Earlier this week, I wrote about Marco Rubio's poor choice of Rick Warren to serve on his board of advocates for religious liberty.
At the time I wrote it, I didn't realize how cozy he is getting with Russell Moore, a former Democrat Hill staffer and current president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
First, the pair teamed up to write a piece for the Washington Post on Christmas Eve about global persecution against Christians. Can't argue with that – politically or morally. Good for them.
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But then, a week later, I see Moore making some snide, disparaging, divisive and condescending comments that could hurt Rubio in efforts to attract the very voters he needs to stay competitive in the presidential race.
In an interview with the Hill, Moore had this to say about how the top three GOP presidential candidates appeal to different evangelical constituencies: "I would say that Ted Cruz is leading in the 'Jerry Falwell' wing, Marco Rubio is leading the 'Billy Graham' wing and Trump is leading the 'Jimmy Swaggart' wing."
He explained that Cruz has largely followed the classic Moral Majority model that was the face of the conservative movement – he has received endorsements from figures such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson – while Trump "tends to work most closely with the prosperity wing of Pentecostalism" which tends to believe that God would financially reward believers.
If you understand how much Moore despises the Moral Majority and the Pentecostal constituencies – assuming it wasn't clear enough just reading between the lines – this pretty much serves as an "endorsement" of Rubio.
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You get it. Everybody respects Billy Graham. Who wouldn't want his constituency? The late Jerry Falwell may have been loved by everyone who actually knew him – like me – but he was controversial and solidly conservative. Jimmy Swaggart, of course, was a cartoon to most Americans, the ultimate televangelist rocked by scandal.
But it comes at the expense of mocking the large constituencies of your top two opponents – if, there is any truth at all, to what Moore says.
In addition to that, Moore is a social-climbing wannabee who is almost certain to lose more votes for Rubio than he attracts.
Let me tell you what I know about Moore and why it represents one more giant red flag over the Rubio campaign.
On the positive side, he is part of the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. In the past, it's been rock-solid in its commitment to authentic biblical values and salt and light in America's popular culture and political culture.
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But that's all changing, coincidentally, with the arrival of Russell Moore.
I just wonder where the Southern Baptists are headed today.
Last year, for instance, he called II Chronicles 7:14, the "John 3:16 of the American civil religion." He did not mean that in a positive way. Because Russell Moore has no use for what he calls "the American civil religion."
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He went on to say: "We can be Americans best if we are not Americans first."
He added: "God and country is much, much easier than Christ and Him crucified. This text does not point us to a bloodless civil religion. This text points us to the cross."
Now, I don't wholly disagree with some of what Moore is saying here. But, at a time when America is losing any sense of moral clarity, such statements have dangerous implications. They have the kind of implications that lead directly and inevitably to, for instance, a ho-hum Christian attitude to the Supreme Court's ridiculous ruling proclaiming same-sex marriage as a constitutionally protected human right – one that might even trump religious freedom, which has always been a strong suit of Southern Baptist concern.
For those not familiar with II Chronicles 7:14, the verse, which are the words of God spoken to King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, says: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Apparently, Moore thinks Americans put too much emphasis on these words. I believe, we, meaning Christian believers, don't place nearly enough emphasis on God's profound prescription for healing a nation when it falls from favor with the Creator and His ways.
He says many Americans preach II Chronicles 7:14 like an "American prosperity gospel" and one that is used to advocate a national return to morality and stable economy apart from a commitment to God.
Forgive me, but I have never heard the verse preached that way. I don't even know how it could be, given the precision of the actual words. I hear it being preached, most notably, by Jonathan Cahn, a truly anointed and prophetic voice of our time. I believe it to be a poignant and timely message for this time and this place.
Where is Moore going with all this?
I'll tell you.
He's got an ambitious political agenda.
One of his top political priorities is amnesty for illegal aliens.
Another is berating Israel.
Another is berating much of the American culture of the past.
Sound familiar? Sound like Barack Obama?
If you agree with those political priorities, Russell Moore is your man. He's skillful. He camouflages his agenda well with the use of scripture, often cited without proper context.
Several years ago, he told the Wall Street Journal: "We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it. 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."
Notice how Moore singles out two examples of "gospel heretics" who have aligned themselves with conservative Christians. 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."
Interestingly, last year he invited only three presidential candidates to a forum before an audience of 13,000 pastors and other hand-picked "leaders" from around the country. The three were Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton.
Now there are many candidates running for president in 2016. There were even more last year. Why only three? I would suggest to you because there are three who Russell Moore finds worthy of consideration by Southern Baptist leaders.
In fact, Moore admitted as much in his announcement of the forum. Here's what he wrote: "Last year, we decided that we would have some sort of forum, about issues of concern to evangelicals. Because we only have time for any substantive conversation with two or maybe three candidates, we decided early on we would need an objective standard by which we would determine who would receive an invitation. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were among those who qualified to receive an invitation, and I'm very glad they accepted. We also invited Hillary Clinton, and she declined. I regret that, since I think it would have been respectful conversation that would have enabled her to speak to questions evangelicals have, and could have modeled our disagreements with her with civility."
I'm sorry, but what was the "objective standard" used to make such a determination? I missed that.
Now here's where it really gets interesting. 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. And, so far, without the hundreds of millions of deaths.
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.
Is there more to Moore?
Yes, there is.
There's a revealing commentary by him last year – about the horrific Planned Parenthood scandal in which leaders were revealed in undercover videos negotiating the sale of body parts from abortion babies. Surely Moore, a political activist, would use this opportunity to call for an end to federal subsidies of the entity that performs more abortions than any other in the U.S., for which it has earned the title "Abortion Inc."
Not at all. He doesn't even mention it, though there are calls from some of his non-favored presidential candidates for defunding Planned Parenthood.
While he condemns abortion, there is no such link to the necessity for political action. Why would a Christian so heavily engaged in political action he claims is motivated by his religious convictions shy away from it when it comes to such an evil? This institution is funded by the federal government.
Maybe the truth is betrayed in a statement Moore recently made: "If you're fencing the table around your political agenda but you're not fencing the table around the Gospel, then the political agenda is your Gospel."
Could it be that statement applies to Moore himself?
He sure seems deeply involved in politics.
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