Russel Moore is no liberal evangelical. He was the dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) What follows are excerpts from two interviews Moore did about his newest book, "Losing Over Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America."
Moore is deeply concerned about an entire generation of young people brought up in the church, perhaps like your own children or grandchildren who are walking away.- the Dones. They're "done" with church. They haven't rejected Jesus (yet) but they see a complete disconnect between what Evangelicals say they believe and how many are behaving, without any shame at all.
Moore told why he believes Christianity in America and not just the SBC is in crisis and why he wrote his book:
"It was the result of having multiple pastors tell me essentially the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount parenthetically in their preaching-- turn the other cheek-- to have someone come up after and to say, Where did you get those liberal talking points?'
'And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say 'I'm literally quoting Jesus Christ,' the response would not be 'I apologize'. The response would be 'Yes but that doesn't work anymore. That's weak.' And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we're in a crisis.'
In the book, Moore cited an article by Tim Alberta in The Atlantic called "How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church."
'In this environment, a church leader's stance on biblical inerrancy is less important than whether he is considered 'woke',' Alberta wrote. 'His command of Scripture is less relevant than suspicions about how he voted in the last election.
How does the church practice what it preaches?
Research has shown that religious affiliation is declining in America, and Moore suggested that evangelicalism may be partly to blame for becoming too political.
'We now see young evangelicals walking away from Evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church itself does not believe what the church teaches,' he wrote. 'And, more than that, many have concluded that the church itself is a moral problem.'
Moore says, "I was raised in a church which took the Bible and gospel seriously. They clearly loved Jesus. I also was exposed to a mixture of Southern honor culture, American patriotism, Republican politics, white racial backlash, and on and on.
Here's the disconnect young Christians are seeing today. They're watching their parents or church members enthusiastically endorsing potential candidates who are saying crude, foul, hateful and angry, things that Jesus would never do or say. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, but it's obvious to them that based on the way many conservation Christians talk about liberals, their "enemies" that teaching from Jesus just went out the window. It's not just that evangelicals seriously disagree with many liberal positions as I do, but they are on TV and at rallies clapping and cheering on candidates who clearly hate their enemies which is anyone who disagrees with them.
Yes, it's true many liberals believe Christians are the enemy and say untrue and unkind things about us. But Jesus holds his followers to a completely different standard. What is there about this verse that is unclear?
"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." - I Peter 3:9
Clare's thoughts: Jesus did not say his followers could not speak out against evil, false or just plain bad ideas. We could and should. And as citizens of this country we have a right and obligation to speak out. But how we voice our disagreements and over what issues appears to be the problem Moore is addressing. Young Christians perceive older Christians are speaking out about the wrong things. Things Jesus had no interest in. And they've noticed too many Christians appear to be "against more things than they are for." They perceive Christians are more worked up about masking, vaccinations, Hunter Biden's laptop and stolen elections and not enough about poverty, racial inequality, justice for "the least of these," the humane treatment of illegal immigrents, or providing for women in poverty who choose not to abort their children.
Younger Christians are also noticing that many of their parents and church members appear to be more influenced by conservative news outlets and podcasters than they are by their pastor, or the Bible. Their parents are talking less about the Bible and Jesus and more about politics and the country going woke. We are being distracted away from the Bible, Jesus and godly living. We've taken our eyes off the ball and our children are noticing. And young Christians hear the deafening silence from the Church about our national leaders who claim to be Christians who say things Jesus never would. Would we really "know they are Christians by their love?" If their parents or church members cheer them on and vote for them, then does moral behavior really matter anymore in politics? Our kids are confused.
This is the time for self-examination. If you want your children and grandchildren to love Jesus, then be very sure you act like him, care passionately for the things he does and you vote for men and women of integrity who act like him. I'd rather lose an election than my integrity. If you've been silent, or have cheered on unkind behavior consider confessing that to you family and friends. The ends never justify the means for true followers of Jesus. Gently call out angry Christians and remind them of this verse:
"And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth" - II Timothy 2:24-25
Your children and grandchildren are watching you and watching us.