Mere Christians

Russell Moore (Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today)

Episode Summary

Own your exile, find your freedom

Episode Notes

Russell's terrific advice for deciding when to leave a job, why confidence is what American Christians need most in the workplace, and how to “own your exile” and experience freedom.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[0:00:05] JR: Hey, friend. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast. I'm Jordan Raynor. How does the gospel influence the work of Mere Christians? Those of us who aren't pastors or religious professionals, but who work as watchmakers, and marriage counselors, and upholsterers. That's the question we explore every week.


Today, I'm posing it to Russell Moore, the editor-in-chief at Christianity Today. Before that, Russell, as you likely know, was at the Southern Baptist Convention. Russell and I sat down and had a terrific conversation about his advice for deciding when to leave a job. We talked about why confidence is surprisingly what Russell thinks American Christians need most in the workplace. We talked about how to own your exile and experience true freedom. I think you guys are going to enjoy this conversation with my new friend, Russell Moore.




[0:01:08] JR: Hey, Russell Moore. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast.


[0:01:11] RM: Oh, thanks for having me. Great to be with you.


[0:01:13] JR: I was telling you before we started recording this new book, Losing Our Religion, is probably the best book I've read so far this year. You shared earlier in the book I've never heard you say this before, that when you were 15, you thought about taking your life. And you mentioned that it was partially the work of the Mere Christian C.S. Lewis that God used to help you climb out of that darkness. What's the story there?


[0:01:38] RM: Well, I went through a spiritual crisis that really shook me. It kind of was multipronged, but I was looking around and starting to wonder, “Is Christianity really just southern culture, or politics, or something else with Jesus as a hood ornament on the top of it?” I went through this long period of wondering and questioning. And if you had seen me then, you would not have noticed it because I wasn't –


[0:02:10] JR: Where'd you grow up, by the way?


[0:02:11] RM: Biloxi, Mississippi. When people think of Mississippi, they're typically thinking of Tupelo, Jackson, sort of. Where we were is right along the coast, mostly Catholic area. We were Baptist, but then mostly Catholic area, large immigrant population. So it's more New Orleans than it is Tupelo. You wouldn't have noticed it because I really wasn't talking about it to anybody. I'm glad I didn't have social media to work through it in public. But I really came to a point of despair, wondering if this is true or not. Thankfully, my parents had read me the Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid, and I had read it myself many times. I recognized C.S. Lewis' name on the spine of Mere Christianity.


That book really helped me to come out of that spiritual crisis, really resolved in what I believed. It wasn't because of the arguments, because my problems weren't intellectual. It wasn't that I couldn't believe in God, or Jesus, or something. It was moral. Is this really just a means to an end? Lewis just has this way of – I tell people sometimes, it's kind of like in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when he does this little aside to the readers as “You really shouldn't ever walk into a wardrobe.”


[0:03:39] JR: Yes. Yes. He embraced the fourth wall. Yes.


[0:03:41] RM: Yes, a very human sort of, and I felt that tone of voice all through Mere Christianity. He wasn't selling me anything. He wasn't marketing me or trying to mobilize me. He really was bearing witness to something, and that helped. I mean, it really was what the Lord used to bring me through it.


[0:04:01] JR: We've heard so many similar stories, especially since we changed the name of the podcast to Mere Christians. Dr. Francis Collins was just on a couple of weeks ago, talking about this book as well. You went on; you become an ordained Southern Baptist minister. Speeding up the story a lot, eventually landed Southern Baptist Convention, leading the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, this role that you departed in recent years. For those who don't know the story about your departure, can you share the Reader's Digest version of it here?


[0:04:31] RM: Well, I think the shortened version would be, I am Southern Baptist to the core in terms of identity. I was raised with a sense of, “There are other people who are Christians; they're doing the best they can, but we have the greatest missions mindset in the history of the church and so forth.” I really was reared in that and very committed to the Southern Baptist Convention. I became head of the Public Policy and Moral Questions Arm, ERLC, which was my dream job. I loved serving in that role. But like a lot of institutions right now, the last seven years really fragmented it. In terms of questions of Trump and Trumpism, and racial justice, and sexual abuse, primarily, there was a lot of fragmentation.


Not with my board, the way the Baptist polity works; my board was great, and my team was great. But the larger convention framework became really unhealthy in my view, even though most of the people were and are great. I said to a reporter one time who said, "Why are you –" because there was something going on. I was really hoping that Southern Baptist navigated it right. He said, "Why do you care?" I said, "Well, because these are my people, and 99% of them are fantastic." He said, "I think your math's off." I said, "Well, maybe but –"


[0:06:17] JR: But it's high. My point still stands, yes.


[0:06:20] RM: But it's a high number. But a lot of the people in the pews didn't know what was going on behind closed doors. One person said, at one point, “You know, we can't do anything to you because all our wives and kids are with you. But we can do psychological warfare until you think before you say anything.”


[0:06:44] JR: They told you this?


[0:06:46] RM: Yes. I remember thinking at the time, "Who says this?" I know that people do it, but who says it? This is like a cartoon supervillain. But it was true. I mean, that was the playbook, and that especially became true in terms of the sexual abuse crisis. I resolved that if I were to stay in the same place I was in, I was going to have to kind of mobilize the normal, regular, gospel-focused Southern Baptists to actually deal with these people and this problem. I didn't like the idea of who I would be at the end of that. So, I moved on. I say, often, “I'm a Southern Baptist in the federal witness relocation program,” because I still consider myself, and always will to be a Southern Baptist, and I have kind of our version of Southern Baptist iconography all over the room here with missionaries, and so forth.


We're in a nondenominational, multi-denominational church now. As a matter of fact, one of my sons, who's in the Air Force, texted me the other day and said that he was going to be giving his testimony at his church. He said, “I'm getting my timeline down for my – giving him my testimony. It seems like we were always in Baptist churches, and now, it's a non-denominational church. Was there some reason for that or did that just happen?” I said, "Google it."


[0:08:33] JR: Yes, right. Let me Google that for you.


[0:08:36] RM: I'm not sure whether to kind of take pride in the fact that I protected the family from all of that or –


[0:08:44] JR: Right.


[0:08:44] RM: [Inaudible 0:08:44]


[0:08:44] JR: Yes, I love it. Well, I think there's a – I talked to a lot of people in very different circumstances, but in some ways similar, right? They are wrestling with whether to stay or leave their current workplace because they feel as if they are under unhealthy leadership. I feel like you're in a terrific position to be able to answer this question, like, what advice would you give to them? How would you coach somebody else who's not working in a denomination, but maybe they're working at Google, or they're working at, I don't know, local restaurant. How would you coach them through that decision?


[0:09:26] RM: It's a hard decision. I've done both. I stayed for most of my life, and I left once, but it took a lot to decide both of those things. As a matter of fact, I was going to leave in 2017 from the role I was in, and it was Tim Keller, a friend who just died, who talked me out of that. He had this just sort of Yoda-like calm about him. He just said, "Well, let's think about this for a little bit." So I didn't. Then, when I was thinking about leaving my situation, I spent a long time, and this was over COVID, so I was spending a lot of that time Zooming with people who were on the outside of the SPC but who knew me really well, and knew the terrain really well, seeking counsel. Tim actually is the one who convinced me to do it, because I said, “I just don't want to make a decision here and then regret it.” He said, "Do you really think you're being rash? I mean, of all of the things that anybody might think, why so soon is probably not one of them.”


I realized for me that my particular pull was toward staying and finding a way to rationalize away all of the unhealth. I could look back and could see all of these moments in my life where my gut was telling me something's crazy here. But my mind would say, "Well, I seem to be the only one who sees it, so it must just be me." I could see all of that, and I knew that, left to myself, I was going to stay in what was a really unhealthy situation because I felt like I – I had to. I mean, I had that sense of loyalty built in. I would say to somebody, think through whether you're the kind of person whose first instinct is to leave, or if you're the kind of person whose first instinct is to stay and kind of budget for that.


[0:11:55] JR: Fight against the tendency a little bit. Question the tendency.


[0:11:59] RM: If your tendency is to leave immediately, sometimes, sometimes, it's what you need to do. Sometimes it's because you have a sense of, “Well, there's an island of refuge somewhere, where there's not going to be the frustrations that I have,” or those sorts of things, and you kind of get a utopian mindset.


[0:12:21] JR: It's an opposed Genesis 3 world. Yes, ain't going to happen.


[0:12:24] RM: It ain't going to happen, yes. So if that's your tendency, then find people who are able to help you work from the other end. But there are a lot of people whose tendency it is to stay in unhealthy situations and to really put themselves in a situation where sometimes it's a situation where they're actually harming themselves spiritually, or emotionally, or mentally. Sometimes they're actually becoming complicit in something that's wrong by their presence there. If your tendency is to stay, really evaluate that, and say, “How much of this is just genuine loyalty and perseverance, and how much of it is Stockholm Syndrome?”


I think one of the things that makes this so difficult is that Seth Godin has this great little book called The Dip, and he talks about how, at any point, if you're doing something that really matters, there's going to be resistance to it, you have this kind of a dip. A lot of times, it's hard to tell, “Is that just what I'm going through right now? Or am I in a situation where I'm really not actually using the gifts that God has given to me because I'm all tied up in, you know, office politics at the tech company or in somebody's psychological drama at the coffee shop, or whatever it is?” Sometimes it's hard to tell that, and you have to spend some time consciously thinking about it and praying about it.


What I've seen with a lot of people is there's a tendency to want to have the answer really quickly when you have to usually sort of live in the tension for a while, and God's doing something subterranean to you. There was a man one time who talked to me. He had just left a job that he had been in for a long time, and he was sorting through what to do with his life. He said, "I think that if God were speaking to me right now, he would say," and he said whatever it was that he thought. I just said, "You know, I think maybe if God were speaking to you right now, he would be saying nothing at all." Because you really need to be in that space of not knowing and that way of ignorance of letting something happen to you. So don't get alarmed if you're trying to make that decision somewhere, and you say, "I have no idea."


One of the things I found with a lot of people is they actually – and this was true for me, I was talking to a friend saying, "I need to make this decision," and he said, "You've already made the decision. Your mind just doesn't know it yet, but you've made this decision, and you know what to do." A lot of times, that's the case with people. So don't, don't try to rush it.


[0:15:38] JR: And embrace the tension that you don't know which way to go in the confidence that God already does. Just because he hasn't revealed it to you yet, that's okay. It's sitting in that tension, and it's increasing your reliance on Him for guidance, right? You hit on something in this book, Losing Our Religion, that I loved; it's actually something I'm tackling in my next book, just how hyper-individualistic we've made the gospel in the last 200 years of church history.


The Gospel many churches preach today is all about me going to heaven when I die right? And you argued in the book, and you kind of mentioned it, just kind of breezed past it, I want you to sit on it for a minute. You argued that this is part of what enabled our Christian ancestors to fight, for example, to protect slavery, like connect the dots there for us. How does this truncated vision of the gospel affect the broader Christian witness and mission in the world?


[0:16:34] RM: Well, what I'm arguing is, is that yes, there's a kind of hyper-individualism that can cause us to say, “Well, as long as I'm forgiven of my sins, and as long as I'm going to heaven, it doesn't really matter what else is happening.” That is true. But my argument is that our problem really isn't a hyper-individualism. That's kind of how we get there sometimes, but it's actually the reverse. We end up with a kind of absorption into a hive and into a kind of conformity that comes with that. Where if you look at the way that Jesus and the apostles described the Christian life, it's one body many members. So you have both this individualism, in the sense that “Jesus loves me.” That's an important truth. That's one of the things that evangelical Christianity has really contributed to the larger body of Christ. To say, "This is a personal, the one sheep goes off from the '99, the shepherd comes looking for you." That's important.


Being a member of a body is important, but it's both of them together. What happens is, a lot of times, if you take the individualism too far, or if you take the social, the communal too far, you end up in the same place. That place is tribalism and a kind of march to conformity with things that you don't even question. You have a situation where, if you're in 1925 Alabama, it's not that you have come to the position of being pro-lynching. It’s that you never think about lynching at all. It just becomes something that seems normal to you. In every era, there are those sorts of things. I think that there's a balance that we have to constantly keep. I think that's one of the things that's hard right now. Because if you look at, for instance, a lot of studies are showing that you have people who are completely disconnecting from churches and from communities, and they're lonely. But what do they do? They go, and they find what they think is a community, usually online or in some other way. That leads to all sorts of havoc. It's the individual and the body together.


[0:19:31] JR: Yes. But one of those communities that we flock to are communities we find in the workplace. I remember when I was running this fairly large tech startup here in Tampa, I remember looking around our team and being, "Man, people are finding – this is their community. What I experience at church they're looking for here, and that's good, but ultimately can only be satisfied, I think, the body of Christ." But it does present an opportunity. We have such an unprecedented opportunity to make disciples in the workplace since our coworkers are likely not darkening the door for the first time to hear about Jesus. And you made this connection in the book that was really interesting, this connection between evangelism and this culture of hate and cancel culture.


You essentially argued that one way to stop hating those on the other side of the culture war is to build friendships with them and share the gospel with them. I thought that was an interesting connection. Can you unpack that for our listeners a little bit?


[0:20:27] RM: When we're finished talking today, I'm going to be talking a little bit with an atheist, secularist friend of mine who would have the perspective that evangelism is a form of kind of Christian triumphalism, and that sort of thing. What I've said to him and to many other people is, actually, it's the reverse. So if I look to the churches that are actually evangelistic, and the Christians that I know, that are actively sharing the gospel with people, those are not the churches that are angry culture warriors, and those are not the people because they actually – there's a mode in American life right now that wants to see these cultural and social and political divides, as being the equivalent of spiritual warfare. Whether somebody has a category for that or not. It's the idea of the other side, whatever that is, as demonic.


If you think about it, what that means is, irredeemable. We don't expect, never should expect the devil to repent. When we transfer that to people, and then we start thinking, these are people who can never be persuaded. But when you have people who are, you know, for instance, if in a community there’s a Muslim refugee community, I can think of an example right now, that’s being mistreated by people in the community, the first people who are going to stand up for them are the people who have been sharing the gospel with them because they're connected to them as real people, and they love them. They're human beings and they see that, and they also understand the way that people actually change. So anybody who's actually been really authentically sharing the gospel with other people in the workplace, or something else knows that most people don't change their minds on anything at the end of a 20-minute argument. Most people don't change their minds after being humiliated.


Usually what happens, and if we think about it with all of us, I mean, the things that I've changed my mind about, in almost every case, it's something that I have mulled and sort of turned around in my mind a lot in private. I might have been arguing the opposite way through all of that, sometimes even trying to convince myself, and then something happens, and you see, "Oh, wait. This is right. My mind has changed." That's how human beings are designed. And people who really do care about those questions of, “How does a person get right with God?” usually are the people who get that.


[0:23:39] JR: I think that's right. You said in the book, I think you nailed it. You said, "American Christianity is in crisis. The church is a scandal in all the worst ways." In other words, evangelical brand has rarely been worse. I don't want to say never been worse. So, as we're talking to our listeners, Mere Christians, genuine believers, working shoulder to shoulder with those who aren't, many who aren't, how do we distance ourselves from the toxic elements of that brand while still making it clear that we are proud followers of Jesus Christ? How do we boldly proclaim His name without being lumped in with the bad apples of the brand that's making such a bad name for Christianity, at least here in the West? What does that look like?


[0:24:26] RM: Be different from that. What I mean by be different from that is not; sometimes we think the way to do this is to have a big war for the soul of evangelicalism, and somebody wins, and somebody loses, and then the brand is recovered. I just don't think that's the way that God works. Instead, I think if you are a person who is seeking to be faithful to Jesus, seeking to be Christ-like, and you actually treat people that way, I think that if you said to me, “What do we need more than anything right now for American Christians?” it would be confidence. Somebody might say, “Confidence?! There people are so confident and certain that they're wanting to, you know, knock everybody out,” but that's not really confidence. Because there's a kind of frantic fear that happens when people think they're in decline or they're headed to extinction.


As one scholar put it, “The thinner the identity, the louder it becomes.” The real confidence, though in Christ, and the purposes of the kingdom, and the advance of the gospel, and all of those things will lead to a certain kind of tranquility where you're not constantly on the lookout for how you are being slighted as a Christian. Instead, you're actually able to make real connections with people. One of the ways I've found to do that is, if you get involved in a project together. I said this the other day to a group, because they were talking about, “How can we build better interfaith understanding?” I said, "Well, I can tell you how you don't do it. It's with conferences on interfaith understanding. Because all you do is then gather the people who care about interfaith understanding.”


The way you actually do it is by working together on a project of some sort, where you may say, “We might disagree on everything else, but we agree on this one thing.” Then through that, you start to see the humanity of one another. One of my favorite friends is somebody who would probably disagree with me on every single theological and a lot of political questions. But we were working together on refugees, and helping refugees, and said, "Okay. We disagree on everything else, but we agree on this." We became friends, and he's someone now that I can't imagine my life without him. I think that's the way it happens.


[0:27:33] JR: I love that picture of true confidence, the evidence of which is that tranquility that you talked about. I think this is rooted in this idea of exile, which you expounded upon in the book. I think a lot of people are freaking out that we're "losing ground" because they feel like exile is new. But when we look at scripture, Christians have always been an exile. We’re kind of promised we're always going to be in exile until Christ returns. Talk a little bit about this. You unpack this a little bit in the book, but share it here.


[0:28:10] RM: Sometimes if people say, they use that language of exile, my first question is going to be, "What do you mean when you talk about exile?" Because what some people mean is, “I feel like they're not saying Merry Christmas at Starbucks,” or, “I feel like there are more and more people around me who don't go to church, and don't understand why I go to church, and so I'm in exile from my culture.” But that's not biblically what this means. What this means instead, is that as a Christian, you never quite fit. You're always going to be homeless to a degree, because you're always longing for a home, and you're out of step with whatever culture that you're in to a certain degree.


But what the Bible says is that gives you the freedom to actually be rooted, and grounded, and engaged. Jeremiah, talking to the exiles, it's in the context of telling them to really put down roots in Babylon. The apostle, Peter, talking about your time as exiles. It's about how to show honor to everyone and how to actually be rooted and grounded. I think one of the reasons for that is because, if you have this expectation of at-homeness somewhere, you're always going to then be in a kind of frantic search for that.


For instance, somebody on a job, maybe you've got somebody who's an audio engineer. They love doing audio engineering, and they kind of base their whole identity around that. Often, those are going to be the people who are miserable, because they're looking for this perfect audio engineering job, this perfect audio engineering community and when they step back and say, "Okay, I'm gifted to do this, but that's not who I am at the core and that means that I don't have to have this,” those are the people then who actually are able to engage, and love what they do, and do it once it's in second place.


[0:30:35] JR: Those are the people who are truly free.


[0:30:38] RM: They're truly free. I was talking last night to a group of young college students in Washington, DC, most of whom are planning for political careers. One of the really impressive young men comes up to me afterward, and he said, "You know, my problem is that in my church, I'm always talking about politics, but it's because that's how I relax, and that's what I care about. That's all that I think about." I said, "Well, I just want to say to you, that's your biggest project to work on, because it's great that you're gifted this way. It's great that you're motivated this way. But if you hitch everything to that, it's not going to be a calling, it's going to be an idol. And what's going to happen is there will come a moment when that starts to crumble for you, and you'll feel like your whole world is crumbling. You really need a sense of who you are in Christ. You also need to have a community of people who love you apart from that." I think that's true, really, in whatever sort of life calling somebody has.


[0:31:56] JR: Yes. Speaking of Yoda, Tim Keller, this is Counterfeit Gods, I'm assuming you've read Counterfeit Gods by Keller, I mean, this is it. Anything that we elevate to an ultimate idolatrous thing will crush you, will absolutely destroy you. To wrap up the exile thing, you said in the book, "Once you own your exile, the thread of exile is meaningless." It's so good. The job for us becomes the same, regardless of how in vogue Christian values are. Then the question is, okay, just as Daniel and his friends didn't fight to leave Babylon, the call is really how do we avoid becoming like Babylon, becoming like the Babylonian? Translate that to our modern context.


[0:32:44] RM: I think a lot about when Jesus said to His disciples, "Beware the leaven, the yeast, beware the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod." If you really think about that, that makes no sense. Because he's talking about groups that are completely at odds with one another. If you're a Pharisee, you're opposed to Herod. If you're Herod, you're opposed to Phariseeism. What he's saying is, “Don't beware the Pharisees or Herod.” They knew the problems there. He said, “Beware the leaven of that,” the way that you can become like that without ever even really knowing or recognizing that you have. That's what often takes place with Christians. In our opposition to whatever it is that we're scared of, or that we're opposed to, we become just like it, just a mirror image of it. We don't even see that that's the case.


We assimilate, but there's a kind of assimilation that feels countercultural. Because you're saying, "Well, I'm in opposition to some group, or some ideology, or something like that." When really, what you're doing is you've assimilated into some other group, and you're proving that you're part of that group by hating them, and by opposing them. That's not a better situation. By kind of owning your exile, what I mean by that is that you have a sense of the bigness and the broadness of God's kingdom. You have a sense that your place in that is secure. Therefore, you don't have to be recognized, or acknowledged by everybody. You have a sense of who you are in Christ, that gives you freedom to be able to engage with people.


I was talking to a Mormon friend one time, who was really offended because I wouldn't call him a Christian. I said, "Well, but you have to understand what I believe a Christian is," and I talked about that. I said, "Would you say that I'm part of the church?" He said, "Well, no, because the church is The Restored Church of Joseph Smith and so forth." I said, "Well, that doesn't offend me, because I don't think you're right. And if I'm not right about that, then just humor me in this." I noticed as I was saying that, that I so often was doing the reverse of my own advice. So it was, I've got to be at home somewhere before I can then move on to engage.


That's just not what Jesus called us to do. He didn't fit into these labels that people expected, and that's constantly what's going on in the Gospels. “Okay. Are you with them or with them?” Jesus is saying –


[0:36:08] JR: But I think the way that we feel at home in the Kingdom, I think the way that we are most distinct while in "exile" is if we can maintain our awe at God in His presence, regularly abiding in Christ. You wrote in the book, you said, "God is most often present in the ordinary, not in ecstasy." I was thinking about Brother Lawrence as I was reading that, The Practice of the Presence of God. What does it look like practically for you, Russell? As you're going through the ordinary routines of your work days, how are you practicing the presence of God in the ordinary things? What does that look like?


[0:36:48] RM: Well, I don't think that I do as they're happening. I think instead, what happens is, it's easier for me, and I'm not saying this is true for everybody, but for me, it's easier to sort of step back, and to look in retrospect, and to understand that. I was thinking, with my kids, as they are getting older, and some of them going out on their own, I have five sons, and I look back over our life to this point and I realize, the moments that really mattered weren't the big sort of milestone kinds of moments. They were walking to that little fruit stand grocery store together, or, you know, going through the county fair together. Those moments that seem so ordinary, that that's actually where so much blessing was taking place.


I just have to remind myself, when those things were going on, I didn't notice it. I only noticed it later. So what's going on around me right now that I'm too busy, too distracted to notice and to see the glory in that? I mean, I think a lot about the transfiguration. When Peter, James and John see Jesus clothed in light, the glory of God upon Him, they fall down on their faces. Nothing had changed. They were just seeing reality as it really is. I think for most of us, we miss it, and that's okay in the moment. But we need to take those times where we say, "Look, let me just look at where God has brought me to this point, and how the things that I think are going to matter and change my life really aren't.”


[0:38:59] JR: That's good. Russell, three questions we wrap up every episode with. Number one, which books have you found yourself gifting or recommending most frequently these days?


[0:39:09] RM: I don't know what I could say that I'm recommending because I give so many different books out, usually very individually tailored. But I can tell you what book has changed me the most recently. I didn't expect it to. This little book called The Uncontrollability of The World by a German philosopher, Hartmut Rosa. It really changed the way that I see things. It's a heavy – but I wouldn't give it to everybody, but it really changed my perspective.


[0:39:50] JR: Yes. How so? Give us the 60-second takeaway of a very seemingly very deep book.


[0:39:55] RM: His argument is that one of the reasons that people are so miserable is because they expect their world to be engineerable and predictable. Because that's not the way that the world is, they become miserable. He says, instead, if you think about what actually reaches you, it changes you. It's what he calls resonance. It says, it's those moments you can't engineer. It's a song that hits you a certain way. It's a mountain range that you're looking at. It’s those moments where it's almost as though something is speaking to you. We even use that metaphor, “That really speaks to me.” That's what actually affects and changes you, is looking for those moments of resonance. That's one of the reasons why people are so angry right now. When you just – you go, and you look at it, and you say, you're doing economically better than your parents or grandparents ever did. You can go through all those externals. But part of it is, they're longing for that kind of resonance. I think he's spot on.


[0:41:13] JR: I'm going to read this. This sounds fascinating. Hey, can we for a second riff off of our mutual love of Harry Potter and lose 10% of our listeners?


[0:41:22] RM: Yes, but I'm not a big Harry Potter fan.


[0:41:23] JR: You're not? I thought you were based on this article you wrote by J.K. Rowling?


[0:41:28] RM: No. See, I like Harry Potter, fine, but I'm not a Harry Potter enthusiast by any means. But the article on J.K. Rowling was about this amazing podcast series, The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling. That's done by Megan Phelps-Roper who is, if you're familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, that really harsh authoritarian church in Kansas that's always around with the horrible signs everywhere. She came out of that. She's the one who's doing this documentary series, and it's tracing how J.K. Rowling was the villain for conservative Christians 20 years ago. Harry Potter is going to turn everybody into Satanists, whatever. Now, she's a villain to the progressive consensus.


[0:42:26] JR: We'll make sure to link to it in the show notes. I've always been fascinated by how C.S. Lewis, who I adore, gets a pass for witchcraft in Narnia, but J.K. Rowling doesn't. So I'm excited to dig into that podcast.


[0:42:39] RM: But you know, if you look at it, most of the people who are really upset about J.K. Rowling haven't read Lewis. That's what actually even in the documentary series, one of the guys that was trying to ban Harry Potter 20 years ago, said he read it later, it completely changed his mind.


[0:42:58] JR: That's good. Who would you want to hear on this podcast, talking about how their faith shapes the work they do outside the four walls of the church?


[0:43:06] RM: You know, I really would like to hear, because I have seen this show up so often lately, a mechanic whose faith is shaping the way that he or she does work, because – and maybe that's on my mind, because I was just talking to a young man who came to our church. And he came to Nashville because he was doing vocational training. He said, "I want to be a mechanic because my grandfather was a mechanic. This was the way that he did ministry to our entire communities, the most Christ-like man that I know. I want to be as skilled as he is." I've seen that happen a lot. I would love to hear somebody who's working in that area.


[0:43:57] JR: The timing isn't accidental. I met a mechanic in our church two days ago, so we might need to get him on here. Yes, yes, for sure. I love that. Hey, Russ. Before we sign off, you're talking to this audience of Christians who's very diverse vocationally. What's one thing you want to leave them with before we sign off?


[0:44:15] RM: I think the main thing I would want to leave you with is, don't be afraid. Don't, don't be afraid of your own life and future. See who you are in Christ. Don't be afraid and fearful about the future of the kingdom of God, because the future of the kingdom is the future of Jesus, and he's doing fine. Don't waste time on fear and loathing. Step back and see the glory here.


[0:44:46] JR: Russ, I want to commend you for the extraordinary work you've done throughout your career to the glory of God and the good of others. For giving us a model of what it looks like to stand firm in your convictions at work, even a workplace with other believers. And just for giving us helpful ideas to think about as we tried to be faithful ambassadors of Christ in the workplace. Guys, I cannot recommend Russell's book highly enough, Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America. Russell, thank you so much for spending time with us today.


[0:45:18] RM: Oh, it's been fun. Thanks for having me.




[0:45:21] JR: I'm a huge fan of Russell's. I'm now a huge fan of this book. I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. Hey, if you did, go leave a review of the podcast wherever you're listening, and I'll see you next week.