The Elite Cosmopolitanism of Russell Moore

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 January 5, 2017|
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Russell Moore heads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Southern Baptist Convention, but his influence appears not to extend to questions of politics. Christians have their own presumptuous elites, but choose to listen to their own good sense in these matters. Good.

One of the more sanctimonious Never Trumpers this election season has been Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore is a youngish ordained Southern Baptist minister and author of several books, with his most recent being an oddly written volume on how Christians should influence the culture.

According to its mission statement, the ERLC exists to “assist the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the Gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.” Moore interpreted these charges as giving him free rein to issue in the pages of elite liberal “news” publications the strongest possible censures of Trump and any evangelical who deigned to think of casting a vote for the now-President elect. Why Moore thought it was prudent to air his grievances against his fellow brothers in Christ in The New York Times and the Washington Post—newspapers whose op-ed pages are frequently filled with denunciations of everything evangelical Christians stand for—I will leave up to the reader to decide.

Prostrating himself before his liberal overlords, Moore has argued that “chants of ‘Make America great again’” unleashed “pent-up nativism and bigotry all over the country.” In the same op-ed, he drew a stark parallel between Trump supporting evangelicals and the white congregations of Southern Baptist churches of the past that remained silent in the face of the evils of Jim Crow. Elsewhere, he implicitly called into question the very salvation of any Christian who would dare pull the lever for Trump: “To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.” Evangelicals who support Trump have “decided…that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist ‘winning’ trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society.” With approving nods from the likes of Michael Gerson and E.J. Dionne, Moore thundered that Christians planning on voting for Trump became “moral relativists for the sake of an election.”

Moore told the D.C.-insider newspaper Roll Call during the Republican primaries that evangelicals who supported Trump were from the “‘Jimmy Swaggart’ wing” of evangelicalism. Swaggart is of course an infamous ’80s televangelist preacher who was caught with prostitutes on multiple occasions (his “I have sinned” speech is one for the ages). Christianity Today noted a tweet of Moore’s in which he said that pastors who met with Trump were “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

How putting down tens of millions of his fellow evangelicals comports with James’s admonition that Christians should “not speak evil against one another” is anyone’s guess.

With a view to the foregoing, it was thus curious to read Moore’s post-election thoughts, which he wrote in response to growing criticism of his leadership from pastors across America. At his personal website he writes:

I was pointed in my criticisms, and felt like I ought to have been. But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump. I told them then, and I would tell anyone now: if that’s what you heard me say, that was not at all my intention, and I apologize. There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience. In a heated campaign season focused on sound bites, this distinction can get lost in the headlines, so it bears repeating.

One would need to be an ignoramus not to see the utter disconnect between the frankly despicable charges he leveled at his fellow believers and the stance he now purports to have taken. Why did it take Moore well over a year to notice that many evangelicals took offense to his myriad condemnations? Why did this statement come out now and not before the election? And why is this statement so utterly at odds with everything he wrote previously? This attempt either to drag the wool over the eyes of his fellow believers or an inability to hold intelligible thoughts does not speak well of him.

But these glaring inconsistencies haven’t deterred some of Moore’s staunchest supporters in elite “conservative” circles, which include the usual suspects such as the foolish Evan McMullin, the insufferable Erick Erickson, and the arguably unstable Glenn Beck. (Between Moore and Beck, however, admiration apparently only goes one way.) They and others who support Moore have continued on unabated, calling Trump supporting evangelicals racists (in a recent tweet storm, McMullin claimed that the GOP is thoroughly infected with racism) and heretics simply because they hold different opinions on political matters.

Anyone looking for some quick laughs should read through a couple of pro-Moore pieces.

For example, one of Moore’s supporters argues, “Trump needs the Baptist vote more than any Christian needs a politician, and it is not a two-way street. If Trump somehow convened an evangelical gathering without the ERLC and Moore, it would be like holding a James Bond reunion without Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, and Sean Connery.” Considering that Trump won 80 percent of evangelicals without Moore’s blessing, a more apt comparison would be that it is like hosting such a gathering without George Lazenby, the one-time Bond who graced the silver screen in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Other supporters of Moore include Sojourners, the liberal evangelical magazine founded by Jim Wallis. Wallis is famous for advising Democrats on spiritual matters. He is also famous for taking money from George Soros in 2010 and lying about it when Marvin Olasky of World magazine called him on it. Involving himself with projects funded by the socialist billionaire is par for the course for Wallis. Another of Soros’s ventures in which Wallis is involved is the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a front organization that advocates for mass amnesty of illegal immigrants using biblical-sounding language. Among the list of “influential signatories” on EIT’s webpage is none other than Russell Moore.

Considering that Moore has called Jesus an “illegal immigrant” and has noted that the Savior was “a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking ‘foreigner,’” his advocacy in conflating the citizenship of this world and the next is not surprising in the least.

Another facet of Moore’s Rawlsian-influenced theology is to harangue evangelicals who do not support the narratives set forth by radical groups such as Black Lives Matters. After Darren Wilson was acquitted in the death of Michael Brown, Moore took the Obama approach in his commentary: we don’t know all the facts but racism. He cited the fact that blacks are more likely to have runs in with the criminal justice system and seemed to suggest that racial profiling and disparate sentencing are the causes of this disparity—not the disproportionate levels of crime blacks commit. Instead of analyzing the facts at hand, Moore seems to assume that the idea of racist cops nationwide going on killing sprees is a priori correct. (I say “seems” because he is purposefully vague, only citing a “problem” that must be fixed without clearly stating what that problem is; the surrounding sentences are highly suggestive of support for the notion that the “problem” is racist cops). After a jury acquitted the arresting officer in the Eric Garner case, Moore without knowledge of all the facts casually asserted that race was the deciding factor (the fact that the sergeant who oversaw the arrest was black should have given him some pause).

If Moore is representative of elite thought in evangelical Christianity, then it is just as hollow as its elite counterparts in the “conservative” movement. This means that it is all the more important for evangelicals to do the hard work of studying Scripture and seeking out its application in their own lives, families, churches, and communities. Unfortunately, it seems that their home grown elites cannot be of as much help to them in this endeavor as they may previously have believed. But given that fact that Trump garnered such strong support among evangelicals in the election, evangelicals evidently couldn’t care less about what their elites think, anyway.

About the Author:

Mike Sabo
Mike Sabo is a recent graduate of the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. He and his wife live in Alexandria, VA.
  • ricocat1

    No mainstream Evangelical would ever support the policies of Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Platform. An admittedly flawed Donald Trump was always preferable to Hillary, this point was stressed by every prominent Christian leader who endorsed President Trump. Indeed, I would question the Christian credentials of any “Evangelical” who supported Hillary.

    • Captain Mann

      I would go so far as to question the faith of any so-called “Christian” who would work, either directly or indirectly, toward electing Hillary Clinton.

  • jack dobson

    The bottom line is Moore is a liar as are his hangers-on such as Beck, Erickson and McMullin, all despicable little men in their own despicable big ways. The puzzler is the Southern Baptist Convention. It has seen what has happened to mainstream, “normal” Protestant churches due to the entryism by leftists and Social Justice Warriors. These congregations have died, but perhaps their causes of death could be ruled “accidental.” Armed with that knowledge, but continuing to allow the likes of this left-wing Elmer Gantry at the helm, the SBC has chosen suicide as its manner of death, one which many faiths consider an unpardonable sin. It makes a certain sense.

    • wildbillcuster

      I was wondering about that, too. Isn’t there a maxim that all organizations turn liberal over time?

    • JClarke

      I think Russell Moore hand-picked to bring about so-called racial reconciliation (which on it’s face I am not opposed to but balk at the sometimes one-sided approach that uses white guilt to divide. Tearing down members of one racial group to bolster members of another seems neither right nor Christian.) His predecessor Richard Land got in hot water for comments made about the Trayvon Martin incident. He said Obama used the shooting to “gin up the black vote” and “racial demogogues” were undermining the legal system by jumping to conclusions. He also said a black man is statistically more likely to harm someone than a white man. The latter statement is inflammatory and exaggerated. But considering the prevalent thug and gangsta culture among young black men in urban centers and there may be a kernel of truth there. To use statistical facts to make a generalized determination about the character an individual of a particular group, in a word stereotyping, is wrong. But stating inflammatory and incorrect stats without malice shouldn’t necessarily be a fire-able offence. Imagine if a black evangelical Christian leader stated a phoney statistics like, say white cops are statistically more likely to harm black people than non-white cops. I don’t think that person would be fired nor should they. This goes back to my point about one-sided racial reconciliation.

      • jack dobson

        Interesting, thanks. It never ceases to amaze how institutions go from one extreme to another. The SBC’s embrace of the “Social Gospel” and its post-Christian theology will seal its fate. That fear of accusations of bigotry precipitated this descent into secular madness explains much.

  • JClarke

    Thank you for this article I beginning to think Russell Moore and others of his ilk are becoming the Sojourners with soldiers and babies. Their political views are almost exactly the same as Sojourners except more pro-life and slightly less pacifistic.

  • Whiskey Sam

    Moore and his ilk twist the admonition of Christ to the individual: “you take care of the sick, you feed the hungry, you care for the poor” and try to force everyone else to do it instead through government programs. This fails because it excuses the individual from their responsibilities (since the government is doing it anyway, and I’m paying for government) and because government ends up involved in things beyond what it is capable of doing efficiently. What you find is the Christian Left is more Left than Christian.

  • Brother John the Deplorable

    The fact that people prefer, in general and especially in large numbers, to live amongst persons most like themselves, is not deniable; and only elites who insulate themselves from the consequences of their guilt-ridden, stupid, short-sighted policies that strive for “diversity” call this ironclad fact “bigotry.”

    Until we dispose of these people and wipe them clean from public life, we will never fix the problems this country faces.

  • Mark Pulliam

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  • Brian B

    “There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality….”

    Waiting with bated breath Russell’s revelation of who all these Christians were who were “enthusiastically excusing immorality.”
    If it’s possible to crucify a strawman he just did it.
    I could at least have respected him as a wrong headed but honest dope had he just stuck to his original argument. Hard to characterize that excuse as remotely honest however.

    • jack dobson

      Moore is a liar.

  • Dave Edwards

    Interesting piece.

    Reading over this article, it appears that Sabo thinks that the role of Christian leaders is to defend the views of their membership instead of the tenants of the faith. I have to disagree with him.

    The role of a Christian leader is not the same as a political leader, and Sabo’s piece seems to hold Moore to secular standards instead of Christian ones. Just because 80% of his membership voted for Trump does not mean it was the correct. The views of Christianity are not based on popular sovereignty. As the mission statement of the ERLC states, he “assist[ed] the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the Gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.” Moore was brave in challenging the assumptions of many of his membership that feel the Republican Party platform is a religious document. Moore can be removed from his position because of his statements during the election. That does not mean that he was wrong in making them.

    Christianity is not meant to give you warm fuzzies. It is meant to challenge you. It is meant to make you think. I would like to see a piece challenging the arguments made by Moore during the election instead of simply attacking him by calling him “liberal” and “elite” using weak connections to George Soros and the fact that he published in mainstream press outlets.

    I look forward to Sabo’s next piece. My hope is that he will stop being a sore winner with pieces against the defunct “Never Trump” movement and will move to more substantive articles that will expound on the “Greatness Agenda” without becoming a mere apologia for Trumpism.

    • jack dobson

      I read it differently. Moore is a two-bit lying huckster both in a temporal and secular sense, as the piece makes clear..
      Anecdotally, I personally know a number of former SBC churchgoers who left their church over Moore. Again, the SBC is following descent of the mainline Protestant churches into irrelevancy precisely to promote the “Social Gospel” and its warm and fuzzies. Like those churches, the Southern Baptist Church rapidly has become post-Christian and not a religion in the traditional sense.

    • Severn

      Just because 80% of his membership voted for Trump does not mean it was the correct. The views of Christianity are not based on popular sovereignty.

      And when and where did God announce that He was making Russell Moore His official prophet? Moore is espousing left-wing multicultural claptrap under the guise of Christianity.

  • And How to Get It

    Spot on!

  • psrieth

    The most wonderful thing about President Trump is that every time I feel like it is urgently necessary to expose the poor judgment of one of his detractors, I am reminded I need not bother. He is President and will soon come to define the elites. If Republicans could embrace the conservatism of Barry Goldwater despite electoral defeat, I would expect the GOP to embrace Trump who is not only right, but can actually win elections. Good article as usual.

  • Brian

    Russell Moore is a stooge of George Soros.

    And it seems the chairman of the ERLC, who appointed Moore, is an open-borders lobbyist:

    https://occamsrazormag.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/russell-moore-and-the-erlc-exposed/

    The corruption never ends.

  • u.r.tripping

    I don’t need advice from some grinnin’ Savonarola.

  • Sven von Ovenburg

    “Moore’s staunchest supporters in elite “conservative” circles, which include the usual suspects such as the foolish Evan McMullin, the insufferable Erick Erickson, and the arguably unstable Glenn Beck…..”

    ____________________________________________

    Here is the #nevertrumpers Theme Song.

  • AEJ

    Russell Moore ran smack dab into that wall that ‘Checklist’ folks never seem to see right in the distance (in this case, Checklist ‘Evangelicals’ [or rather, so-called ‘leaders’ WITH checklists FOR Evangelicals]). Evangelicals are, at heart, Protestants and thus, PROTESTants. You can’t successfully drive them into one group and then herd them… they’ll rebel (and that’s a good thing!).