The new leader of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wants to keep his church relevant by making it more like the anti-church culture at large.
At least that’s what I take away from all I have been able to learn about Russell Moore, the 42-year-old who eschews political involvement by the church – unless, of course, it’s pro-amnesty politics or berating-Israel politics or even berating-America politics.
“We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it,” Moore told the Wall Street Journal. “Christianity thrives when it is clearest about what distinguishes it from the outside culture.”
That sounds good. As far as it goes, I agree with the statement. The problem is it doesn’t mean much. It’s ambiguous. And making unclear proclamations seems to be Moore’s stock in trade.
He has, however, written in his own words some pretty revealing statements. Here’s one example from his own reaction to the Wall Street Journal piece: “I don’t think we need a pullback from politics. I think we need a re-energizing of politics. This means we must do more than simply live off the fumes of the last generation’s activism. Millennial and post-Millennial Christians are walking away from the political process, and this is what alarms and motivates me. They’ve grown cynical at movements that are willing to adopt allies that are gospel heretics as long as they are politically correct (see “Beck, Glenn” or “Trump, Donald”). They are disenchanted with movements that seem more content to vaporize opponents with talk-radio sound bites rather than to engage in a long-term strategy of providing a theology of gospel-focused action in the public square.” (Emphasis added.)
Notice how Moore singles out two examples of “gospel heretics” who have aligned themselves with conservative Christians from time to time. He doesn’t cite, for instance, Barack Obama as a “gospel heretic,” though he has an office in Washington to work with him on a regular basis. In fact, he calls for “honoring” Obama.
He writes: “We are going to disagree with the president on some (important) things; there will be other areas where we can work with the president. But whether in agreement or disagreement, we can honor. Honor doesn’t mean blanket endorsement.”
Well, wait a minute! I thought we shouldn’t even work with “gospel heretics.”
There is an amazing lack of consistency in Moore’s logic.
He doesn’t worry about working with “gospel heretics” himself while promoting amnesty legislation. I suspect he would never single out Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Joe Biden for harsh criticism as “gospel heretics.”
In other words, Moore is not someone who arrives at a political viewpoint working backwards from a biblical, Christian worldview. Rather, he seems to shape his worldview through the lens of what seems to be the right choice politically. He grew up a Democrat. He reluctantly admits voting for Bill Clinton. Whom he voted for in more recent elections is a little murky.
But Moore seems to hold special animus for conservative Christians like Jerry Falwell and Moore’s predecessor, Richard Land, while preaching love and compassion for those pushing for same-sex marriage. Why? He doesn’t see marriage as a “culture war” issue. Whether Moore sees it that way or not, those promoting same-sex marriage certainly do.
Then there’s the matter of Israel. The Jewish state has received more unconditional love and support from the Southern Baptist Convention than nearly anywhere else. That appears to be coming to an abrupt end under the leadership of Moore.
Here are some excerpts of his thoughts on Israel:
- “Israel’s American critics on both the left and the right of the political spectrum have been frustrated by what they consider to be the political carte blanche given by evangelicals to the Israeli state.”
- “It is rather obvious that contemporary evangelical support for Israel draws its theological grounding from the dispensational/Bible conference tradition, not from the Reformed/Princeton tradition.”
- He describes himself as in line with “covenant theology” that he says maintains “the church, not any current geo-political entity, is the ‘new Israel,’ the inheritor of all Israel’s covenant promises.”
Lastly, Moore calls himself a “communitarian.”
What is a “communitarian”?
As a former communist, I can tell you it’s a lot like that – without the party discipline.
Look it up in the dictionary. Here’s what you will find under “communitarian” if you use Webster’s New World, the preferred choice of U.S. newspaper people: “a member or advocate of a communistic or communalistic community.”
That’s it. No alternative definitions offered. But you choose any dictionary you like. I suspect you’ll find a similar definition.
But we don’t have to look it up in the dictionary to see the striking resemblance between communitarian thought and communist thought. Both center on the idea that the individual and the family need to be de-emphasized in favor of the “community” or the “state.”
To put it in its simplest form, I have described communitarianism a form of communism for people who believe in God – or say they do.
If you find that description discomfiting with regard to the thinking of Moore, don’t blame me. I didn’t label him with that term – he did.