Evangelical Christians Questioning the Teachings of Jesus
It’s a hard concept to grasp, the idea of evangelical Christians questioning the teachings of Jesus. That’s the core of what evangelicalism is. It’s like a hot dog bun rejecting a hot dog, it just makes no sense. Yet that is a new reality being exposed by Russell Moore, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today.
Reverend Russell Moore, a native Mississippian, was ordained at Bay Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi, and he and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons. They live in Nashville, where he teaches the Bible regularly at their congregation, Immanuel Church.
Moore was president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2013 to 2021. When he had the integrity to speak out publicly against Donald Trump, it caused quite an uproar, per numerous sources, but ultimately, he remained until the end of his term, then resigned and departed the Southern Baptist Convention.
Prior to that role, Moore served as provost and dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also taught theology and ethics.
The Trump Election and Evangelicals
Just before the Trump election, Moore penned an op-ed for the New York Times titled, “Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?” The piece was published on September 17, 2015, six weeks prior to the 2016 general election.
He wrote in part, “Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives. To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.” Later in the article, he said, “When evangelicals should be leading the way on racial reconciliation, as the Bible tells us to, are we really ready to trade unity with our black and brown brothers and sisters for this angry politician?”
Addressing the Southern Baptist Convention’s Handling of Sexual Abuse Allegations
Another issue that Moore has been vocal about is the Southern Baptist Convention’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse. When he spoke to CNN on May 23, 2022, the day the damning report was released, he shared, “This is huge. There were many who told us we were wrong to say that sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention is a crisis. This report reveals that crisis is too small of a word. This is an apocalypse, an unveiling, a meltdown.”
Moore continued, “Frankly, there has to be more than just structural reform, there’s a cultural problem here that has to be addressed. I’m talking about a culture that could allow this kind of intimidation and harassment and retaliation against innocent people. The sort of callous inhumanity that we could see in these reports…will require not just bad people to be held accountable, although that’s true, but for good people to not look away.”
The Crisis in Christianity and the Church’s Role
A few days ago, National Public Radio sat down with Moore to discuss his new book, “Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call For Evangelical America.” Interviewer Scott Detrow asked Moore why he thinks that Christianity is in crisis today in America, and his response was confirmation of what we have been witnessing.
“Well, it was the result of having multiple pastors tell me essentially the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount parenthetically in their preaching – turn the other cheek – to have someone come up after and to say, where did you get those liberal talking points? And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ, the response would not be, I apologize. The response would be, yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak. And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we’re in a crisis,” said Reverend Moore.
When he was asked if he thought the current all-or-nothing cultural warfare was sustainable, Moore indicated, “I really do think that it’s not sustainable in terms of there’s a passage in the scripture that says, beware, if you bite and scratch at one another, that you do not devour one another. And I think in American life right now, we’re starting to realize we’re devouring one another.”
Near the end of the interview, Moore offered an important perspective leaning toward a solution. “Almost every part of American life is tribalized and factionalized. But it shouldn’t be that way in the church. The very existence of the church is to mean a group of people who are reconciled to God and to each other and, from the very beginning, was standing apart from those sorts of factions. And so, I think if we’re going to get past the blood and soil sorts of nationalism or all of the other kinds of totalizing cultural identities, it’s going to require rethinking what the church is. And I don’t think that’s something new. I think it’s very old. I think it’s recovering a first-century understanding of what it means to be the church.”
It sure is refreshing to see a Christian pastor behave as a Christian and rise to the responsibility to publicly stand up speaking truth, regardless of consequences. Reverend Moore reveals in the broad light of day how so many who claim to be Christian have lost their moorings in favor of white nationalism, which is as he points out, not at all in keeping with the teachings of Christ.
Visit NPR to read or listen to the entire interview.