Yesterday — “Moody people” — we looked at the infighting roiling the venerable Moody Bible Institute. The school was founded by revivalist Dwight Moody and has been, for more than a century, a stolid, enduring presence both in downtown Chicago and in white evangelicalism nationwide.
Moody is a Bible college, but it’s also much more than that. Through book publishing, a longtime monthly magazine, a syndicated network of radio programming, and its own line of pre-video Bible films, Moody has long played a big role in shaping the white evangelical and white fundamentalist subculture. Somewhere, I still have the certificates marking my completion of several Bible correspondence courses from Moody that — like many thousands of other young fundies — I enthusiastically signed up for as a kid.
Today though, the multimedia landscape is far more crowded and far more sophisticated, and Moody hasn’t kept pace — steadily losing its market share within white evangelicalism. Enrollment at the Bible college is dropping precipitously, exacerbating the financial difficulties the school faces by being located amidst some of the most expensive real estate in the country. This is the real “crisis” facing Moody Bible Institute: Money is tight, the college is shrinking, and its current administration doesn’t seem to have a plan to change that.
That current school administration, however, is no longer current. This happened late yesterday evening: “Moody Bible President and COO Both Resign, Provost Retires.” The board of trustees is cleaning house, hoping to install a new leadership team who can bring some new ideas or at least new energy in the hopes of reviving the faltering institution.
This dramatic move is a victory of sorts for the loudest critics of Moody’s now-former administration. It’s what they wanted to see happen, but not quite why they wanted it. Those critics have their own theory about why enrollment is down at Moody. It’s because, as one put it, Moody has “begun trading the sure foundation of God’s Word … for the fragile foundation of the cultural tides of the day.”
Yes, the mixed metaphor is a bit confusing there — tides make a poor foundation, but not because they’re “fragile” — but set that aside. The point these critics are all making is that Moody has gotten too “liberal.” They say this over and over in a variety of angrily vague ways, but if you patiently search for what this claim means specifically to these critics, you’ll find they mean two things: 1) Moody’s overturning its blanket prohibition on drinking, smoking, dancing and gambling in 2013 was a grievous mistake; and 2) Moody isn’t as white as they’d like it to be.
These critics’ fierce concern for the whiteness of Moody can be seen reading between the lines, but it’s also right there in the lines themselves, in the critics own words. We looked at one example of this yesterday, in Julie Roys’ breathless condemnation of “liberation theology” and “reverse discrimination” and her apoplexy over the “disturbing” notion that a Moody professor had acknowledged the existence of white privilege. But also take a look at this from the Broken Twig blog, an online home for Mohlerite Moody critics seeking a whiter fundamentalist takeover of the already fundamentalist Bible college:
Then, in March 2015, Moody once again found itself in the secular press. Again, bowing to social and cultural pressure, Moody embraced a worldly view of racism and promoted divisive groups like Black Lives Matter. Professors openly called for reparations and promotion of one ethnicity over another. Divisions and exclusions by color of skin became acceptable.
This is straight, undiluted white supremacy. The Broken Twig and the constellation of white conservative Moody critics regard Black Lives Matter as self-evidently “divisive” and as the real racists.
These critics are not very fine people. They’re half-a-hair away from decrying “white genocide” and marching with Tiki torches.
Their response to Black Lives Matter, and to any other argument or effort for equality, is indistinguishable from what white fundamentalists were saying about those divisive troublemakers in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. They are borrowing the exact words of those segregationist “Christians” — word-for-word and euphemism-for-euphemism. The Broken Twig reads like an old copy of the Southern Presbyterian Journal.
These angry white folks view every call for equal treatment as an attack on white people and as the “promotion” of black people over white people. Their argument is now, as it was then, hateful, ignorant bullshit. It is now, as it was then, sin. It’s blasphemy. It’s a violation of the Golden Rule and a rejection of the reign of God. It crucifies Christ anew.
But that sin is the pillar of their faith and the core of their identity. It is their “firm foundation” and without it they do not know who they are, or what they believe, or why.