11 September, 2017
Some glaring fault lines have appeared in the conversation about Russell Moore, many of which were exposed by the recent essay in The Federalist written by one of Moore’s fans, Nathan Leamer of the R Street Institute. Since being crowned head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) in 2013, Dr. Moore has been no stranger to controversy, much of which he brings upon himself. His tendency has been to pervert the classic Christian world view and mix it with language which panders to the left while he openly admonished evangelicals to disengage the culture war as we entered the most hostile attacks in the national history.
This may actually be a careful strategy that resembles the “tactics “of Moore’s most popular target and the source of his current troubles, President elect Donald Trump. Trump skillfully uses controversy to grab headlines and keep himself and his campaign on the front page. Trump is a thick skinned veteran of the New York gossip columns. Trump, therefore, plays the media as one adept with his NYC and DC survival skills. Moore may miss the goal and lack the skills to pull this off.
Dr. Moore began his reign by providing us a taste of both his winsomeness and new tone for the ERLC and evangelicals’ cultural engagement. But today for Moore, the thought of a Trump presidency seems to have caused the evaporation of his winsome veneer exposing a “Prophet of Shame.” After Trump’s unexpected win, Moore’s pandering to the political Left seems to have gone into hyperdrive. Moore wants Christians who have supported Trump to hide their faces. Yet Trump’s clarity is appealing while Moore’s shame and double speak is divisive. Christian radio host Janet Mefferd pointed out that Trump inherited many evangelicals later in the campaign, and he was not their first choice. But Moore seems determined to let the facts escape him. Others in the SBC and conservative Evangelical circles echo the same “Blame Game” toward evangelicals who supported Trump’s campaign. Ed Stetzer implies that electing Trump has created a climate of racism for which white evangelicals must explain themselves to Christians of Color.” So, what is really going on? What are the fault lines Moore and others are missing?
Here Are a Few:
Moore is attempting to rebrand the ERLC and the evangelical tone. He is speaking mostly to the next generation of believers whom the Southern Baptist Convention fears losing – people like Nathan Leamer. Moore critics are not, as Leamer suggests “a small but vocal minority. They are the people who pay Moore’s salary and fund his organization. Former Senator Mike Huckabee points out that Baptist are “paying Moore to insult them.” Moore is failing because he is trying to pour new wine into old wine skins (Mark 2:22 ). Both the young and old may be alienated in the end. Dr. Moore, why not start a new organization (wine skin) with the purpose of rebranding the conversation rather than confusing the present one and furthering the age divide?
Moore is the crown prince of evangelical contradiction. He welcomes confusing partners like LGBTQ activists who want to redefine marriage while he ignores, shuns, and shames seasoned conservatives who understand that the LGBTQ debate is merely a tool that uses the LGBT community so that progressives can redefine sexual norms and even personhood. After more than three years in Washington, D.C. does Dr. Moore understand this yet? Progressives USE minorities. They do not help them.
Russell Moore misidentifies his victims. When Moore insults the “Christian Right,” he is actually speaking of the Conservative Christian who craves clarity and conviction on Faith Values. He attacks these voters as if they were the machinery behind the conservative political movement. When Christian voters allow this misidentification and assault, they are thus stigmatized by the press, progressives, and the new brand of social justice Christian voter. The fact is most conservatives’ theology tends to be more compatible with social policy than is the brand of Moore and his followers. Doesn’t Russell Moore need to get his labels right before applying them?
Moore is attempting to build the ERLC’s new foundation on the shifting sands of culture. It is not possible to maintain real integrity to our espoused theological conservatism and yet be socially pandering if not outright grasping every progressive object floating on the surface of the current cultural floodtide. Moore, if not confused himself does allow his language to confuse others. Moore embraces immigration policies, for example, that favor the left’s ideology as if he does not know of George Soros’ existence or has never heard of open borders. In short Moore quickly adopts talking points loaded with activist policy and expects his base to follow while he espouses faithfulness to Biblical values wrapped in this new terminology. Is this fair to expect thinking people to follow along?
Moore has not at all “been balanced in speaking truth to power while achieving real political victories,” as Leamer claims. Leamer fails to enumerate even one of those “victories.” Also, as he reminds us, the ERLC’s job is, in part, “to promote Religious Liberty”. By this standard alone, both Moore’s vision and the organization he inherited, are failures. There has been far greater endangerment – and loss — of religious freedom on Moore’s watch than at any other time in American history. As to “Trump holding a Bond Reunion without him” -Russell Moore is no James Bond. He is not a man accustomed to life in the field but rather in the theological halls of learning. He also lacks a license to kill the conservative Christian base, though he does seem to be attempting to read its eulogy. Dr. Moore, what is your job in 10 words or less? Please stick to it.
In short, Moore is accountable to the base who funds him. He is accountable to the denomination under whose banner he sails and to the individual Christians and ministers who reach out to him with concern. Trump’s evangelical support was in large part, a vote against Hillary Clinton’s progressive “March to the Sea” to divide and conquer Christian values in the public square. Moore seems to fail to get this. He continues using the wrong talking points, the wrong language, the wrong allies, and is on the wrong side of the mountains of culture. If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself to battle? (“One” Corinthians 14:8 )