Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the ethics and policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, has revealed that an unlikely figure twice helped save him from quitting Christian ministry: Charlie Brown.
Moore published a blog post on Wednesday that explained how the cartoon and comic strip character has helped him think deeper about his spiritual and theological calling.
“On my desk where I do most of my work there stands a Charlie Brown bobblehead figurine,” he said. “I take that little comic strip figure very seriously because he kept me in ministry on two very different occasions in which I was ready to quit.”
Moore went on to recount how he experienced depression early on in his work and considered quitting. He wrote:
I found myself in a deep depression after seeing things about the underbelly of church life that I wished I had never seen: hypocrisy, backbiting, cover-up, and Darwinian power politics. I didn’t even go to church one night, knowing that the congregation I was a part of at the time was scheduled to erupt in some bitter fight. I sat home wondering whether, based on what I now knew about human depravity (including my own), I ever even wanted to go to church again, much less to serve in church ministry. I turned on the television for some background noise to quiet my mind, just as the opening credits started playing for A Charlie Brown Christmas.
It hit me that what I was hearing was the glory of the Lord. Even though the words I was hearing were mediated at the moment through, of all things, a cartoon child.
More specifically, it was Linus who really spoke to Moore, as the character recited scripture about Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 — a famous, defining moment in the traditional Christmas show.
While Moore was obviously familiar with this section of the Bible, the recitation that Linus delivered in the King James Version truly resonated. He continued, explaining how he believes God used the story to reach him in that moment:
But at that moment, there was something about hearing the words, in the King James Version, as old and familiar to me as my own security blanket: “And the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.” It hit me that this was my problem: I was sore afraid. It hit me also that what I was hearing was the glory of the Lord. Even though the words I was hearing were mediated at the moment through, of all things, a cartoon child, they still had their force. The story was more than just a story. The story was true.
Moore soon came back to his theological senses. But 20 years after that recovery, he said he once again faced a situation involving “sin and hypocrisy and power politics” — and it was worse than the first.
Again, he found himself questioning and struggling. It’s unclear what he was referring to, though it’s no secret that Moore was a vocal critic of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
And Moore was under fire for his anti-Trump stance, as well as the warnings he sent throughout the 2016 campaign about evangelicals who openly supported the brash businessman. Some called for Moore to step down from his post as a result of his claims, though others defended him.
It was surely a difficult time, though it’s not clear if this is what Moore was referencing.
Either way, similar to the first time, Charlie Brown and Peanuts came to the rescue when Moore found himself listening to a song by Randall Goodgame — a tune that pays homage to the cartoon. You can read more about that here.
Moore said that Charlie Brown has helped him realize that grief sometimes yields contentedness.
“It reminds me that what it takes to jostle me into wondering at great joy can sometimes be some good grief,” he concluded. “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”