Russell Moore’s interview with Beth Moore got me thinking. Why is her experience with abuse such a big deal right now? And why didn’t Russell Moore do more (along with editors at Christianity Today) to push Beth Moore to be fully candid about her past?
The interview comes after a story about her memoir in which she acknowledges her father’s abuse. According to one summary, Moore writes of her father that “No kind of good dad does what my dad did to me.” She also explains how she and her sister saved their parent’s marriage even when they suspected their father was cheating on their mother.
For someone for whom the abuse of women is a reason to drop what you’re doing, isn’t Moore here guilty of what she faulted the SBC leadership for doing — enabling an abusive father and husband in a co-dependent relationship?
Russell Moore generally plays along and interviews Beth Moore delicately all the while underscoring how badly Southern Baptists treated her. It does work to Russell Moore’s advantage to portray the SBC this way since his outspokenness about politics during the Trump presidency cost him support from various sectors of the Convention.
Two aspects of this recent media attention to Beth Moore are odd. Although her revelations about an abusive father position Moore to receive empathy and support as the object of masculine toxicity, in an earlier brush with greatness (2010) in the pages of Christianity Today, coverage of a recent book on insecurity also revealed that she had been abused as a child.
For example, Moore says, her own insecurity largely stemmed from the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. “Any time something huge like that has happened to you, there really is not a lot of gray for people like us,” Moore says. “I have to have a daily, vibrant relationship with Jesus in order to survive that process toward healing.”
Back then she wanted to keep the abuse as private as possible.
The abuse, which Moore references regularly in her work, came from outside the immediate family, but Moore is as deliberately nebulous about describing it in interviews as she is in books and videos.
“I have found, especially in the area of sexual abuse, details do not really bless and edify. I try as hard as I know how to keep my reader relating on a broad level so I don’t lead her someplace where she thinks that’s the only thing that could cause insecurity,” Moore tells Christianity Today. “I also owe my family some safety and my extended family some safety, so I am careful to stay vague.” (Her office has said that the family did not turn the offender over to police.)
Remember how outrageous it was that the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Paige Patterson, did not report alleged instances of abuse to legal authorities?
By the way, the old Christianity Today story about Beth Moore is a reminder of what journalism looked like in the days of the Obama administration — even religious journalism. The writer, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, seemed to indicate frustration at the limited access she had to the highly protected celebrity Bible teacher:
Just as Moore’s stories are at once personal and private, Moore in person is intensely friendly—and closely protected by assistants who allow very few media interviews. After several interview requests from CT, her assistants allocated one hour to discuss her latest book and ask a few questions about her personal life. Each question had to be submitted and approved beforehand, I was told, or Moore would not do the interview. Follow-up interview requests were declined. I was permitted to see the ground level of her ministry, where workers package and ship study materials. But Moore’s third floor office, where she writes in the company of her dog, was off limits.
Also to Bailey’s credit as a reporter were her quotations of women who had used Moore’s materials and found them wanting:
Bible study is more than application, says Leunk, who found the fill-in-the-blank workbook simplistic. Moore occasionally cites a theologian or a Greek lexical aid, but “you’re not being a serious student of how it fits in the Galatian church or why Paul was writing the letter,” Leunk says.
Still, she acknowledges, Moore’s approach is not unusual among popular Bible teachers. “A lot of people are looking for a Bible study where they can say, ‘I learned something about myself, I learned how to deal with my mother-in-law,'” Leunk says. “There’s definitely this pop-psychology aspect to what she does that’s found in evangelical Christianity.”
Imagine that sort of critique from evangelical professors who rallied to Beth Moore’s side because John MacArthur was critical of her.
The other curious piece of the recent attention to Beth Moore is the explanation for leaving the SBC. Although Southern Baptists were more than adequate to support Moore for the better part of a decade after her revelations about being abused as a child, somehow opposition to her views on women in ministry forced her to find comfort among Anglicans.