Christian conservatives, or the “Religious Right,” have become the very people they so ardently warned against, according to the president of the public policy wing of the Southern Baptist Convention. In front of a crowd of 400 guests at the Union League Club on 37th Street in New York City Monday, First Things held their annual Erasmus Lecture, and Russell Moore addressed the question: “Can the Religious Right Be Saved?”
Moore’s answer was both yes and no. Some things are worth preserving, while other vestiges cannot die quickly enough.
“I’m an heir of Bible Belt America and also in many ways a survivor of Bible Belt America,” Moore said, noting that he grew up memorizing Scriptures in spelling bee type drills, enmeshed in the ecosystem of evangelical Christianity.
In a speech lasting an hour, Moore noted that during his teenage years he witnessed the rank hypocrisy among fellow believers, their indifferences to or even complicity in racial injustices, the buffoonish words of Christian leaders and the utter hollowness of cultural Christianity, particularly regarding politics. These Bible Belt churches, which delivered “Christian voter guides” instructing the faithful on the supposed biblical position on the line-item veto, precipitated the recognition that there had to be more to following Christ than this.
Moore, who has been consistently outspoken in his opposition to Donald Trump, further noted that he recognizes the hard decisions people have before them in this particular election, which many characterize as a “lesser of two evils” choice. But in exchange for political influence, he contended, some are forgetting an essential gospel question: What does it mean to be saved?
“The Religious Right turns out to be the people the Religious Right warned us about,” he continued.
The younger generation of evangelicals simply will not stand for this, Moore said. Contrary to the media narratives about millennial Christians liberalizing, Moore insists that younger evangelicals instead intend to prioritize the furtherance of the gospel, not right wing politics.
“There are no 22-year-old John Hagees,” Moore acknowledged, but there are plenty of young solidly orthodox evangelical church planters committed to the culture, and sound expository preaching of the Bible.
From Moore’s standpoint, to be effective in this culture, this rising generation of faithful Christians have to forge collaborative issue-by-issue coalitions when speaking to politics, dispense with alarmist eschatology and prosperity gospel hucksterism, and create robust, disciplined conscience-shaping church communities.
“A Christianity without a clear gospel is just moralism; but a Christianity also without visible churches is backward looking and seething with rage with what has been lost,” Moore said.
“The important question is whether the Religious Right will have for them that Word above all earthly powers which no thanks to them abideth. The important question is whether a people defined by religion have for the world, good news,” he concluded.
About the Author
Brandon Showalter is a writer for the Christian Post. Committed to bringing the relevancy of the gospel to his generation, Brandon is also a contributor to the new Evangelical channel. For more information, go to brandonshowalter.com.