Baptist Leader Charges Evangelicals Defending Roy Moore With Idolatry

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)

On Monday, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore emphatically condemned so-called Christians who defend Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenage girls while in his early 30s. The Baptist leader charged these “evangelicals” with an idolatry of power.

“Evangelical Christians ought to be the most dogged opponents of sexual predation and violence in the universe,” Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), declared in a tweet storm. “The Bible tells us to.”

The ERLC leader added that “a church that worships Jesus stands for vulnerable women and girls. A church that worships power sees them as expendable.”

“Christian, if you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism,” Russell Moore powerfully declared.

Then the ERLC leader explicitly accused Roy Moore defenders of having abandoned Christianity. “This is why I spend so much time talking about nominal, cultural Christian ‘religion,'” Russell Moore wrote. “It is predatory, soul-twisting, covers our violence and racism and molestation.”

By contrast, he wrote that “the gospel of Jesus Christ brings life and joy and rest and peace.”

At the very beginning of his tweet storm, the ERLC leader referenced Hosea 8:7-8.

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.

Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.

Hosea wrote this in the context of God judging Israel for idolatry. “To me they cry, ‘My God, we—Israel—know you.’ Israel has spurned the good; the enemy shall pursue him. They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction” (Hosea 8:2-4).

Directly before the passage Russell Moore cited, God condemns Israel’s idols. “I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. … For it is from Israel; a craftsman made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces” (Hosea 8:5-6).

By citing Hosea 8, Russell Moore suggested that the division and dissension in America’s evangelical Christian community is God’s judgment for idolatry: American evangelicals have exchanged the God of the Bible for the idol of power, and so they “reap the whirlwind” and become “a useless vessel.”

How exactly does the church become useless? “There are girls and women in our churches, right now, wondering where they can turn as they are molested by predators,” Russell Moore wrote. “I know Jesus’ answer. What about that of the church?”

The ERLC leader suggested that while Jesus would lovingly embrace victimized women, offering them love and healing, the church’s support for Roy Moore might push these women away from the church, thinking they would not be trusted.

Russell Moore also cited a disgusting comparison reporter Brandon Moseley made on CNN. “I’ve heard lots of morally repugnant things recently. Comparing the sexual exploitation of girls to the theft of a lawnmower tops the list,” the ERLC leader said.

The ERLC leader has unique credibility on this issue, as he spoke out against Donald Trump in the Republican primary and the general election — and Trump lampooned him for it, calling him a “terrible representative of evangelicals.”

Russell Moore’s condemnation of Christians selling out the Bible for politics is strong and important for evangelicals to hear at this moment in time. No matter how vehement the “progressive” Left becomes in enforcing its worldview on others, Christians ought to stick to the scriptures as a rock in a storm.

The ERLC leader may have jumped the gun, however. Roy Moore has emphatically denied the allegations against him, and the timing of the allegations is indeed suspect. There are reasons to be skeptical.

On Tuesday, Business Insider reported on a voicemail message Pastor Al Moore said he received. The man leaving the message claimed to be “Bernie Bernstein,” a reporter for The Washington Post. According to Moore, the voicemail offered thousands of dollars for “damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore.”

“Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein, I’m a reporter for the Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars,” the voicemail reportedly said.

“We will not be fully investigating these claims however we will make a written report,” the voicemail continued.

Marty Baron, the Post‘s executive editor, said someone was “falsely claiming to be from The Washington Post.”

This phone call may be a hoax, but it illustrates just how uncertain the story remains, even after yet another woman came forward accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault this week.

Russell Moore is right to call Christian leaders to place the Bible above politics, and to condemn horrific comparisons between stealing a lawnmower and sexual assault. He may also be right in calling pastors to distance themselves from Roy Moore immediately, given the way victimized young women might interpret support for Roy Moore.

Unfortunately, however, the full truth remains unknown in the Roy Moore case. Even if Roy Moore is innocent, however, Russell Moore’s warning is still extremely important.

Christians should emphatically condemn any victimization, especially of young women. No political victory is worth betraying the gospel — after all, the twisting of the Bible to serve political ends is the very force behind a great deal of “progressive” advocacy. Conservatives need to guard against making the same mistake.