All right. So there are several threads to tie together here, re: Falwell and Moore.
First I need to address the lame defense of himself that Jerry Falwell Jr. gave.
“Honored for same hypocrites who accused Jesus of being a friend of publicans and sinners to be targeting me over a decades old mag cover!”
The problems with this present themselves in an orderly row, easy to count. First, the problem was not that Jerry befriended Zacchaeus. We need more befriending of sinners, not less, Playboy models not excluded. The problem is that he endorsed him as the new Treasury secretary before Zacchaeus repented of anything, and before he returned anything that he stole. That’s a different story. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down out of the tree, which is quite a different thing from evangelical activists climbing up the tree to hang out with him there. “Why did you climb my tree?” “Because we can’t see anything either!” Second, read the story you are in. Is God blessing this enterprise? Who chose to have the photo taken against that wall? Who decreed from before the world began that Trump’s pride at being included in a porn rag would step on this moment of evangelical photo op glory? Right. The answer is Jesus, friend of prostitutes and tax collectors. And third, it is true the magazine was published decades ago. But it was hanging on the wall of pride in a frame just a few days ago.
That said, on to Moore. Let me begin with where I can agree with my friend’s correction and input. I am happy to acknowledge that Russell Moore was far more likely to have had the SBC Trump brigade in mind than to have been thinking of someone like Francis Schaeffer. And a corollary of that is that Moore is obviously willing to mix it up with actual foes who are able to fight back, unlike Gens. Lee and Stonewall.
But he didn’t say SBC good ol’ boys, he said old guard Religious Right. So while I grant that he was likely not thinking of Francis Schaeffer, what he said still applies to Francis Schaeffer. If he had simply popped some SBC dignitaries who are disgracing themselves by supporting Trump, I would simply have applauded. But Moore didn’t do that. And Moore’s ongoing project does explicitly exclude principled conservatives, not just the trumpkins.
For example, when someone uber-responsible, like Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, took a principled and constitutional stand, Russell Moore opposed him. He said that because the law is clear (although it wasn’t) Roy Moore should step down from office, and oppose same sex mirage as a private citizen. But what happens when the law makes it clear that private citizens must now shut up?
Russell has done good work contending for religious liberty, and I do commend him as far as that goes. But he needs to recognize that religious liberty is itself a religious value, and it is a religious value consistent with some systems of thought and not with others. It is not consistent with the form of Stage IV Secularism that is currently running our country. If Roy Moore should submit to a tyrannical law as an officer, why should we all not submit to it as citizens? Why do we get to resist and the good judge doesn’t? This is not a rhetorical flourish. I am asking for an argument.
The best place for seeing the trouble in Russell Moore’s system goes back to him saying that in his view Christians could register disagreement with a same sex mirage by not attending the ceremony, but then be free to celebrate with the couple half an hour later at the reception. This is frankly schizophrenic. Something needs to be fixed here before proceeding any further.
For my friends who believe I ought not to have been so confrontational with Moore, I would really appreciate engagement on this point. This something that really needs to be answered. It is not enough to say you “disagree with Moore at some points.” Certain kinds of disagreements are “tells.” They are revelatory. For example, I am quite prepared to grant that Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife are very nice Christian people (and I would say the same about Russell Moore). But when they do the kind of thing they have been doing with Trump, I am no longer willing to trust their political judgments. That kind of problem is too glaring.
And for Moore to give sanction to Christians attending homosexual wedding receptions is equally glaring. More glaring. It is a big problem.
Now I am not screeching here. If Moore were willing to say something like, “Yeah, I have had a chance to think that one over. I shouldn’t have said that Christians can attend same sex wedding receptions. That doesn’t add up, doesn’t make sense,” I for one would be totally willing to drop the point and go back to playing nice. But if he doesn’t let go of that point, then I will continue to believe that there is something foundationally off here.
Walk through this issue. This is a union God forbids. He forbids its formation, and He forbids its continuance. Assuming a married homosexual couple who are converted, the only option for them is divorce. “Disagreeing” only during the time of the initial ceremony is not a biblical worldview response.
If a homosexual couple lived next door, would I be willing to be friends with them? Of course. If they wanted me to watch their house while they were out of town, would I do it? Of course. If they invited us over for a birthday bbq, would we come? Of course. Jesus was a friend to sinners. The same thing goes for the Playboy model on the cover with Trump. She is getting out of prison soon for that cocaine deal, and if she lived next door, the same thing goes for her. But if the homosexual couple invited us over for a 10th anniversary celebration of their union, would I go? Of course not. They are created in the image of God. Their union is the image of something else, and must therefore be detested.
The issue of our day — as seen in the battles over photographers, florists, wedding planners, etc. — is approval, glorification, and celebration. For whatever reason, Russell Moore doesn’t have a theology that knows how to process this foundational ethical reality. That’s a problem.
I know that a number of people influenced by Moore are engaged, critical thinkers, and I know that they are doing good work. I also know that they are not RHE-lite. But I also know that participation in a gay wedding reception is something that RHE would applaud. Would she not? Can we do something about this one?
“I’ve got my differences with Moore on how he tackles various issues. But if the church is heading into the wilderness for a generation, I’m glad that he’s one of the guys helping us find a way.”
I would put it a little differently. If the church is heading into the wilderness for a generation, I am glad that Moore is with us. I am happy to fellowship with him. I’ll share my manna with him. But I don’t want him showing us the way. When it comes to issues like gay wedding receptions, reactions to the Orlando shooting, disassociation with the word evangelical, or faithful lesser magistrates defying tyranny, Moore’s reflexes are all wrong. When it comes to Trump and all, his reflexes are just fine, and I have admired what he has done.
I want men like Joshua and Caleb showing us the way in the wilderness — because they were the ones willing who were willing to fight instead of going into the wilderness in the first place. But once in the wilderness, they are the men to have.