A onetime top official with the Southern Baptist Convention has warned that American Christianity is in crisis — with some churchgoers viewing the teachings of Jesus Christ as nothing more than “liberal talking points.”
Russell Moore, now the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, explained in a Tuesday interview with NPR that partisan tribalism in the US is infecting the evangelical movement and that he is alarmed at the number of self-professed Christians who believe the Bible and its teachings are “subversive.”
Moore told “All Things Considered” host Scott Detrow that his moment of clarity “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 to say, ‘Where did you get those liberal talking points?’
“And what was alarming to me,” Moore went on, “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.”
Moore suggested that the roots of the problem “really come down to disconnection, loneliness, sense of alienation, even in churches that are still healthy and functioning” and “legitimate concerns” about the state of society that are being portrayed as an “existential threat” by “conflict entrepreneurs.”
“I don’t think we fix it by fighting a war for the soul of evangelicalism,” Moore said.
“I really don’t think we can fix it at the movement level. And that’s one of the reasons why, when I’m talking to Christians who are concerned about this, my counsel is always small and local. I think we have to do something different and show a different way, and I see in history that every time that something renewing and reviving has happened, it’s happened that way, it’s happened at a small level with people simply refusing to go with the stream of the church culture at the time. And I think that’s where we need to be now.”
Moore called for a return to a “first-century understanding of what it means to be the church,” noting that historically “the very existence of the church is to mean a group of people who are reconciled to God and to each other and from the very beginning was standing apart from those sorts of factions.”
“I think if we’re going to get past the blood-and-soil sorts of nationalism, or all of the other kinds of totalizing cultural identities, it’s going to require rethinking what the church is,” he added.
Moore is a longtime critic of former President Donald Trump and has blasted the ex-commander-in-chief for both his immigration policy of separating migrant families at the southern border and for his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
In a 2016 tweet, Trump, the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner, derided Moore as a “truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals” and “a nasty guy with no heart!”
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