What’s happening to the American Evangelical church? This is a perennial question (ignore for the purposes of this review the fact that there’s no such thing as the “Evangelical church”), and one which for the last decade Russell Moore has been at the heart of. The former director of the ERLC (the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) and now something-or-other over at Christianity Today has expressed his throughs on the matter in his new book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America.
This book is excellent and should be read by every Evangelical, and by everyone who wants to understand what is going on in the Evangelical world. Obviously we won’t all agree with everything he says (I’d be surprised if Moore agrees with everything he said in the book), but we’ll all learn from what Losing our Religion has to say.
What this book is, at the end of the day, is whatever the opposite of an encomium is for cultural Christianity and shift our nation is going through. (I’m sure there’s a word for the opposite of the praise delivered at a funeral, but I am absolutely blanking on it and Google is currently failing me here.) It’s not that Moore is rejoicing in the death of cultural Christianity as we lose our credibility, authority, identity, integrity, and stability (each gets its own chapter). It’s that he is noting that often what is really dying are the idols we have built up as our false gods are truly revealed in the light of our shifting culture. This is ultimately an optimistic thing, as those false idols die off and the opportunity to embrace the Gospel–to truly embrace the Gospel–stands in front of us. Rather than converting to red-state American political beliefs, we have the opportunity to convert to genuine Christianity that rises above cultural moments and doesn’t hinge on who wins the next election.
As just one example, Moore points out how far Evangelicals have fallen when it comes to the relationship between morality and authority:
“What becomes the source of authority in these cases is not the persuasive appeals or the moral credibility of those speaking but their willingness to brawl and to transgress norms in ways that can seem shocking. Civility, then, is surrender. Empathy is sin. Love of neighbor is ‘liberal.’ Justice is ‘Marxism.’ With this comes the need to rally around someone who will prove his (almost always ‘his’) alpha status by railing against the enemies–and even against his followers–in ways that can reassure the tribe.” (73)
This is just one excellent point in a book full of them.
Again, let me strongly recommend that you pick up this book and read it. Disagree with it if you like, but do not dismiss it as Moore is making a critical argument at a critical time.