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Hello, fellow wayfarers. How the Joshua Generation missed the meaning of power … Why I’m celebrating the 18th birthday of a miracle … What I need from you in a movie/television recommendation … A Desert Island Playlist with some Mississippi roots … This is this week’s Moore to the Point.

Russell Moore

The Joshua Generation and the Paradox of Power

The Amazon Prime docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets explores the reality-television homeschooling family and the system that shaped them—Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles—along with the fundamentalist mindset behind it.

Much of what it discusses felt nauseatingly familiar given all that we’ve seen in the last several years. One phrase, however, particularly struck me: the Joshua Generation.

Such was the language used by some sectors of the homeschooling and other movements to indicate the “long game” of training up those who could restore national greatness and steer the country back to a “Christian America.” And as Alex Harris, who was interviewed in the series, points out, some aspects of this idea became a reality.

There’s nothing wrong with preparing students for places of influence in politics (or medicine or business), but the Christian nationalism mixed up in much of the Joshua Generation rhetoric betrays a bigger question: the nature of real power. It seems the Joshua Generation came from a generation that did not know Joshua.

The language in the Book of Joshua alludes to the transition from Moses to his successor. Moses led the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt—and could see the Promised Land from a distance but didn’t enter it. On the other hand, Joshua led the people across the Jordan to defeat the Canaanites and take over the territory God had given them. The modern implications are clear: One generation of American Christians offers up a vision of a Christian America, and the next makes it happen.

Note that in this analogy, the Promised Land is the United States of America and Joshua is the present generation. It’s no coincidence that the “Christian” rally days prior to the January 6 attack on the United States were called the “Jericho March”—echoing the account in the Book of Joshua in which the walls of Jericho city collapsed when the Israelites shouted and blew their trumpets (Josh. 6). God said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men” (v. 2).

In the Joshua Generation metaphor and other rhetorical tropes like it, the United States is overtaken by the enemies of God—enemies that must be routed to fulfill God’s promise.

In his introduction to the Trinity Forum booklet reprinting Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Who Stands Fast?, historian Charles Marsh notes that “American Christian institutions have spent vast resources seeking to raise up and nurture an army of elites to engage the culture wars.” And yet, Marsh contends, there is far more actual power—leading to an actual change of minds and conditions—to be found in the examples of wartime theologian Bonhoeffer (who was executed by a Nazi firing squad) and in civil rights figure Fannie Lou Hamer (a poor sharecropper in the Jim Crow–era Mississippi Delta).

Bonhoeffer was no withdrawing pietist. After all, his life’s mission culminated in opposing an authoritarian and murderous regime—and confronting the church that collaborated with it and granted it theological legitimacy. But he also was not the kind of “realist” who saw the possibility of a split between private virtue and public leadership, between the inner person and the outward fruits.

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical,” Bonhoeffer wrote.

“Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men,” he continued. “Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?”

The series Shiny Happy People leaves us with yet one more example of how religion can be used for sexual predation on vulnerable people. The allegations there, some of which have been proven in court, are enraging and gut-wrenching. These cases demonstrate how power, which was said to be all about serving Jesus, was instead wielded for sadism. We are left wondering how people can rail against a decadent culture while using the words of Jesus to destroy lives—in actions so decadent even the secular culture would recoil.

A key subject of the series is Joshua Duggar, who was convicted of child pornography—the descriptions of which were so awful I had to turn off the television to recover. This same man was once a spokesperson for a family values advocacy organization.

Suppose the Joshua Generation had worked out as planned and all our national institutions of power had Christians at the helm. Would that have effectively turned the culture around—now that we’ve seen some of these very leaders abuse power in Jesus’ name and commit the very same sins they denounce, and sometimes even worse? In some sectors of evangelical America, it seems the only disqualifying character flaw is the failure to hate the right people with the right amount of anger.

What is “power” of any kind if it comes with a loss of moral witness? Nothing.

In this era, Jesus calls his followers not to defeat enemies of flesh and blood but to fight “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). And how do we do that? With the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Gospel witness, which is a call to peace with God, and moral witness, which is a demonstration of a regenerated life and a faithful church, are where the greatest power lies.

The Land of Promise is not the United States of America but the “rest” that comes through Jesus (Heb. 4), whose name can be translated as “Joshua” in English. And just as Joshua spied out the Promised Land ahead of time, we’ve heard from a Pioneer behind the veil of eternity (Heb. 6:19–20)—the One who once was dead and is now alive.

True power is not placing interns on Capitol Hill or filling clerkships at the Supreme Court—especially not if what’s behind these efforts is a dead “Christianity” that trades the power of the gospel for the gospel of power.

A Jesus Generation—one that not only uses his name but also lives out his nature—is where the real power lies.

A Miracle Turns 18

The summer after I started doing this newsletter during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, I wrote about my amazement that my son Samuel was turning 15. By the time you read this, he will turn 18.

Back then I wrote:

After years of miscarriage after miscarriage, the doctors told Maria and me that we would never be able to have a child carried to term. We grieved over that, made peace with it, and went on a quest that ended up in a Russian courtroom, where we adopted our first two sons. And then, sometime in 2004, Maria told me she was pregnant. We actually grieved, knowing that we would be going through another awful miscarriage. In time, she showed signs of having had a miscarriage and went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment. Doing the ultrasound, the doctor said, “Wait…what’s this? There’s a heartbeat here.” Even then, we grieved, thinking that the miscarriage was certain to happen, just hadn’t ended yet.

But the months went by and by, and the heartbeats kept coming, until, somewhere around the eighth month, I started thinking he might actually be coming. And he did. We named him Samuel, for obvious reasons. “I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord,” Hannah said to Eli. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him” (1 Sam. 1:26–27, ESV).

We asked for him from the Lord and—after years of what we thought were delays—the Lord heard. If not for the delay, we would never have ended up with our oldest two sons. And, if not for the delay, I would have been an awful father to all of my five sons. I would have taken them for granted. I would have seen them as expected life milestones rather than very fragile gifts. The answered prayer was not the only gift; the delay was too.

Eighteen is, in our culture, a milestone marking adulthood. I am proud of the man that he is: responsible, faithful, kind, conscientious, mature, strong. I’m thankful he is not just my son but my brother in Christ. Eighteen years—just like that.

But what I wrote three years ago on his birthday, I mean even more now:

It makes me wonder how many other things in my life that seem to be dead ends and unanswered prayers are really just the stirrings of a life I had forgotten that I had asked for, the stirrings of a life waiting to be born.

I Am Ready to Watch Something Happier

Last weekend, Maria and I were away with some friends for three days out on a boat. We came back refreshed and energized by the conversation and fellowship and rest. We had one evening alone before we were to fly back to the kids. When we decided to watch a movie, I offered up The Banshees of Inisherin, knowing only a few things about it: that it was an Academy Award nominee, it was about Ireland (which I like), and it was about friendship (which I also like).


At the end of it, Maria said, “Could you have found a more depressing movie? I guess this is just an Enneagram Four thing.”

No, it is not. We Fours do like melancholy—but along the lines of listening to songs about how your little baby is now all grown up on his 18th birthday, about how time is moving fast and we can’t slow it down, etc. We usually don’t like fingers sawn off and thrown at a door. Or I don’t anyway.

As I noted above, we also saw the Shiny Happy People series—and I saw some of the Hillsong docuseries too (featuring my brilliant colleague at CT and on The Bulletin, Mike Cosper).

So we kind of need a recommendation of something to see next that’s, if not shiny and happy, at least a break from all that heaviness. If something you like fits that description, let me know at

Desert Island Playlist

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 Brooke Cunningham, who writes:

My dad’s side is from Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. My late grandpa, even after 60 years in Texas, never lost his Mississippi accent. I sure miss trying to understand what he was saying—ha! We also spent some time in Biloxi as we lived in the deep, deep south of Louisiana for about 10 years. It’s the place I think of as “home” since I was a child there.

Here’s Brooke’s list:

  • “Life on Mars?” by Seu Jorge—I prefer the Portuguese spin on this David Bowie hit. Seu Jorge seems like the right singer to lull you into peaceful contemplation on a desert island.

  • “40 Acres” by Caedmon’s Call—My Christian identity was molded in the high plains of Texas. This song makes me appreciate the utter remoteness of the panhandle and the hope of a loving God no matter where we live.

  • “Dis moi oui” by Velvet White—It’s sort of the carpe diem anthem of two lovers: “Stay in the present with me and let’s say yes to the future.” I love it.

  • “Sodade” by Cesária Evora—I first heard this song while living with my host mom in France. Her music is for the melancholic soul. This song will always take me back to those good, albeit lonely, times when I was a foreigner in France, pining for my own hometown’s comforts.

  • “Rest” by JOSEPH—This one is for the weary among us, for all the pain and suffering we see and experience in the world.

  • “Summer Breeze” by The Isley Brothers—I love the electric guitar and soulful piano. I heard Jason Mraz sing it first, then found this cover. Makes me feel fineeee!

  • “Never Say Die” by The Chicks—Listening to this after 10 years of marriage makes me cry. The Chicks’ first album talks so much about heartache that this ode to faithful love stands out from the rest in a striking way.

  • “The Hand Song” by Nickel Creek—As a mother, this song shows what potential we have as parents to impart beauty and truth to our children and the generations beyond them. Also, I love Nickel Creek—my all-time favorite bluegrass band.

  • “Rain” by Sara Groves—Sara Groves has been instrumental at times at teaching me to remember who God says He is. She also is a gifted storyteller. Every time I listen to her music, it’s as if we’re all sitting around in someone’s cozy living room sharing the ups and downs of life and God’s goodness through it all.

Thank you, Brooke!

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

We are called to be Christ’s but not Christs.

—Edmund P. Clowney, in Preaching and Biblical Theology

Currently Reading (or Rereading)

Erin McKenna and Scott L. Pratt, eds., Jimmy Buffett and Philosophy: The Porpoise Driven Life (Open Court)

Joseph Berger, Elie Wiesel: Confronting the Silence (Yale University Press)

Michael Scammell, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic (Random House)

Andreas Andreopoulos, Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)

Peter S. Hawkins, The Language of Grace: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Iris Murdoch (Seabury)

Mary Midgely, Evolution as a Religion (Routledge)

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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.

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Russell Moore

Russell Moore
Editor in Chief

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