Southern Baptists are speaking out against Russell Moore. Weird.
I remember when that totally wasn’t in vogue, and we were the only ones doing it and people were calling us crazy. Consider this piece, which calls our assertion that Moore is a social progressive “one of the dumber things you will have read in 2014” (Moore soon hired that writer for the ERLC staff)? Good times. Good times. Back in those days, any notion that Russell Moore wasn’t a true-blue conservative was met with scoffing and gnashing of teeth. For so many, being tacitly pro-life and and not yet waving the rainbow flag was the be-all end-all of conservativism, and nothing else mattered.
This are changing, however. In recent days, Christianity Today (who may or may not have quoted this author’s big brother), the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Post and other publications have written about the angst of Southern Baptists toward the former Democratic staffer-turned-director of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The only publication to jump out in defense of Moore is the socially-progressive, social-justice publication of Jim Wallis’ Sojourners Magazine (hint hint). Russell Moore has surrounded himself with liberals who are convinced of his conservatism and say you should be as well, but grass-roots Baptists are starting to see evidence to the contrary compound.
Of course, Pulpit & Pen and Polemics Report have been the proto-critics of Moore’s socially-progressive left-leaning trajectory at the ERLC since 2013. A partial run-down of our critiques of Moore’s limp-wristed, softened-toned, liberalified, ecumenical, social justicey, size-7 shoe tenure at the ERLC includes posts regarding…
We can also add to the count all the articles done about Moore’s hire at the ERLC of a radical animal liberation activist, gay-affirming, self-pronouned “feminist,” Karen Swallow Prior, who Moore says he wishes we had “a thousand more of.”
Now, one would think that Southern Baptists small and large would have dismissed the Blue Dog Democrat a long time ago for compromising on a whole litany of important issues, from advancing the illegal amnesty agenda of the liberal mainline denominations to pushing animal rights to cutting the gay wedding cake in celebration. But, no. These things have gone mostly unnoticed (or uncared about) by Southern Baptists. The straw that has broken the back of many a baptist camel seems to be pure politics.
Russell Moore, who postures himself repeatedly with the more “moderate” wing of conservatism (at times, so moderate it’s hardly conservatism), made a calculated decision to earn the applause of the moderate-left and secular press by repeatedly opposing a candidate that neither he nor anyone else thought would actually win a general election. It was a cheap move on Moore’s part, with little perceived risk. Moore would gain the cheap applause of the secular press (which he does often) standing against a misogynistic bully who had no chance of winning anyway, while he hedged his bets on Roman Catholic politician, Marco Rubio, who for some reason Moore insisted on treating like a born-again evangelical. The Evangelical Intelligentsia, from Eric Teetsel to Wayne Grudem, followed Moore’s lead and “virtue signaling” by attacking Trump as a non-Christian (because of his behavior) while supporting Rubio as an authentic Christian (in spite of the fact he’s Roman Catholic) became all in vogue. The problem is, the strategy turned out to have been a bad bet. Evangelicals would not be corralled like farm animals by their evangelical overlords, regardless of how many PhDs or Twitter followers they could boast, and they decided to vote for the candidate who’s behavior demonstrates he’s not a Christian rather than the Intelligentsia candidate who’s theology demonstrates he’s not a Christian. Simply put, Moore lost the bet.
Moore’s constant dogging of Trump didn’t let up after the candidate won the primary, and it was almost as though Russell Moore couldn’t see far enough out of his Ivory Tower in the beltway into America-land to get a sense of what “normal Americans” were thinking. Moore’s lectures toward his own denomination became tiresome, insulting, and in bad taste. Moore continued to lambaste Trump until he called Moore “a very nasty man” on Twitter. It’s at this point I thought (and said publicly on my radio show) that no matter what, Southern Baptists will not have a sympathetic ear in the White House, Democrat or Republican come 2017. No matter how you cut it, that means that the ERLC is going to be on “time out” in Washington for the next four to eight years, to the tune of sixteen to thirty-two million dollars of Cooperative Program funds. Congratulations, Baptists. You now have no representation with the executive branch.
I now stand back and watch as megachurch pastors and small church bloggers openly question whether the ERLC should be scuttled or Moore fired. And although it’s partially cathartic to see it, considering we’ve been saying the same for going on four years now, it saddens me that it was stupid political decisions on the part of Moore and not doctrinal compromise that brought us to this place. And even though I would be happy to see Moore go, I would rather see him go for better reasons.
Whether or not Moore will be removed or the ERLC disbanded remains to be seen. Bloggers merely posing questions about the necessity of the organization may seem like Baptist mutiny, but questions don’t bring about change; demands bring about change – and I’m not seeing many demands. Megachurches cutting their funds or circumventing the ERLC (to find out how your church can do this, read this book) has been threatened, but the economic bite has yet to be felt. Any attempt on a denominational level to end the ERLC will be met be total resistance from Albert Mohler and tens of thousands of Southern Baptist Neo-Calvinist fanboys who don’t know the difference between social justice and actual Gospel centeredness.
Moore remains popular at the cool kids’ table, and little will change that. It may just take a lot of uncool pastors and laypeople to say “enough is enough” to reroute dollars to missions where it belongs. After all, it doesn’t cost 4 million dollars a year to insult the president-elect and be totally ignored. We could do that for free.