For Christians, A Stark Choice: Falwell or Moore?

Just as hundreds of evangelical pastors converge on Liberty University for a mega-political rally, the SBC’s Russell Moore is asking them to renounce racism and Christian nationalism. What will white evangelicals choose?

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What will 2020 bring?

There hasn’t been much mystery about the recent politics of Liberty’s Jerry Falwell Jr. His in-your-face Trumpism has been pretty extreme even for white evangelicals. In the long tradition of his father’s Liberty University, this week’s workshops will help evangelical pastors connect their cultural conservatism to their political activism. As CBN described,

Most Conservative Evangelicals see a culture spiraling out of control and drifting further away from Judeo-Christian principles. They are well aware of America’s spiritual roots and it was pastors, especially back in the Revolutionary War period, that led the way speaking out boldly from the pulpit on the moral and cultural issues of the day. This effort is clearly an attempt to see a new generation of pastors step up.

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore was telling Newsweek that evangelical Christianity has to fight against racism and nationalism. Yes, Moore noted, evangelical Protestants and other conservative Christians have had to defend themselves against unfair charges of bigotry and prejudice.

But Trump’s aggressive racist appeals are dangerous. As Moore noted,

racism is not a social or political issue. Racism is Satanism in my view, because it’s the idolatry of the flesh—and a sense of superiority and dominion over other people. That can manifest itself in neo-Nazi movements in Germany, in racist memes on Facebook or in left wing anti-Semitic posts and movements around the world as well.

Plus, Moore pointed out that religious people have a complicated relationship to political action. As he put it,

The church is not a political action committee and should never be a means to any earthly end. Church has a much bigger mission than that. Christians should be engaged in the world around them, including in their callings as citizens. The fortunes of the church don’t rise and fall with whoever’s winning and losing in the political arena. But then I will find myself sometimes even on the same day preaching to, say, a group of younger church planters. And making the point you can’t withdraw from the public arena and still love thy neighbor. You have responsibilities as citizens.

Will anyone listen? I guess the more precise question is this: How many white evangelicals will listen? How many will ask themselves if Trumpism really represents their vision of a just society, or if “making America great again” is code for a cynical, secular nostalgia that doesn’t really reflect evangelical values?

My hunch is that most white evangelical voters will continue to make decisions on a long list of factors. Some will be attracted to the Falwell-ish machismo of Trump’s angry white rhetoric. Others will be put off, but still choose Trump as the lesser of two evils. A few might decide that Trump’s racist appeals put him over the edge of moral acceptability, even if they don’t like the Democratic alternative.

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1 Comment

  1. Agellius

     /  August 10, 2019

    And some may actually believe Trump isn’t racist, believe it or not.

    Reply

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