Mark Hemingway has a positive piece on Russell Moore at The Weekly Standard, the gist of which is that the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is one of the few evangelical straight shooters in a climate dominated by THE EIGHTY-ONE PERCENT!!!
If you’ve been paying attention to national politics for the last few years, the idea that evangelical leaders are themselves in a position to offer such moral leadership might be in question. Even religious cynics have been shocked by the way so many evangelicals have lined up to prostrate themselves in the service of electing as president of the United States an exceptionally profane, likely unfaithful, thrice-married braggart who once publicly supported abortion and refers to holy communion as having “my little cracker.”
The notable exception among evangelical leaders is Russell Moore: As long ago as September 2015, when the prospect of a President Trump was still considered highly unlikely, Moore published an op-ed in the New York Times asking, “Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?” His answer was unequivocally yes, and Moore charged Trump with using evangelicals to further his ambitions. “We should not demand to see the long-form certificate for Mr. Trump’s second birth,” he wrote. “We should, though, ask about his personal character and fitness for office. His personal morality is clear, not because of tabloid exposés but because of his own boasts. His attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord.” Trump returned fire in May 2016, tweeting: “Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!”
“The church of Jesus Christ ought to be the last people to fall for hucksters and demagogues. After all, the church bears the Spirit of God, who gifts the Body with discernment and wisdom,” he writes. “But too often we do. We receive celebrities simply because they are ‘conservative,’ without asking what they are conserving. If you are angry with the same people we are, you must be one of us. But it would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ.”
I wonder how Hemingway would have framed the story — and what Moore’s reaction would be — had he read the story at Christianity Today about evangelicals’ most-trusted celebrities:
Evangelicals were most likely to heed recommendations by top leaders from recent administrations; nearly half (49%) said Trump’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a particular candidate, more than any other figure.
Vice President Mike Pence (46%), President George W. Bush (43%), House Speaker Paul Ryan (34%), and President Barack Obama (33%) made up the rest of the top five for evangelicals, while a few spiritual and religious leaders ranked among the top 10: Oprah (31%), Joel Osteen (28%), and Jerry Falwell Jr. (27%).
Did you see that? President Obama and Oprah are ahead of Jerry Fallwell Jr.
That’s hardly a coherent set of convictions or ideals, at least when it comes to discernment about celebrities.
In which case, couldn’t it be — for the guhzillionth time — that the critics of evangelicalism are over interpreting the 2016 vote, unless of course you want to take a page from Hal Lindsey about how to interpret the Last Days.