First published on Christian Converser
Continuing on this theme, the key political alignment for Christians in the US is with the Republican Party, and this is despite the failure of Christians to see much commitment from Republican presidents. Voters in the last term got possibly more from Trump than from a good many of his conservative predecessors, but it is still questionable that this was worth the controversy and division that this invoked. This question has become all the more pertinent following the election loss and the reaction to it. Key conservative Christian commentators in the US were among those supporting the claims of election fraud despite the lack of hard evidence, and arguably contributed to the insurrection at the Capitol in early January.
In the Southern Baptists there was hard pushback against the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Dr Russell Moore, who has had an impeccable history of service to the SBC. Moore has been one of the few in SBC willing to speak out against the positioning of the denomination as a GOP ally and to also champion religious liberty for non-Christian churches across the US. A key example of Moore’s thinking can be seen in this article in Christianity Today in 2015. “The public-policy leader for the largest US Protestant denomination isn’t worried over Christians’ loss of power. He says it might just be the best thing to happen to them.” Moore’s vision as head of the ERLC was significantly different from that of his politically-aligned precedessor Dr Richard Land (who retains public prominence as the executive editor of “The Christian Post”), but ruffled significant feathers within SBC during the Trump Administration by criticising the US president and defending the rights of Muslim communities to build mosques, resulting in calls for defunding of ERLC from within the SBC.
It’s clear from the CT article that Moore is a strident opponent of Christian Nationalism, and that his stance follows the more traditional viewpoint of Southern Baptists standing apart from politics. Another article, authored by Moore and published in “First Things” in 2013, strongly questioned the movement of Evangelical Christianity in the US away from public engagement due to the realisation that most church-based political activism was too often “far less than prophetic” – more focused on politics than on Christianity. Moore enunciates clearly his belief that public engagement with the issues of the day is central to the Gospel message, but that it must be non-Nationalist in intent. The message is not always popular within the SBC, and criticism of ERLC has probably influenced Moore’s recent decision to step down from the organisition and join the staff of Christianity Today.