Unholy Alliance: The Grand Old Party and the Southern Baptist Convention

A few years from now, in the thick of some really important election, someone will spend a lot of money conducting a survey to see who evangelical Christians will be supporting in that really important election. I could save that guy a lot of time, money and trouble. I already know who evangelical Christians will be supporting in the next really important election. And the one after that. And the next one. And so on. Here it is.

The Republican.

But, some may wonder, what if the Republican isn’t all that great? Suppose his policies don’t make much sense. Or what if he’s just a really foul individual whose entire life contradicts traditional biblical teaching?

The Republican.

For as long as I can remember, so called evangelical Christians, and more specifically Southern Baptists, have been connected at the hip with the Grand Old Party. Most won’t confess that but it’s no less true. If you don’t believe me, you need look no further than one man for the proof.

Russell Moore.

Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. For now. There are several influential churches and pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who would like to see him go. Some of those influential pastors have promised to withdraw their regular funds to the SBC because of Moore. The Louisiana Baptist Convention is even working to see Moore silenced, defunded or let go.

But why? What did Russell Moore do to find himself on the hot seat?

During the last presidential election, Moore did the unthinkable. He did the unforgivable. He went public in his opposition to Donald Trump. Gasp! In that opposition to Trump, Moore didn’t then throw his weight behind Hillary Clinton. But that didn’t matter. Simply not blindly following the Republican nominee and eventual president was enough to earn Moore the scorn of the convention he has devoted his life to.

Influential leaders were worried that Moore’s vocal opposition to Trump would cost them a seat at the table. They were not, however, worried about losing their seat at the table a few years ago when, as Dwight McKissic notes, Richard Land, Moore’s predecessor said that a black males is, “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.” For many in the SBC, it appears to be more important to have a seat at a table in the White House than it does to have a seat at your black neighbor’s house.

Here’s the sad reality that many SBC power players just can’t seem to learn. They are a joke. A punchline. A necessary evil. That’s how the elites in Washington, yes even the Republicans, view them. And that’s the best case scenario.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of George W. Bush’s devotion to God. I’m no supporter but I believe Mr. Bush to be genuine in his faith. And yet, even in his White House, influential leaders were referred to as, “nuts.” Behind closed doors, of course. That’s how Washington works. Democrats need the poor. Republicans need religious conservatives. Both parties are trying to get the same thing: power. Both groups, the poor and the religious, are left worse off than before as they sell their souls for a supposed seat at the table.

Many Trump supporters have fallen into the same trap that Obama supporters did eight years ago. Back then, if you questioned the president, you were a racist, flat-earther, and a bigot. Today, if you dare question President Trump, you are an elitist who is funded by George Soros. And no proof is needed to support such claims. That was only in the old days when truth mattered. If you want to know what idol someone worships, watch how they react when that idol faces the least bit of criticism. Sadly, many in the SBC worship a giant golden statue of an elephant with the phrase Grand Old Party carefully and lovingly carved on the side.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. I currently serve as the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. I say currently because who knows what will happen to me once the Louisiana Baptist Convention gets a hold of this. Anyway, I’ve got the SBC in my blood. When I was growing up, Jerry Falwell was Moses leading us into the Moral Majority Promised Land. Madonna was the devil because of her immorality and crude language. But I’ve learned something over the past year. If Madonna ever wanted to change her reputation among my kind, it appears that all she had to do was run for president as a Republican. She could’ve gotten away with whatever she wanted. Man, she’d even be compared to King David if she said the right things about the Supreme Court.

Thank God for President Trump. He’s exposed a lot. In just a short time, he’s shown us that much of the so-called conservative media wasn’t as much concerned with conservative principles as they are with getting their man in the White House. And he did the same to the church. As one friend put it, President Trump has revealed that whatever unity the SBC enjoys is not centered around Christ and his kingdom but rather being white and Republican.

Jesus didn’t die for the Republican or Democratic party. And he doesn’t need us having a seat at some table in Washington. He’d much rather us represent him before the people he has put next door to us. And get this. Some of the people who God, in his sovereignty, has put down the street from us are in this country illegally. Now, we can debate how to fix that. There is no doubt that reform is needed. But it is even more clear that we are called to love our neighbors, even the ones who, “don’t belong here.” Good luck trying to do that while getting your marching orders from the GOP rather than the King of kings.

The Southern Baptist Convention needs Russell Moore. But they want someone who will tickle their itching ears. They want a man who is much like many of the pastors in their churches – a hireling. And it appears that many within the convention are willing to go to extreme measures to get that man.

Keep in mind, Moore never criticized people for voting for Trump. On national TV he said that he understood the lesser of two evils approach but that he did not agree with it. Joe Sixpack (non-alcoholic for you SBC readers) was never in Moore’s crosshairs. An immoral candidate and institutions that bent over backwards to excuse that immorality as if God could only work through one political party were. And now one of those institutions is firing back.

I am a proponent of a very limited federal government. I can pretty much guarantee you that I’m more conservative than you are. I can say with certainty that I’m more conservative than the president is. So save the liberal tag for someone else. Our government has grown larger and more corrupt every year of my life. But I’m doing just fine. That’s because my identity is found in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, not some silly donkey or elephant in Washington D.C.

I just wish that more people in the Southern Baptist Convention could say the same.

Republican Cliff Divers

Every math teacher I ever had in high school said something like this.

“Okay class, stay with me on these next few problems and then we’ll try something fun.”

“Fun?  Yes!  I love fun.  Stay focused, Jay.”

I was expecting that if we could just manage to sit through a few more story problems our math teacher would take us outside and let us watch dogs catch frisbees.  That never happened.  Instead, we would always just do more word problems.  But these were fun word problems!

I learned two lessons from this.

First, unless you are criminally insane, math can never be fun.  Hitler, I am told, used to do math for fun.

Second, my math teacher and I had two different definitions for the word fun.  I’m sure that she thought that the problem about Harry taking a train to Dallas while Sergio flew to Portland was down right hedonistic.  That’s because she was criminally insane.  As for everyone else in the class, bring out the frisbee catching dogs.

Almost every morning on the news I hear about another “fiscally conservative” tea party politician who is considering abandoning his principles, assuming they existed in the first place, and supporting President Obama’s plan to raise taxes.

It appears that we must clarify what is meant by conservative.

Conservative, at least at the national level, once meant a limited, decentralized federal government.  Now it just means that when progressive politicians want to raise taxes by 30% the conservative thing to do is to complain about what this kind of a tax hike would do to the middle class and then support a 29.5% raise in taxes but use the word revenue instead of taxes.

When the next election cycle comes around there will be a lot of members of the GOP asking for your vote.

“I’m Senator Saxby Chambliss and I’m a conservative with a record of supporting the middle class.  But don’t look it up.  Just trust me.”

These kind of politicians don’t mean what you hope they mean.  If you want to know what they really mean, you can find out by watching how they respond to our nation’s so-called fiscal cliff.

If these self-described freedom-loving, fiscal conservatives support plundering more money from the citizenry in order to pay for a bloated government because, “it’s what’s best for the country” or, “desperate times call for desperate measures” you will have your answer.  What they really mean is that they are wolves dressed in wool.

So the next time a Republican tries to get your vote by telling you that he’s fiscally conservative, ask him to define his terms.

The term Republican, after all, comes from an old latin word used to describe dogs that catch frisbees.

Don’t bother with looking that up.

Just trust me.

Stop Talking About Jesus

I’ve spent pretty much my entire life in church and I’ve been a Christ-follower since before grade school but sometimes I just wish that people would stop talking about Jesus.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Melissa Harris-Perry informed us that Jesus is okay with serial divorce and unmarried couples living together.  After all, she pointed out, Jesus was raised by an “unwed mom and a doting step-father.”  Take that Cleaver family!

Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party in Russia, said in a 2009 interview that Jesus was the first communist ever.  He says that, “the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus Christ and the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism” are “identical.”

Over the past few years many pastors have been falling all over themselves trying to convince us that Jesus doesn’t have a problem with gay marriage.  In their understanding, since gay people love each other and Jesus’ only attribute is love their endorsement of gay marriage on his behalf is a no-brainer.

It seems like everyone wants to make Jesus the Peyton Manning of their particular cause.  They are perfectly happy with a Jesus who exists only as their personal blank billboard but things get interesting when the conversation progresses from the love of Jesus to the virgin birth, resurrection or deity of Jesus.  That Jesus, it seems, isn’t quite as popular as Spokesman Jesus.

People like the ones I quoted don’t like the idea of a God-Man who confronted sin, died for sin and rose to conquer sin.  Some of them would even go so far as to say that those accounts were added to the Bible by over-zealous followers.  All we can really trust, they tell us, are the accounts where Jesus does and says loving things that fall in line with today’s customs.

But where does this end?

If we want to cut out the miraculous, what’s to keep us from leaving the loving, socially acceptable Jesus on the editing room floor too?  And who gets to decide what stays and what goes?

Eventually, all we are left with is a fragmented, watered-down Jesus that exists only to support the cause of the day rather than doing the will of his Father.

But this idea of picking and choosing the Jesus you like isn’t just a liberal problem.  Christian conservatives who grew up in church and write checks to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can fall into the same trap.

We love the idea of a Jesus who cracked the whip at the evil money-changers but we’d rather do without the Jesus that commands us to love our neighbor, even if that neighbor has an Obama sign in the front yard.  We’re big fans of the Jesus that can help us dunk a basketball (Philippians 4:13) but we don’t pay much attention to his offer of contentment during financially lean times (Philippians 4:13).

Both sides would do well to stop talking about Jesus until they take the time to actually see what the Bible says about him.  Christmas is an excellent time for that sort of a thing.  The increased popularity of holiday trees and atheist nativity sets still can’t get us beyond the fact that all of this has something to do with a baby being born.

Whether we choose to worship him or co-opt him we have to do something with the baby in the manger.  The screams of a newborn baby eventually morphed into the screams of a grown man being murdered.  Both screams are too loud to be ignored.  Only in the Bible can we learn how best to respond.

And in the Bible we find passages like Hebrews 1 that tell us that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God” (3).

And Jesus is God’s Son (5).

But, just in case we might be tempted to think that a title like Son somehow chips away at Jesus’ deity, in verse 6 God says that Jesus is to be worshiped and in verse 8 God calls Jesus God.  Jesus is much more than a spokesman.  He is God.

No matter what side of the theological or political railroad track you live on, one thing is certain.  Jesus is greater than you think.  But that greatness is missed when we allow our social trends or preconceived notions to tell us how Jesus should be.

When we come to the Bible with empty hands, we can see Jesus as he really is.

And then, we can start talking about him.