Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religous Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is never, ever afraid to speak his mind. And the church is better off because of it.
Moore shuns the status quo of being a hardline conservative evangelical and gives voice to many of the issues that should matter to all believers: the plight of refugees, abortion, the sanctity of marriage and socio-economic wellbeing.
And he pulls no punches when it comes to analyzing the bizarre nature of American evangelicalism in our modern era. It all started with a bumper sticker he shared: “If Jesus Had a Gun, He’d Still Be Alive Today.”
I know, ridiculous. But if we can see past the absurdity for a second, Moore invites us to think upon the significance of such a statement as a measuring stick for modern day American evangelicalism.
“If one were to ask this motorist, probably a professing Christian, about the message on his car, he would probably wave the discussion away and get to the point: guns shouldn’t be outlawed. The message about Jesus was just the means to the end of the main point: a political argument,” Moore wrote at his blog.
“That’s the problem.”
Dr. Moore highlights a crucial issue plaguing American Christianity — the insatiable need to score political points instead of engaging with important things of the gospel. He continues:
“Who cares if one misses the point of the Bible, as long as the message props up the slogan? Often even the “theological” debates Christians engage in, mostly now via social media, aren’t actually about God or the gospel, but about the identity politics of seeing “our side” as better than some other group.”
Moore goes on to ask the eternal question: what does Jesus care about? This is something we should contemplate on as often as possible. As Christians, we must seek to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to be the outworking of His will on earth.
Moore asserts that Jesus “is not triggered by the all-consuming passions of the arguments around him—whether one should pay taxes to Caesar, whether the Pharisees or the Sadducees were right.” He adds: “He certainly wasn’t angered by his own treatment by those around him. But he was visibly enraged by those who would wall off the temple or the Bible from those seeking God (Matt. 21:12-17; 23:1-36).”
Moore admits that stupid bumper stickers are often worth passing by without any care. But this one, he argues, should raise some crucial questions. Indeed, it is not just that such a sticker demonstrates that the “combination of biblical illiteracy with temporal obsessions too often sums up American evangelicalism.” Russell believes that there is a deeper problem here:
“The problem is that the message of that bumper sticker often does too. The idea is that Jesus would not have been victimized had he just had the power to defend himself.”
Perhaps, then, most central misunderstandings contained within the little sticker is the notion that Christ was unwittingly killed, defenseless and confused. “No one took his life, he said; he willingly laid it down (Jn. 10:17-18),” Moore declares.
The paradox of the cross is sometimes difficult to comprehend. And maybe this is what the author of this bumper sticker is getting at. Jesus is all-powerful, mighty and divine. Could he have got down from that cross? Of course.
At the click of His fingers, he could have commanded a legion of angels to destroy all those who oppressed him. But that was not the will of God. Jesus laid down his life for us, and through weakness, scorn and shame, he was raised into glory for all of eternity. Because of his selfless sacrifice, we will also be raised in glory.
“The resolution of this crisis could not come from human effort, but from the sacrifice of the Lamb of God,” Moore noted. “Jesus was not overwhelmed by someone else’s power. He was showing us what power is—the power of the cross that seems weak to the world.”
This bumper sticker highlights the sort of misguided thinking that is killing American evangelicalism. Moore’s verdict? “American evangelicalism is old and sick and weak, and doesn’t even know it.”
“We are bored by what the Bible reveals as mysterious and glorious, and red-in-the-face about what hardly matters in the broad sweep of eternity. We clamor for the kind of power the world can recognize while ignoring the very power of God that comes through Christ and him crucified.
We’ve traded in the Sermon on the Mount for slogans on our cars. We’ve exchanged Christ the King for Christ the meme. And through it all, we demonstrate what we care about—the same power and self-leverage this age already values.”
Yikes. We’ve got some thinking to do, that’s for sure.
Read Moore’s full article here.