Russell Moore, Washington Post wrong about Christian role in the public square

From the Washington Post comes this defense of Russell Moore, “The criticism being leveled at Moore by his religious counterparts says more about what the evangelical establishment mistakenly values today than it does about anything that Moore has done wrong. And it misunderstands the true role that Christians could — and should — play in the public square under a president who is likely to be dismissive of their cause.”

 

Wrong. The role of a Christian in the public square is not to be a caricature modeled on Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” moralizing over everyone’s failures.

 

Rather, the role of a Christian involvement in the public square is to push the state towards its goal—a goal explicitly declared in the Bible by the Apostles Peter and Paul to be the establishment of order through the punishment of evil and the rewarding of good (I Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7). Nowhere in the witness of the Bible is the Christian citizen, voter or minister commanded to nag about the moral failings of a leader and thereby withdraw from the public square. Rather, the Christian is commanded throughout the Bible to follow God’s established order for creation.

 

As noted, the Apostles taught government has a specific function as instituted by God. Thankfully, that clarifies our responsibilities for advocating policies in the public square. We must push the state to the goals of establishing order and we do this through our advocacy of issues of fundamental importance such as life and religious liberty.

 

We have one goal as foundation for all our advocacy—Jesus is Lord. “In short, the public square cannot be neutral. If we do not confess that Jesus is Lord in the public square, then every form of lawlessness will necessarily follow,” Douglas Wilson wrote. This excellent point must inform our understanding of government. When the Christian West followed (or at least tried to follow) this axiom, the sun never set on Britain, the US rose to be a superpower and the great industrial and scientific revolutions unfolded. All of this coincided with the rise of personal liberties and greater economic freedoms. It is no coincidence this happened in the Christian world. It is the Christian worldview that creates the necessary conditions for the functioning of democracy. The opposite is also true; if the state turns its back on its Christian heritage, then all kinds of immorality will unfold.

 

Yet, instead of urging a return to the greatness of Christendom, leaders like Dr. Moore seek to turn evangelical Christianity into nothing more than one issue advocacy group among the cacophony of shouting groups demanding the state adopt their policies. In Dr. Moore’s vision of American democracy, Islam deserves just as much input on the state as Southern Baptists. It is what drives the ERLC’s choices to advocate for building mosques.

 

We have a higher calling.

 

We must force the state to do its God-ordained job of protecting life, liberty and property. To do this, we must participate in a fallen electoral process that often presents us with no great choices. That forces the Christian voter into a Lesser of Two Evils moral choice. That isn’t uncommon in a world like this, and instead of Dr. Moore’s choice of trying to let the very bad candidate win, most evangelicals understood they had no choice but to vote the lesser bad.

 

This view was defended by great philosophers and theologians like Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. William Lane Craig. I’ve extensively quoted Dr. Craig before and will do so here again to explain the moral choice and why the evangelical vote for Trump was appropriate:

I think there is a kind of immaturity among some people about moral decision-making where they think that moral decision-making is a matter of choosing between the good alternative and the bad alternative. That is a very naïve, almost childish, view of moral decision-making. We are frequently confronted with moral choices in which we have no good alternatives or, alternatively, we have two good alternatives to choose from and you have to then choose between two goods. But sometimes you have to choose between two bads. Intro courses in philosophy or ethics major on this point by presenting moral dilemmas to clarify students’ values. For example, a textbook illustration is the runaway streetcar example where if you do not throw the switch the streetcar will hit and kill a man working on the tracks.[1] But if you do throw the switch then the streetcar will kill five people who are on the tracks. So which choice do you make? You don’t have a good choice in a case like that. There are two bad outcomes and you have to choose the lesser of two evils. I think the most poignant illustration of this point is Sophie’s Choice where the young mother is presented by the Nazi soldiers with a choice as to which of her children will be sent to the death camp and which one she can keep alive. If she refuses to choose one of her two children then both will be sent to the death camps. In a case like this, this poor mother had no good choice. She had to choose the lesser of two evils and pick one of her two children to be exterminated. It is just horrible.
Similarly, in a case like this, we didn’t have two good candidates to choose from. Both were flawed in multiple ways, and the outcomes were flawed in multiple ways. Yet, that doesn’t exempt you from having to make a decision in a case like this. You choose the lesser of two evils – which outcome would be better for the United States of America than the other? I think, as you already indicated, the implications for the Supreme Court are just huge in this case. We were choosing which President would be appointing not only the replacement for the late Antonin Scalia but perhaps for other justices as well. That could radically affect the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation to come.

What Dr. Craig is telling us is that while we all affirm there are deontological moral rules, the entire context determines what rules we should apply. Dr. Moore seems to not see the situation of this election required Christians to pick between those options, and that to not work to stop Hillary was a moral decision of significant danger to the moral imperatives of a Christian voter—the protection of life, liberty and property.

 

It isn’t repudiating a stand that character matters to pragmatically pick the lesser evil when no good choice is presented among the two candidates with the chance of being elected president.

 

Mike Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, former governor of Arkansas and former head of the Arkansas state Baptist Convention understands the role of government better than Dr. Moore. He recently said in a piece by Bethany Blankley, “I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them.  Many of us have faithfully sought to stand for the Biblical definition of marriage, for the sanctity of life, and for meaningful and substantive efforts to help the poor with affordable housing, access to food and employment, and equal education opportunities for minorities.”

 

It is time for change at the ERLC. Dr. Moore is out of touch with the reality of what Southern Baptists think and believe. He doesn’t understand the best approach to dealing with government, and instead of respecting the choices of his fellow Southern Baptists he decided to insult them. It is time for Dr. Moore to go. If you are interested in working for change, please get involved. You can like, share and distribute our posts about this topic, and you can visit SBCToday.com for a conservative, Southern Baptist view of this topic.