The Tug-of-War Over Russell Moore Reflects Poorly on the Gospel
Leading up to the presidential election this past November, one of my biggest concerns was that the evangelical church in America had become committed to trading their identity in Christ for an identity in politics. Sadly, my fears are proving prescient. The evangelical church in America is being fractured. While people are dying and going to hell, Christians in America are more interested in throwing stones at each other over politics than we are in sharing the good news of the salvation found through faith in Jesus Christ. This abdication of Jesus' ordained mission for his disciples is being publicly played out in the Southern Baptist Convention's tug-of-war over the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and its president, Russell Moore.
As head of the ERLC, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Russell Moore is a lightening rod for controversy. Anytime religion is mixed with politics, anger is bound to quickly follow. Fed by that anger, a growing chorus of voices is calling for Moore to resign.
Here are a few facts about the positions that the ERLC advocates for:
- The organization is strongly pro-life and pours many resources into the fight to keep babies from being murdered.
- The ERLC is vocally opposed to gay marriage as well as any sexual expressions that violate God's clear parameters for sexual expression.
- The ERLC is a strong advocate for religious freedom in order to ensure the unfettered preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
All of the above positions (and many others that I didn't have room for) reflect a biblically-grounded ideology that puts the ERLC squarely at odds with progressivism. It would shock no one if the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) decided to label the ERLC as a hate group. Except, the SPLC has little need to attack the ERLC because professing Christians are unwittingly doing the bidding of leftists.
Much of the vitriol heaped on ERLC and Russell Moore's head is over immigration. Opponents of the ERLC claim that Moore is an open-borders zealot. Arguing that Moore is on the dole of George Soros and is working alongside Ken Barbic to undermine the U.S. economy for the sake of cheap labor (disclosure: my wife is friends with Ken Barbic, although I've only ever met him once or twice). In short, the anti-Russell Moore/ERLC crowd believes that Moore is determined to undermine America's sovereignty out of a love for mammon.
In February, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, resorted to holding the SBC economically hostage by threatening to withhold over one million dollars from the SBC's Cooperative Program, the funding arm for the Convention's mission work. The large and influential church was quickly joined by a growing chorus of SBC pastors threatening to withhold funds if Russell Moore retains his position at the ERLC.