In what is categorized as the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention serves as an interesting sociological barometer in terms of what direction ideological winds tend to be blowing. For example early in the twentieth century, the ecclesiastical association nearly succumbed to the temptations of liberalism and modernism only to be pulled back from this brink by a conservative resurgence that coincided with the ascent of Reaganism on through the Republican Party taking both houses of Congress in the 1990's.
Now it seems the tide might once again be receding. Those that have in a sense grown up in an environment characterized as overwhelmingly religious are tempted to surrender the ground gained as a form of repentance in their minds for certain admitted excesses and as a way to promote the peace and toleration always being yelled about in one's ear.
In his early 40's as of this writing in late 2017, Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Theological Seminary and now the Ethics and Public Policy Commission is often fawned over as a prominent young leader who could very likely shape the Southern Baptist Convention throughout the course of much of the twenty-first century. If that is the case, conservative Baptists mind end up finding themselves betrayed on what could very well be a sinking ship.
Without a doubt, Russell Moore professes those fundamentals of the faith necessary to assure the individual of salvation in Christ and eternity in Heaven. But it is in those areas where it is easy to compromise for broad approval and applause that Dr. Moore presents the greater spiritual danger.
I Corinthians 9:22 counsels to be all things to all men. By this, it is believed that the Gospel message can be adapted within certain parameters or presented in such a way that addresses individuals in the particular circumstances in which they find themselves.
The problem with Russell Moore and an increasing number within Evangelical Christianity in general and the Southern Baptist Convention in particular is the growing conviction that, in order to appeal to what is perceived as untapped demographics, professional religionists must go out of there way to publicly denigrate those expected to financially sponsor these outreach efforts. And in so doing, one is expected to turn one's back on much of the foundation that was laid as the foundation that got us to where we are today.
This is particularly evident in Russell Moore's response to the Trayvon Martin incident. As someone that presents himself not only as a clergyman but as someone that also makes his comfortable living as such, one might think Russell Moore would have endeavored to remain above the fray in regards to such an issue by calling for cooler heads to prevail or to point out how quickly individual lives can be lost.
Instead, Moore came out quite publicly in favor of Trayvon Martin and against George Zimmerman. The mouthpiece of Southern Baptist public policy is quoted in the 7/16/13 edition of the Washington Post as saying, “Regardless of what Trayvon Martin was doing or not doing, you have someone who was taking upon himself some sort of vigilante justice, even by getting out of the car. Regardless of what the legal verdict was, this was wrong.
Perhaps we really should consider what transpired and especially what it was that Trayvon Martin was doing the moment his life ended.
From what the judicial process has been able to establish, Trayvon Martin was beating George Zimmerman and delivering blows to the head that could have resulted in permanent injury and even death. Why does the criteria Moore invokes to defend Martin not apply to protect Zimmerman in this incident as well?
For example, according to Moore, the chain of events began when Zimmerman disembarked from the vehicle. That may or may not have been the wisest course of action. However, that was probably more legal and less suspicious than Martin zig-zagging late at night in and out of people's yards like a drunk or reefer addict up to no good.
So if Zimmerman committed a great wrong by laying his hands on Martin, why should Martin be exonerated for attacking Zimmerman who was doing nothing worse than perambulating over a public thoroughfare? However, it is apparently not enough for Moore to simply side perhaps with the party that did not have access to a fire arm in this altercation.
One can barely find a piece of direct mail promotional newsletter propaganda these days that does not go out of its way to denigrate White people for simply being white. A considerable number of these ecclesiastical functionaries have adopted a rhetoric of White guilt more typically emanating from the likes of Phil Donahue and Woody Allen that from behind a Dixie pulpit. One of the foremost practitioners of this victimization narrative is none other than Russell Moore.
To the analysis of the Trayvon Martin issue, Russell Moore added, “And when you add this to the larger context of racial profiling and a legal system that does seem to have systemic injustices as it related to African Americans with arrests and sentencing, I think makes for a huge crisis.” Moore further observes, “Most white evangelicals...are seeing [the Martin case] microscopically and most African Americans are seeing it macroscopically. Most white Americans say we don't know what happened that night and they are missing the point.”
As dumb as Whites are depicted now by the hierarchs of the Southern Baptist Convention, it's a wonder they are able to drop their tithe into the collection plate. But perhaps it is because of such stupidity that Whites so flagrantly mocked don't take their religious dollars elsewhere.
Notice that nowhere in those comments did Moore ponder that Trayvon Martin might have been as high as a kite or that George Zimmerman might have taken the only course of action that would have preserved his own life. If Moore is going to be this discombobulated over matters of race and ethnicty to the point where in matters of law enforcement and civil adjudication that the primary concern is not so much that of an individual's guilt or innocence in terms of committing a certain act but rather on the basis of the individual's membership in certain demographic categories, Russell Moore should be asked just what is he himself willing to sacrifice in terms of comprehensive social equity.
For example, if Russell Moore on a proverbial dark and stormy night found himself confronted by a Black assailant that proceeds to perpetrate violence against this seminarian naive to how the world actually exists, is he going to do what he expected of George Zimmerman and allow himself to be pummeled either to death or into a state of permanent mental imbecility as a result of brain damage received for the good of the cause? More importantly, is Dr. Moore willing for his wife or daughters to be raped in order to balance out what Southern Baptist functionaries such as himself now consider the scales of ethnic justice?
Just as important, should these kinds of tragedies befall Rev. Moore or his ecclesiastical allies and the scumbag is apprehended by law enforcement, are these theologians then going to parrot the fashionable liberal drivel about disparities in sentencing should the perpetrator of the crimes against them be one of the minorities the denomination has come to coddle and fawn over these past few years? For in his praise of Trayvon Martin and condemnation of George Zimmerman, Moore went out of his way to emphasize this issue.
In 2013, the Convention went out of its way to enact a resolution condemning incarceration with little mention as to whether or not those tossed in the slammer might actually deserve to be there. Perhaps the denomination would instead prefer to come out in favor of more explicitly Old Testament punishments such as floggings and public executions.
The Convention also condemned former chairman of the Ethics and Policy Commission and eventually forced into retirement Richard Land for merely verbalizing what it was that the vast majority of Americans were already thinking that President Obama was “trying to gin up the black vote” and that allied racemongers “need the Trayvon Martins to continue perpetuating their central myth --- America is a racist and evil nation.”
It is not only in the area of race relations where Russell Moore falls pitifully short of the kind of leadership Baptists need if the denomination and that particular theological perspective is to not only ride out the waves of the looming cultural collapse but possibly even rescue the nation from drowning in these overwhelming historical tides.
In coverage of the 2013 convention in which Russell Moore was installed as the chairman of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, an observer gushed in one press account that his election brought a more moderate tone. As it was explained, “The new generation is less ideologically motivated.” However, is it that the new generation is “less ideologically motivated” or simply that it decided to collaborate in implementing a more leftist ideology?
It seems Brother Moore is quite adept at implementing a don't do as I do, do as I say mentality. For on an episode of the Albert Mohler Program broadcast sometimes around 2006 probably around the first time I had ever even heard of Russell Moore, he confessed that, while thoroughly enjoying Halloween himself as a youth, it is now wrong for contemporary Christian children to participate in Halloween. And the point of raising this issue, some are probably asking with perplexity? After all, such a viewpoint is no doubt common among a variety of theologies found among Independent Baptist, conservative Southern Baptist, and even Pentecostal or Charismatic churches.
Indeed it is. However, the example is brought up to point out that Russell Moore and the young Turks advocating his style of social engagement are not quite of the live and let live mindset those unaccustomed to fully parsing phrases such as “less ideologically motivated” might be led to believe. If anything, it would seem Russell Moore has something of a tendency to crackdown in those areas where individual preference should be allowed to flourish while allowing things to get a bit out of line where, if one slacks an inch, assorted subversives will take a proverbial mile.
How does this represent a more moderate wind being blown into Baptist sails? I can assure you, I know first hand the sort of message has been pounded into the minds of Christian youth for nearly thirty years.
I remember back in my day that, along with whether or not you watched “The Simpsons”, you would speak in hushed tones about celebrating Halloween for fear of bringing the wrath of the more religiously fanatical teachers in Christian day school down upon you. It often seemed that some would even go out of their way to assign extra homework or schedule a test for the next day as a way to punish those that might succumb to the temptation of masquerading for prepackaged nocturnal confections.
This hypocrisy aside, it is not the only issue regarding which this new breed of seemingly less ideological Southern Baptist leader may actually be more ideological than ever before. Baptists might be mocked with the mantra of “Don't drink, don't chew, and don't go with girls who do” in terms of the rigorous behavioral codes many adhere to in the attempt to differentiate themselves from those considered worldly and in an effort to adhere to a lifestyle that they believe would be pleasing to God. However, if there is one area in which Baptists are noted for a spirit of liberation it is in the area of food.
However, Russell Moore and his allies would likely impose an additional set of regulations upon those in their congregations and within their respective spheres of homiletical influence in regards to this aspect of existence in no way derived from Biblical principles such as those regarding booze.
On 1/2/2006, Russell Moore posted an entry on the blog of the Henry Institute at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary titled “Crunchy Cons and Veggie Tales”. The brief essay is a review and elaboration of an emerging ideology known as crunchy conservatism coined by Moore's “Touchstone Magazine” colleague Rod Dreher.
In the post, Moore describes crunchy cons as, “...conservatives who are religious traditionalists and political conservatives but who are deeply suspicious of the materialism and consumerist assumptions of the reigning culture.” However, the materialism denounced here goes beyond that requiring the latest iteration of the I-Phone when the one acquired last year still works perfectly fine or having to acquire an entirely new wardrobe every year irrespective of whether or not the duds from the previous season have worn out
Rather, it is of the variety of how we mere working slobs are expected to willingly embrace with deliberation and aforethought a harsher and less convenient lifestyle because doing so makes detached intellectuals like Russell Moore that have not gotten their hands dirty in years or even decades feel so much more satisfied with themselves because they know more about how you ought to spend your miserable existence better than you do.
In the TimesOnline article referenced by Moore titled “Mr. And Mrs. Crunchy”, his “Touchstone Magazine” colleague Rod Dreher begins, “We had come to believe that the family, not the individual, is the basic building block of our society.” It depends upon what the writer means by that.
Bravo if by that he is expressing a realization that, upon having children, his wellbeing and that of his wife takes a backseat and their needs play second fiddle to those of the children. However, to those such as Rod Dreher and Russell Moore, the notion likely goes considerably beyond that.
For example, often those of this mentality having procreated believe that they are entitled to an ever-increasing percentage of the income and accumulated resources of those that do not have children, especially if such people are single. This confiscatory compensation can take on a number of forms.
The first is in the form of traditional taxation. Those of a communalist mindset believe that each additional child that they parent into the world should grant them a larger piece of the economic pie to be siphoned off as form of punishment from those not having produced children or not having produced by what in their standard is an acceptable number. One radical homeschooler has even insinuated that those not having at least four (the particular number he just happens to have) of harboring an insufficient love of children. It is about time to end manipulation of the tax code as a kind of mind game to trick supposedly free people into engaging in predetermined behavior of any kind.
In expanding that the family and not the individual is the building block of society, Rod Dreher expounded, “I heretically came to realize that Hillary Clinton was right: it really does take a village to raise a child. We conservatives, with our exaltation of consumer choice and the sovereign individual, were dismantling the village as effectively as the statist libertines we opposed.”
This notion of the village goes beyond simply perhaps curtailing the amount of smut broadcast on television. Rather, it allows for the COMMUNITY often in the guise of government authorities to have final say over decisions regarding your existence that might not really be based upon any principle clearly delineated in the pages of Scripture.
Dreher further elaborates regarding free market principles, “But they were based on fundamentally materialist assumptions about human nature which conservatives ought to have known were inaccurate and which would lead to a loss of purpose, of community, or idealism.”
But is it really the place of government (because that is ultimately what is meant by COMMUNITY to these neo-beatnik types) to police these matters in the lives of individuals and families? For what if these are at variance with what communal elites decide constitutes prevailing values and acceptable citizenship (for lack of a better term for those advocating for the elimination of traditional borders).
For example, what ought to happen when the COMMUNITY decides you as a professional baker you will provide your particular goods and services for gay weddings? Better yet, in such circumstances, what happens when the COMMUNITY decides that its vision of marriage not being limited between a single pair of heterosexual partners but rather open to any combination of consenting adult partners is the view to be taught to your children?
Granted, it is doubtful that a good Baptist like Russell Moore would applaud such social decay. In fact, overall the Southern Baptist Convention has stood for the God-ordained traditional heterosexual family even if a number of the association's spokesfolk have been hoodwinked into public forums and dialogs where the attendees mired in that specific inclination are not so much looking to be delivered spiritually from that particular sin but are instead attempting to lure the well-intentioned but somewhat naïve Baptist into a state of ever-increasing compromise.
Russell Moore could be one of the most prominent Baptist leaders of the twenty-first century with the possibility as many as five additional decades of theological productivity before him if he is blessed with mental vitality and a long life. As such, American Evangelicals need to be cognizant where his accumulating compromises undermine what little remains of the nation's conservative values and influence upon America's cultural institutions.
Most would agree that a progressive licentiousness pervades much of the Western world's media landscape. However, one of the few remaining areas in which conservatives of varying stripes have been able to hold their own has been talk radio.
Yet, if Russell Moore had his way, conservatives ---- particularly of the Evangelical variety --- would relinquish the ground that they hold in the media or at least moderate their tone to the extent that such voices would be indistinguishable from any other variety of broadcaster.
At the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention's 2014 Leadership Summit, as that body's president, Moore said that if all he knew about Christianity was what he heard on Christian radio in the Nashville area while driving to that particular conference, he would hate Christianity too. Such an allegation, in and of itself, might have merit. The thing of it is that, since then, Moore has been disturbingly vague and elusive regarding the nature of these criticisms.
In this particular tirade, Moore said, “There are some people who believe that fidelity to the gospel simply means speaking 'you kids get off my lawn'. That is not the message of the gospel. If the call to repentance does not end with an invitation that is grounded ...in the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus we are speaking a different word than the Word that has been given.”
Such a statement is accurate if the venue and/or media under consideration is the pulpit on Sunday morning. However, talk radio (even Christian talk radio) can have a slightly different methodology dependent upon the particular program under consideration.
For example, in his tirade Russell Moore said, “If all you and I are doing is standing and speaking a word, including a truthful word, about sexual immorality...the world does not need us for that. The devil is able to do that on his own. We have not been called simply to condemn. We have been called to reconcile.”
It seems that increasingly in Dr. Moore's homiletical repertoire that “reconcile” has become a euphemism for capitulation and pandering. There is indeed more to repentance than condemnation. But in order for someone to admit that they are wrong and want to do something about that situation, doesn't the individual need to informed that they have done something wrong?
Apparently in his attempt to garner the approval of religious leftists, Russell Moore insists that the world does not need us to stand and speak against sexual immorality. But if not Christians and conservatives of various persuasions, who will be left to do so. In light of the Duggar and Bill Gothard scandals most prominently and to a lesser extent R.C. Sproul Jr's confession to his own carnal temptation, it seems this variety of compromise is even coming to grip those uplifted among us as supposedly the best that Evangelicalism has to offer.
For how long did Russell Moore listen to talk radio during the day in question? Shouldn't he be required to listen to a station's entire weekly program rotation before rendering a somewhat objective verdict that the complete Gospel message is not being presented?
Russell Moore dismisses Christian talk radio as little more than the rhetorical equivalent of “you kids get off my lawn”. But if certain people are deliberately somewhere they ought not to be doing something they definitely shouldn't be, why shouldn't they be told about it? Professional religionists and clergy such as Moore certainly don't mind letting this be known when the tithes and offering slack off.
In the effort to protect their stations and privileges placing them on a rung on the social ladder higher than that of the average pewfiller, a number of ministers like to emphasize the passage found in Ephesians 4:11 stipulating that some are called to be teachers, some pastors, and other evangelists.
So why cant this also apply to the various ministries and programs features on an average Christian radio station? Some shows might emphasize family life and personal relationships. Others such as Moore seem to prefer, according to his remarks, to focus upon explicitly evangelistic outreach. Others might be a bit more hard hitting (in a way that seems to turn off Dr. Moore) by exposing the doctrinal deficiencies in systems in competition with Christianity or the moral controversies eating away at the heart of American society or Western civilization.
Russell Moore is partially correct in that if all we know of Christianity came from the assorted radio programs broadcast in the faith's name one might very well not want anything to do with this particular religion. Does the theologian articulating such scathing remarks intend to repent of the role he has played in such a development surprisingly not always so much the result of an excess of conservatism but often times as a result of his desire to curry favor with religious leftists?
For example, as previously stated, where in the pages of Scripture is the pastor or evangelist instructed to berate the Christian for acquiring provisions from large chain retailers such as Target or Walmart? Likewise, what self-respecting White person is going to want anything to do with your religion when you rhetorically flog them for things that happened nearly half a century ago when it is often the minorities that these self-loathing Caucasians go out of their way to pander towards destroying property and threatening the innocent in the blighted urban areas?
It might be one thing to strive for the Biblical admonition to be all things to all men. However, in the way in which they attempt to do so, Southern Baptist functionaries such as Russell Moore would do well to remember that those having been loyal members all along are just as much worthy of respect and admiration as those attempting to be brought into the fold.
By Frederick Meekins
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