A professor and administrator at a Southern Baptist seminary says he reads “blessedly violent” Bible stories to his young children because he wants to “raise up violent sons” prepared for spiritual warfare.
Russell Moore, dean of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., titled a June 1 column for the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement “Why I’m Raising Violent 4 Year-Olds.”
In it, Moore, who functions as the institute’s executive director, defended taking his two 4-year-olds to see a movie rated PG-13 for violence.
Moore said a reader objected to an earlier column mentioning he took his two young sons to see “Stars War Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” because the film is “way too violent for children.”
Moore went on to say it is only the second movie the boys had ever seen.
“One was a tender, touching Christmas movie about a little boy who discovers that Christmas is all about believing in the miracles within,” he said. “The second was a cartoonishly violent movie in which men go face-to-face with evil aliens; often chopping off limbs in the heat of battle.”
Moore went on to quip that he repents of “taking them to the Christmas film.”
“This is because of my overall philosophy of childrearing,” he explained. “I am aiming to raise up violent sons.”
“I am not seeking to raise sons who are violent in the amoral, pagan sense of contemporary teenagers playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’ video games or carjacking motorists,” he explained. “I want them to be more violent than that.”
“I want them to understand that the Christian life is not a Hallmark Channel version of baptized sentimentality,” he continued. “Instead, it is a cosmic battle between an evil dragon and the child of the woman, an ancient warfare that now includes all who belong to the Child of the Promise (Rev 12).”
Moore, who has a doctorate in theology from Southern Seminary, said he wants his children to forgive their enemies, “not because they are good boys, but because they understand that vengeance against the Serpent comes not from their hand, but from that of the anointed Warrior-King (Rev 19), whose blood-soaked garments don’t often transfer to the imagery of a Precious Moments wall-hanging.”
He said he also wants them to “exercise self-control of their passions, not because it is polite, but because they are called to struggle against the Evil One, even to the point of cutting off their own limbs rather than succumb to devices.”
An EthicsDaily.com review of “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in May warned in a reviewer’s note: “This movie is unlike the other ‘Star Wars’ movies. The movie’s last 30 minutes are the most violent and darkest in the franchise’s history. Parents with younger children (under age of 9) need to be aware of this aspect of the movie.”
Moore said he would not take his children to see other violent movies like “Kill Bill” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” nor would he see them himself.
But he said the “Star Wars” movie “offered the opportunity to talk through these issues of cosmic struggle” with his boys” and “to place such themes in context of what they already know from the most blessedly violent bedtime stories they hear every day: the Holy Scriptures.”
Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists said in a Wednesday Weblog that Moore’s description of the Bible as a violent book especially caught his attention.
“I wonder what a person of any other faith living across the street from Southern Seminary thinks when they read an essay like this,” Prescott wrote. “Would they find the gospel attractive or threatening?”
“I also wonder what Southern Baptists would be saying if Moore’s essay had been penned by a person of any other faith whose children attended their children’s school?”
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said: “Moore’s selective literalism leads him to misunderstand the big Bible, in which the teachings of Jesus are central, in particular the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), and to twist the Christian witness into a violent religion. He needs to retract his column and rethink his approach to rearing boys.”
Moore’s comments contrasted with those of many other Southern Baptist leaders, who since 9/11 have contended that Christianity differs from Islam because Christianity is a religion of peace. After last week’s London bombings, Midwestern Seminary President Phil Roberts told Baptist Press that if Muslim terrorists are responsible, it demonstrates “how errant their religion is.”
“How can people who claim to follow the one god demonstrate their devotion to him through slaughter and death?” Roberts asked. “This incident should increase afresh the passion and zeal of Christians, and Baptists especially, to share the Good News of God’s love as revealed in John 3:16. How thankful all believers in the true God of the Bible should be that God’s Word was enfleshed, crucified and risen so that no one else’s blood needs to be shed to insure a home in heaven for all who believe.”
The Henry Institute is a think tank located at Southern Seminary named in honor of Carl F.H. Henry. Moore’s doctoral dissertation, according to the institute Web site, sought to reapply the late theologian’s agenda to contemporary evangelical thought.
In 2000, Moore claimed he was accosted while covering the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a correspondent for Baptist Press.
Moore, at the time a seminary student, said he was confronted inside a convention center in Orlando, Fla., by a man identifying himself as a former Southern Baptist missionary. “He started screaming and yelling at me in the middle of the convention center,” Moore told Baptist Press. “He called me a [expletive deleted] liar and said I had no integrity.”
Moore said he told the man to step aside and allow him to pass by. “Then, he pushed me against a wall, berated me, jabbing me in the chest with his finger as he spoke,” he said. “I asked him to discontinue the conversation again, but he continued to pursue me, yelling a curse.”
Moore said he immediately left the convention hall through a side door, distressed and fearful of being physically attacked.
A CBF official investigated Moore’s complaint and said the individual named by Moore gave a substantially different account. The director of Baptist Press declined to discuss the matter in a conference call including Moore before publishing a story criticizing the CBF for “apparent abuse” of a reporter and creating “an intimidating atmosphere” at the General Assembly.
Moore, who covered several CBF annual meetings for BP, broke a story at the 2002 General Assembly charging plagiarism of a sermon by a CBF official at a Baptist Women in Ministry meeting. The official, who called it a mistake, eventually resigned.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.