Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX stated that the church would withhold funding from the Cooperative Program within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Dr. Russell Moore, Ph.D., has vocally and consistently opposed the now president Donald J. Trump.
In an article on SBC Voices (read here), Dwight McKissic provides commentary on the implications of this situation at hand in the SBC. It now follows that the Louisiana Baptist Convention wants to investigate Dr. Moore. It is even more that White, middle-class, Republican, Trump-supporters. Many white, Evangelical churches are supportive of this investigation. Simply put, as McKissic did, “they simply want him gone.” What is this reaction stemming from?
Dr. Moore expects religious liberty for all human beings in the United States. Surprised? We should not be. What we should be surprised at, or I suppose not, is that these same White Evangelicals are opposed to this. It would seem religious liberty is only good for Christians and no one else; unless they support their political (I hesitantly add religious) agenda. This is the face of American Christianity (or, American Southern Baptists). Anyway, Dr. Moore has been advocating for the right for Muslims to build a mosque, a house of worship. Notice I said a house of worship, not political center of conquest. I have studied Islam, I have read pieces of the Qur’an (Koran, Quran), and I have talked to Muslims all of which denounce ISIS (IS, ISIL) and their attacks on people of all faiths. However, it has been interpreted that the SBC will give funds to the building project. I have heard nothing remotely close to that; yet, according to Prestonwood and others, it is time to withhold money.
What is this saying? This is saying a few things, some (or most) of which come from McKissic’s article with which I agree. First, this is a power play from top to bottom. This is saying our witness of Jesus Christ is threatened by our allowance of freedom for people of other faiths. According to Mike Buster, Executive Pastor of Prestonwood, as quoted by McKissic, the reason for this withholding is:
“(there are) various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
So I am curious, then, what are the views of the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention? Strict party loyalty? Republican values and Trumpism over Christianity and love of neighbor?
A second statement this position is making is the suppression of opposing speech and criticism. As McKissic says:
“If Russell Moore cannot give a candid evaluation of Donald Trump without being publicly humiliated and without White Churches withdrawing and threatening to withdraw funds…I pity the Black SBC officeholder who would dare whisper a word of disagreement against Trump.”
Not only is, in essence, the basis of religious liberty being attacked for those who are not White and Christian (specifically, it would seem, Southern Baptist), but also the basic foundation of freedom of speech. These who are in vast and vehement opposition to Russell Moore have lost the basic element of how to disagree. They are now on a dangerous trek to suppressing the right for anyone to express critical speech who is not in agreement with their agenda. Amongst those who support Trump are those who believe God has rescued America because of the candidate in the White House. This is the epitome of nationalism, a dangerous nationalism that has combined the sovereign will of God with the people’s choice for a political candidate. I am disturbed, beyond disturbed, by this notion. God has not rescued us because God is no respecter of a people or a nation.
Notice McKissic’s comment stated “Black SBC officeholder.” He is encouraging the black churches in the SBC to increase their giving. Russell Moore has taken a “kingdom tone” on everything, from homosexuality, abortion, justice, and racial reconciliation. McKissic questions, “what are these values which these White Churches espouse?” since they have taken such offense to the outspoken nature of Russell Moore. McKissic analysis is that Moore’s tone is “offensive” to the base constituency of the SBC, but a “fresh breath” for those who have “longed for justice”; especially racial justice. So, Russell Moore is being investigated upon immigration, race relations, police brutality denouncement, and his Trump critique. I am ashamed of the majority of the SBC; especially Jack Graham (mind you, a Hardin-Simmons Alumnus as am I).
McKinsic makes a comment at the end that I strongly resonate with (the third and final statement in my list):
“The SBC and the National Baptist Convention blindly follow the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively, regardless of the candidate. The Kingdom of God cannot be pleased with either Convention, relative to this partisan blind loyalty.”
This is a disturbing trend in the majority of SBC life, and really any denomination’s life. Political and party loyalty cannot supersede Christian loyalty. Christians are citizens of God’s Kingdom first and foremost; citizens of their respective countries second. It must be said there will be no true and perfect “Christian candidate” in this world. We often say, “vote Jesus”, but end up voting for someone else instead. What does it look like to vote for the Savior? Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God, love God with everything you have and are, and to love your neighbor as yourself. I will say it again: NO ONE candidate will ever epitomize every one of these values. That does not mean we stop what we are called to do.
I stand with Russell Moore. I stand with those who oppose Donald Trump. I stand with those who stand for free speech, for critical speech. Jack Graham is making a power play that will define the remainder of his ministerial career, and the Executive Board of the SBC will make a decision that will define and determine the path of the SBC in politics and religion. Just as McKissic says, “History will vindicate Russell Moore. Now we will wait and see if the Executive Committee will.”
Note: I am not on Facebook or any social media for this Lenten season. I am still on Facebook Messenger. If you wish to discuss or comment, send me a message or comment here. You can comment on the Facebook post, but I will not see it until after Easter Sunday. I would love to hear from you.