Russell Moore on Evangelicals and American Politics

Probing, well worth reading, from someone whose role every American Christian should probably say at least one prayer for, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

The most self-consciously “apolitical” churches are typically the most political of all. The Southern Presbyterian and Baptist churches of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries demanded a “spirituality of the church” that addressed only evangelism and discipleship, not “politics.” Of course, they did address politics. When a “simple gospel-preaching” church in 1856 Alabama or 1925 Mississippi calls sinners to repentance for fornicating and gambling but not for slave owning and lynching, that church isn’t “apolitical.” That church is implicitly blessing the status quo.

A church in twenty-first-century America that doesn’t address the horror of abortion or the public denial of marriage is a church that says to Jesus, as others have said before, “Who then is my neighbor?” This church also keeps from guilty consciences the only thing that can liberate them: the direct confrontation with the Gospel of a God who is both just and justifier. We cannot in our attempt to keep the Gospel from being too big present a Gospel that is too small to, as the Great Commission puts it, teach the nations “whatsoever I have commanded you.”

A younger generation rightly rejects the triumphalism and hucksterism of some aspects of the old American civil-religion political activism. But, in reclaiming the centrality of the Gospel, we cannot fall back into the old dispensationalism of divorcing the kingdom from the Gospel, Paul and the apostles from Jesus and the prophets. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (with the implicit answer, “I’m not”) isn’t just a bad social ethic; it’s also a matter of denying the mission Jesus embodied and handed to us.

Evangelicals typically wonder, then, how do we “balance” such things? How do we engage socially without creeping back to the God and Country religion that gave us Christian T-shirts with a red, white, and blue “USA” in the middle of the slogan “Jesus Saves”? In the providence of God, it seems, an Evangelical triumphalism and an Evangelical isolationism will be decreasingly possible. As the sexual revolution whirls on, it is no longer possible to pretend that Evangelicals represent the “real America” of God-loving, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth social conservatives like us. As orthodox Christianity becomes increasingly freakish in American society—as it is in Europe and in the Islamic world—the more the church will have to look to the New Jerusalem and the less we will be able to look to Mayberry for our picture of what “normal” looks like.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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