WASHINGTON — Prominent Christian leaders are urging evangelicals to stay ahead of the culture in light of their past failures to engage the abortion issue while hailing recent actions of the new presidential administration.
Gathered early Friday morning in the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. for the Evangelicals for Life Conference ahead of the annual March for Life, Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly told The Christian Post that they were optimistic about the policy direction President Donald Trump is taking on the right to life.
"I'm very hopeful and have seen very hopeful signs in recent days," said Moore, who was a steadfast evangelical critic of then candidate Donald Trump during the campaign.
He also praised the president's reinstatement of the Mexico City policy which bars federal funds from going to family planning organizations overseas that perform abortions and that he is "heartened" that it happened so early in his presidency.
"I also am very hopeful about the Supreme Court pick," Moore added, "the names I am hearing, I have a positive reaction to those people."
"The main thing though is to convince, to make sure our people know that when it comes to the issue of life, and abortion particularly, things aren't settled just because of an election. We have to consistently be diligent over a long period of time," he continued.
The annual March for life has historically been a heavily Roman Catholic event, with evangelicals coming late to the game with principled, public opposition to abortion. Moore noted that soon after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 pro-Roe sentiment in church resolutions was present in his own denomination, the Southern Baptists.
But times have indeed changed and evangelicals are now engaged.
"One of the reasons why I think the Catholics were ahead of us on this is that they not only had a long philosophical tradition, but they also gave a great deal of attention to history. They recognized Gnostic heresy, which is right at the core both of the abortion and of the sexuality issues and many of the of the other threats on human dignity," Moore explained. "The idea that 'my self is distinct from my body,' I think that our Catholic allies were able to recognize that we have seen this before and where this leads."
In light of philosophical shifts and movements among the younger generation, CP asked Moore how his efforts engaging millennials with the pro-life cause have been going.
"That's been the primary focus of my ministry over the past four years," Moore said. "We don't want the next generation of evangelicals to overreact and overcorrect in a way that doesn't address issues of justice and righteousness in the public arena or to avoid those issues of justice and righteousness that are going to be particularly controversial or uncomfortable wherever they are."
"It is not either you are committed to speak on abortion or you are committed to speak on human trafficking and orphan care. Both of those two things have to go together," he emphasized.
Daly said he admires the energy the millennial generation shows and the breadth of issues they want to talk about.
"And I appreciate the orthopraxy, the doing of the work that they're energetic about. I think that's been missing from the older generation. We're more about 'talking truth' and I love the millennials appetite for 'doing truth,'" he said.
Daly mentioned that the 45th President reminds him of many of his bosses he had in the business world, given Trump's penchant for calling it like he sees it without much nuance.
"But I can't argue with the first week's performance when it comes to life. It's astonishing," Daly said, noting he was invited to the vice president's residence the night before with other pro-life leaders.
"Last night, even talking with [Vice President] Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway ... they said 'this is just the beginning. We are so committed to the life issue.'"
"And it's almost as if they don't care what people say about them. I'm really stunned by that. That can be a downside but it also has an upside, that they don't care what the New York Times is talking about. They're just going to move ahead even if they get grilled," he concluded.