianity. In fact, it’s in line with those who would argue against any ethical content of the Christian faith by saying, “Yeah, well, if the Bible’s true, we couldn’t eat shellfish either.”

The moment one hears this, one knows that the arguer either isn’t aware of the old covenant/new covenant distinctions in the ceremonial and food laws (which is a major emphasis in the New Testament) or is arguing in good faith. The same applies to those who would say, “Well, the church in the Book of Acts shared their possessions in common” as an argument for the state-imposed communist totalitarianism of Lenin, Stalin, or Mao.

In the New Testament church, the apostles resolved the question of the Law in a Council at Jerusalem. They did not, as some might argue, wipe away the moral content of the Old Testament Law. For instance, Christians—whether Jew or Gentile—were still to abstain from sexual immorality (Acts 15:20). But the new covenant community was not a reconstruction of the Old Testament code of criminal penalties for violations of holiness.

In fact, we have example after example of Jesus and the apostles teaching the opposite. I hold as authentic Scripture the passage in John in which Jesus stops the stoning of an adulterous woman (“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone,” 8:7). I know some Christians believe it to be a later textual addition, but even if that were true, Jesus’ posture toward sinners was consistent throughout the Gospels.

In writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul rebuked an example of sexual immorality explicitly mentioned in the text of Leviticus 20—having sex with the wife of a family member. Paul also quoted, “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13, ESV) —a text that was used in the Old Testament civil law to denote the death penalty (Deut. 13:5; 17:7; 22:21).

Yet Paul did not use this language to call for any criminal penalty by the state—and certainly not execution. Instead, he saw the “you” of the new covenant as applying to the church, not to the state. And the church is not given the power of the sword (Matt. 26:52; Rom. 13:1–7; 2 Cor. 10:4).

Moreover, Paul specifically notes in his letter that the church does not have judgment over outsiders. The local church should remove a sexually immoral person—if finally unrepentant—from membership in their community, but this does not mean they should stop associating with those who do the same things on the outside: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:12).

The word judge here does not mean to make moral assessments of what’s right and what’s wrong but rather to identify who is accountable to whom. In other words, the world is not accountable to the church. The church is accountable to the church—and, even then, not with physical or criminal penalties but with the spiritual means of Word and sacrament.

The revered late Presbyterian biblical theologian Edmund P. Clowney noted the disastrous consequences of those who use the Bible without being able to situate its texts in their redemptive-historical context. In fact, he said that using the Bible as a collection of moral examples—unhinged from the broader story of God’s purpose to sum up everything in the crucified and risen Christ—leads to a situation in which biblical history is “a chaotic jumble.”

“Those who find only collected moral tales in the Bible are constantly embarrassed by the good deeds of patriarchs, judges, and kings,” he wrote in Preaching and Biblical Theology. “Surely we cannot pattern our daily conduct on that of Samuel as he hews Agag to pieces, or Samson as he commits suicide, or Jeremiah as he preaches treason.”

“Dreadful consequences have ensued when blindness to the history of revelation was coupled with the courage to follow misunderstood examples,” Clowney wrote. “Heretics have been hewed in pieces in the name of Christ, and imprecatory psalms sung on the battlefields.”

In the unveiling of his purpose, God did indeed demonstrate his judgment through Samuel’s sword and Samson’s self-sacrifice and so on, but that moment in redemptive history is not where we are situated now. “Christ has not now given the sword but the keys to those who are charged with authority in his name,” Clowney wrote. “The sanctifying of God’s name in spiritual church discipline reflects in our situation the theocratic obedience of Samuel.”

Misinterpreting this is the equivalent of concluding that one should sacrifice a lamb on the church Communion table during a sermon series on Leviticus. At this time in history, God has commissioned us not to subdue the world with violence but to bear witness to the One he sent: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

Not everything that’s a sin is a crime. To equate all sin with crime, without the authority to do so, is itself a sin against God—to take the name of the Lord our God in vain. If the historic Christian vision of marriage and family is true and good and beautiful, as I believe it is, then we demonstrate that truth, goodness, and beauty to our unbelieving neighbors through our witness—not by threatening to kill them.

Unleashing the violence of state-ordained execution, imprisonment, and surveillance on gay and lesbian Ugandans is a condemnable act of authoritarianism and a violation of the self-evident and unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To do such a thing is a matter of power, not of conviction. It demonstrates not a commitment to the Bible’s authority but a rejection of it.

Call it what you will, but don’t for a minute call it Christian.

Why Zombies Are Getting Faster

Over at The Point magazine, Anastasia Berg and Becca Rothfeld pointed out a new development in popular culture that I hadn’t noticed: Our zombies have gotten a lot faster.

The zombie—a reanimated human corpse, usually one mindlessly searching for human brains or flesh to eat—became a persistent part of Western popular culture sometime in the 20th century. For most of that time, in movies, books, and television shows, these zombies were slow. In fact, the stiff, slow ambling of these creatures was part of what made them so terrifying. We can see them as moving but clearly dead.

The zombie myth is as popular as ever (maybe even more so), but Berg and Rothfeld point us to stories, from 2013’s World War Z to video games, that include all the aspects of zombies—mindless, hungry, and deadly—but with one additional characteristic: They are now lightning fast.

The authors suggest this might have to do with the era of online mobs.

As much as ever, the zombie is depersonalized and irrational, its lifelessness driven by appetite. As much as ever, the zombie wants to either consume what’s living or create new zombies. Just like always, zombies want to smash things, not build them.

What makes zombies so scary is that they kind of look like humans, but there’s nothing really alive. Zombies are so cut off from normal human vulnerability and emotion that there’s no stopping them.

Citing an expert who encountered the fury of the online mob, the authors note that one cannot “win” by yielding to the rules of the game of swarm and conquer. “Even if we managed to summon a larger or more vicious crowd … we have already lost if we have accepted the terms of the swarming,” they write. “To defeat a zombie on the battlefield, it would be necessary to become a zombie. Is our only option, then, to hide until the zombies have run out of people to eat?”

They conclude that there’s a better way—to fight to retain not only one’s humanity but also a reason that is not simply an extension of tribal loyalty tests.

For those of us who are in Christ, such an admonition might bring to mind what the Spirit has already said to us: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:1–2).

“Living sacrifices” are paradoxes, yes, but they are not zombies. They are alive—they are transformed, renewed, and sound in mind, able to hear an appeal to mercy.

“Trolls don’t build,” Tolkien told us. Zombies don’t either. But they sure know how to climb the walls fast these days. Let’s meet them not with more zombies but with human beings—who can think, feel, love, and hurt.

You Are Not an Algorithm

Those of you who’ve read or listened to me for a while know how much I’ve learned and benefited from the writing of Seth Godin. I am, in fact, in the middle of reading his little book The Song of Significance. Godin’s work is so important in my life that he occupies a shelf in a section of my library devoted to people whose work I constantly need close at hand—Wendell Berry, Walker Percy, Frederick Buechner, Marilynne Robinson, and Czeslaw Milosz are the others. Still, that doesn’t mean Godin is infallible. He can sometimes get some really important things wrong.

In a recent blog post (yes, he still blogs!), Godin examines why artificial intelligence (AI) is so disconcerting to us (besides the warnings, often from its own inventors, that it might cause the extinction of the human race). He says it’s because we believe that we have a soul—or, as he puts it, a “little person”—inside us behind the control panel of what we do.

“Our experience of life on Earth is a series of narratives about the little people inside of everyone we encounter,” he writes. “Artificial intelligence is a problem, then, because we can see the code and thus proof that there’s no little person inside.”

With tools such as ChatGPT, it’s hard for us to realize that we can see the codes by which AI does its research and processing.

Godin concludes, “The insight that might be helpful is this: We don’t have a little person inside of us. None of us do.”

“We’re simply code, all the way down, just like ChatGPT,” he writes. “It’s not that we’re now discovering a new sort of magic. It’s that the old sort of magic was always an illusion.”

Now, the soul is not a “little person inside of us,” except to the most caricatured Cartesian dualist. But the idea that we are “simply code, all the way down” is perhaps the most wrong-headed concept of our time—and one that, in practice, no one really believes.

If the shelves on my bookcase could talk, Berry would probably tell Godin, “The most radical influence of reductive science has been the virtually universal adoption of the idea that the world, its creatures, and all the parts of its creatures are machines—that is, that there is no difference between creature and artifice, birth and manufacture, thought and computation.”

Mr. Berry might also warn, “If people are machines, what is wrong, for example, with slavery? Why should a machine wish to be free? Why should a large machine honor a small machine’s quaint protestations that it has thoughts or feelings or affections or aspirations?”

And Percy might interrupt the conversation to say that the reduction of human existence to code is “not good enough.” When asked, he might reply, “This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then be asked what you make of it and have to answer, ‘Scientific humanism.’ That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore, I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight; i.e., God.”

Affection. Fidelity. Creativity. Love. These are not mere code. Call it magic if you like—or better yet, call it a miracle.

Desert Island Bookshelf

Every other week, I share a list of books that one of you says you’d want to have on hand if you were stranded on a deserted island. This week’s submission comes from reader Steve Ryan from Magnolia, Delaware:

  • The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper—I could have chosen a half dozen Piper books, but this is short and can be savored and meditated on.

  • The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett—Great thoughts and poems from an era that exalted God and his Word.

  • All Things for Good by Thomas Watson—I will need to tell myself this repeatedly if I am on a desert island. This book will be frequently read.

  • Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Praying by Packer and Carolyn Nystrom—Packer is deeply rooted in the Word and compassionate at the same time. I will need his wisdom on those dark days that will come on a desert island.

Thanks, Steve!

Readers, what do y’all 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.

    Quote of the Moment

    The entire Christian enterprise stands or falls on these words: “The God of Israel has spoken.”

    —Fleming Rutledge, in Advent

    Currently Reading (or Rereading)

    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 where we grapple 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

    Russell Moore
    Editor in Chief

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


    Join Russell Moore in thinking through the important questions of the day, along with book and music recommendations he has found formative.
    Delivered free via email to subscribers weekly. Subscribe to this newsletter.

    You are currently subscribed as Subscribe to more newsletters like this. Manage your email preferences or unsubscribe.

    Copyright ©2023 Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
    All rights reserved.
    Privacy Policy | Advertise | Subscribe to CT | Give Now

    Christianity Today is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.