I had hoped that the rancor that had characterized the recent presidential campaign, and had caused political division among some Christian leaders was now, well, history. It seems I was overly optimistic.
Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. During Donald Trump’s campaign he was highly critical of Trump’s unrepentant admissions of immorality and apparent lack of any sign of Christian character while claiming to be one.
This past September in a New York Times op-ed, Moore suggests Trump’s claim of being a Christian is out of political expediency, that he has a mixed track record on the issues concerning evangelicals, and has a host of self-professed moral failings, saying, “To back Mr. Trump, these [evangelical] voters must repudiate everything they believe.”
Since Trump garnered 81% of the white evangelical vote Moore’s opponents say he is out of step with the denomination’s rank and file, and his past criticisms may become a roadblock to any future cooperation with the new administration.
To his credit Moore clarified his remarks by saying, “There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighted the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience.”
Moore is right. While several prominent Christian leaders bent over backwards to excuse Trump’s inconsistent claims to Christianity, Russell Moore held Trump accountable. Russell Moore did what any Christian, especially a leader of an ethics commission, should have done.
It seems to me there are leaders within the SBC that need to decide whether or not they want the denomination to devolve into a political party, or continue its vision of churches cooperating to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ. Jesus told us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” not “Go and make political activists of all the nations.”
These same leaders will stand around befuddled as to how a nation that once commanded a Christian consensus has become a people the majority of which are unchurched with a disdain for organized religion. Could it be they have become overly involved in things the church was not called to do?
Like Russell Moore I believe a Christian citizen has a responsibility to weigh the political issues in the light of our biblical convictions, and then to vote our conscience, but politics for the Christian were never meant to supplant our primary calling to spread the Gospel.
We need to be reminded of Esau who sold his spiritual birthright to his brother Jacob for a single meal of stew and the Scriptures tell us, “Thus Esau despised his birthright,” Genesis 25:34.
Christians have been blessed with the only message that promises help for the present and hope for the future, we should not barter away our spiritual birthright to share the Gospel for a single meal of political stew.
Russell Moore’s opponents should leave him alone; we have bigger fish to catch.