Former Southern Baptist Russell Moore is at it again. Even the overturn of Roe v. Wade failed to produce a moment of unity between Moore and the un-woke evangelicals he’s attacked for six straight years.
The Dobbs decision unleashed a decades-in-the-making, nationwide, pent-up celebration among evangelicals who’ve fought tirelessly for the protection of the unborn. But Moore and most evangelical elites didn’t and don’t feel festive at all. Rather than celebrate, they chided the rank-and-file evangelicals who pay their salaries, saying now was not the time to gloat or take victory laps.
What accounts for such a striking disconnect between evangelical elites and their erstwhile followers? The short answer is Donald Trump. The longer answer is that elite evangelicals have betrayed their vast constituency, the largest reliably conservative voting bloc in the nation, in an attempt to please Democrats. The sine qua non of success on that front is to signal contempt for Trump and his supporters. And so they have.
Accordingly, on June 24, Christianity Today’s Russell Moore tried to draw parallels between violent non-American nationalist movements and evangelical MAGA hat crowd. A few days later Moore continued his jeremiad against Trump nation at the Faith Angel West meeting of religious journalists. In a jab at Trumpers Moore said, “I morally think ‘lesser of two evils’ is not workable” and then admitted that he thinks the Dobbs case is morally tainted for Christians because “one has to look not only at the final result in this case but what is the cost of hitching the pro-life movement to a figure such as [Trump]?” Moore’s commitment to the Never Trump cause reaches back to his 2016 Washington Post declaration that evangelicals who support Trump must “deny everything they believe.”
Moore reflects the posture taken by influential evangelical elites who long ago embraced superstar NYC pastor Timothy Keller’s fixation upon “blue communities” deemed capable of keeping evangelicals on “the right side of history,” — college-educated, Democrat-voting denizens of the nation’s cities and blue enclaves clustered in and around universities from sea to shining sea. The tentacles of the Keller-inspired movement penetrated the largest evangelical publishing houses and denominations including the Presbyterian Church in America, and the gigantic Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). By 2012, Christianity Today’s Skye Jethani could justly dub the phalanx of luminaries and institutions involved as the Evangelical Industrial Complex (EIC).
The EIC was stunned and embarrassed by the 80+ percent of evangelicals who rejected their directives and voted twice for Trump. Baptist pastor and author John Piper rushed out a blogpost on the eve of the 2020 election to argue for the comparable “deadliness” of Trump’s character flaws with the killing of the unborn. Washington D.C. pastor Mark Dever praised the “multi-issue” African-American Democrat voters who “realized a long time ago that nobody’s gonna do much about [abortion].” For Dever, such sophisticated voting compares favorably to the supposed simpleton, single-issue, white GOP loyalists who “just don’t know any other way to think about voting.”
The most serious EIC attack on evangelicals is their repeated suggestion that fervent support for Trump suggests a lapse into idolatry whereby they put a man and a political party in the place of God. Such EIC rhetoric displays a profound misreading of what motivates evangelical Trump voters and an egregious misunderstanding of Christian conservatism by scholars who ought to know better.
The EIC operates with a truncated, distorted, and demeaning view of political conservatives provided to them by the blue communities they wish to please. For them, support for the GOP reduces evangelicals to anti-abortion, greedy, environment-destroying deplorables who cling to their guns and Bibles and aren’t comfortable with people who don’t look like them.
One would hope presidents of seminaries would be more familiar with that classic “conservative” spoken of by Edmond Burke, Russell Kirk, and Roger Scruton who is driven by an instinct for home and who lives life according to a covenantal relationship between the living, the dead, and the unborn. Such conservatives mainly want to be left alone by the political party in power. Displacement of God in the conservative mind by a political party or a politician just isn’t on the cards for such folk.
In contrast, progressive movements reaching back to the Jacobins of 18th century France do in fact reject God and put in his place comprehensive, utopian, worldview-casting ideologies such as Marxism and its neo-Marxist progeny like the current critical theory-inspired identity politics, critical race theory, the LBGTQ+ agenda, and the Green New Deal. Blue communities, having largely rejected Christianity and religion generally, do unashamedly hanker after a God-replacing political ideology to embrace. Red communities don’t look to politics for their religion, they already have one.
One wonders if Moore and the other evangelical Never Trumpers are paying close attention to what has become of the Democrat party the deplorables refuse to vote for. Democrats now not only support abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy but also indoctrination of children with CRT and dogmas of the LBGTQ+ movement that Romans chapter one deems an “abomination” before God.
When conservative evangelicals enter the voting booth, they are not looking for a new religion or a new God. Rather, they seek to serve the one they have by opposing the evil one, the tempter from whom our Lord taught his followers to pray for deliverance. If Russell Moore and Tim Keller fear that some Americans place idolatrous hope in politicians and a political party, they’d do better to address those concerns to the blue communities they serve, not the red ones they’ve abandoned and insulted.