Russell Moore is officially the Editor-In-Chief at Christianity Today. Let the cringe commence or resume. This is Compromise Today, we are talking about. In one of the first cringe articles Russell Moore has written, he lays blame on conservatives for church divisions, calling their grievances ethnonationalist alt-right identity politics. Now, who does this describe? Don’t know.
Russell Moore write an article titled, “What Church Splits Can Teach Us About a Dividing America.” The premise of the article is that church splits predated the American Civil War which could be a prelude to our current political strife. However a key difference he articulates is that the divisions are not as clear cut as red and blue states because these states are hardly homogenous.
As many have pointed out, the idea of blue states and red states is not really accurate. California is blue, but what about Bakersfield? Texas is red, but what about Austin? Washington is blue, but what about Spokane? Louisiana is red, but what about New Orleans? And that reality is not just about urban areas in primarily rural states or the reverse. Even in the reddest part of America, at least a third of the people are blue, and vice versa.
However, when he discusses contemporary church divisions, Russell Moore is amazingly flaccid for a so-call conservative.
This split makes sense to me. After all, most people would agree that the division is about more than just sex. For those who, like me, are more conservative, the issue is about the authority of Scripture. Those who are more progressive view it as a question of basic human rights and inclusivity. Both groups agree that the stakes, although different for each faction, are equally high—and there’s no way to meet in the middle.
Note: Russell Moore does not articulate once that their is a good vs evil division here, giving credence to both sides of a clearly slam dunk issue.
“Most congregations are not ‘blue’ or ‘red,’ if you want to use the partisan political analogy,” he said. “Most of the conservative congregations are 30 percent progressive, and most of the progressive congregations are 30 percent conservative. We’re not talking about a dividing line going down the middle of a denomination but a dividing line going down the middle of almost every individual church.”
After that conversation, I started asking different questions of my Methodist friends. I asked one group of pastors, “When the Methodist Church splits, where is your congregation going?” One answered, “Thirty percent of my church wants to stay put, 30 percent wants to leave, and 30 percent just want everybody to get along. Ten percent don’t know that anything’s going on.” Many others nodded.
After regaling us with his conversations with convictionless Methodists, Russell Moore then applies his reasoning to Evangelical denominations.
In many denominations and churches, the ones who are fueling the division don’t necessarily want to “win” or govern anything; they simply wish to channel their rage at existing institutions and express contempt at the real or imagined “elites.” Unlike the debates over sexual morality or biblical inerrancy, these insurgencies are usually about not theology or mission but the very secular forces fracturing the country.
For more conservative and evangelical churches or denominations, such insurgencies are often composed of ethnonationalist alt-right identity politics—and/or resentment of the norms and institutions that have held the groups together. How well these groups navigate the situation is determined largely by the way their leaders react.
Russell Moore attempts to paint divisions in conservative denominations, where everything is otherwise swell, as fueled by white supremacists. This is despite the lack of prominent white supremacists in the church, or lack of grassroots support for white supremacy, by a conventional definition. Of course we must consider that Russell Moore is using a Marxist dictionary to define these terms. Yet this is how he sees Southern Baptists who oppose Rick Warren ordaining women, those who stand up to Rachael Denhollander Theology, those who oppose Critical Race Theory, and those who oppose side b theology in the PCA.
The Bible places the blame for church division squarely on those who are in error. But wait, Russell Moore has not run out of cringe.
In some church groups, leaders recognize that they must distinguish between those who dissent from some aspect of church life—an objection that should be respected and protected—and those who are, in reporter Amanda Ripley’s memorable words, “conflict entrepreneurs.”
In churches or denominations where leaders prioritize their positions or pensions—as is the case in much of the country’s civil arena—such insurgents will be appeased. This is especially true for leaders who are nihilistic since they will do and say anything.
Churches and denominations that will overcome all this are those that believe there is a higher accountability: the judgment seat of Christ and the authority of Scripture. For them, what matters is not just who wins or loses but what sorts of personal character and integrity mark those who win or lose.
Over the last few years, the weak pastors that Russell Moore characterizes as acquiescing to white supremacists are actually the ones who locked down their churches acquired PPP Loans. They wanted to keep their pensions at the expense of their congregation. They sinned.
Yet when people leave these churches, a phenomenon which has fueled the Ghost Megachurch series here. In the SBC we saw that churches in free states outperformed churches in lockdown states. This sin cause division and a realignment, and liberals like Moore want to blame this on white supremacy. The reality is the division in the church is caused by errant teaching on the aforementioned issues, but this does not fit Moore’s narrative of attacking the faithful.