Russell Moore Has Prophetic Moment

My view of the Christian Right has long focused on its habit of taking a “prophetic stance” on issues with no particular religious dimension, essentially deifying secular conservative preoccupations like protecting absolute private property rights or patriarchal culture.

That makes it all the more powerful when the occasional conservative Christian leader speaks out in a way that does not “comfort the comfortable.”

Via Sarah Posner, here’s the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore on racism in the justice system–and in the churches.

Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed. And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don’t know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done.

Frankly, nothing is more controversial in American life than this issue of whether or not we are going to be reconciled across racial lines. I have seen some responses coming after simply saying in light of Ferguson that we need to talk about why it is that white people and black people see things differently. And I said what we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. And I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen’s Council material from 1964. In my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation.

Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another. The gospel is what turns us away from hating our brother so much so that John says in 1 John 3 that the one who hates his brother is not of the spirit of Christ, but is of the spirit of the evil one, of the spirit of the devil. If that is not a gospel issue then I don’t know what is.

More remarkable still, Moore challenges the right of racists to call themselves Christians:

We have a group of people—a small group of people, not a lot of people—some unreconstructed racists in American society and we have some who continue to come and to sit in pews of churches and pretend as though they are disciples of Jesus Christ.

I’d probably disagree with Moore about how many “unreconstructed racists” are sitting in Southern Baptist pews, but it’s sure welcome to hear him call on them to repent or stop profaning the name of Jesus Christ.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.