Russell Moore on Christians who Are Switching Churches or Hitting Exit Doors

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(ANALYSIS) “Book of the Month” is certainly an appropriate label for Russell Moore’s “Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America,” released July 25 by Sentinel. I am borrowing that label, of course, from that venerable subscription club and corporate partner during The Guy’s days working with the old Time Inc.

The bottom line: Pretty much every religious professional will want to take a look at what this central figure has to say.

Ditto for journalists who write about religion.

Moore is, yes, controversial and opinionated but also thoughtful and knowledgeable, so it’s worth absorbing his latest plea for a thorough overhaul of this sprawling and complex Protestant movement (with some pertinence for Catholics, too).

This might be the right time for religion-beat pros to offer yet another broad look at evangelical pitfalls and prospects. The Twitter (er, X) traffic on this new Moore book will continue to be lively.

There’s a possible peg when Moore chats with Beth Moore (no relation), another prominent exile from the Southern Baptist Convention, in Houston on Aug. 9, which will be livestreamed (details at www.russellmoore.com).

Moore famously opposed Donald Trump’s 2016 candidacy on moral grounds when many other evangelical thinkers carefully kept their qualms private. His 2020 private admonition to executives of the SBC, which later leaked, depicted years of “the most vicious guerilla tactics” against him, especially his activism on issues linked to sexual abuse cases and cover-ups and mishandled race relations. He’s now one of seven ministers at Immanuel Church in Nashville, a congregation with ties to evangelicals in several denominations (including Anglicanism) and part of the Acts 29 network.

Journalists considering coverage can get a quick grasp of the new book’s substance from a Religion News Service article, “In new book, Russell Moore urges evangelicals to stop lying and come back to Jesus”; an online Trinity Forum Q&A; or the Rev. Tish Harrison Warren’s farewell column upon leaving The New York Times Opinion subscription service.

Moore, 51, is a crucial leader as the current editor in chief of Christianity Today, the leading periodical of the evangelical establishment, following eight years as the chief spokesman on morality, religious liberty and social issues for the SBC, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Before that, the rising young hotshot was provost and theology school dean at the SBC’s most influential campus, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

Since some foes brand Moore a “liberal,” reporters should note that, yes, he was a youthful staffer with a Democratic congressman, but it was Mississippi’s Gene Taylor, a pro-life, Southern Blue Dog Democrat. In terms of doctrine, Moore is a conservative who believes the Bible is totally free of errors, is resolutely pro-life and defends the Christian and Jewish traditions’ belief in man-and-woman marriage. He chaired the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, endorsed its Nashville Statement and is a Council member in The Gospel Coalition. Both organizations, like the SBC, believe that only men should be pastors.

Fellow newswriters may disagree, but The Guy is somewhat surprised that after all the personal tumult of recent years Moore’s heartfelt tome is assuredly blunt — but for the most part not some score-settling screed seen so often in the Trump era. He names few names and chiefly pleads for repentance and new birth built upon Scripture alongside some social science research.

Moore says most churches, families and friendships seem “to be in crisis, almost to the point of breakdown” and reports any number of distressed younger believers have sought his counsel. Issues include “political fusion with Trumpism, Christian nationalism, white-identity backlash” and avoidance of problems such as church abuse.

What does Moore now hope for? A restored church culture in five areas he depicts as follows.

* Credibility — Today’s “quiet exodus” from church (or waves of believers switching denominations) is not so much a rejection of ancient doctrines and sexual demands but of churches failing to live up to their own moral standards. Instead of cynicism and deconstruction, he advocates “disillusion,” meaning loss of illusions, and “a credible gospel” embraced as truthful, not “useful” for some secular cause.

* Authority — Here again, simply tell the truth. He charges that churches infiltrated by today’s “post-truth environment” treat “truth” in terms of “belonging” to a group rather than “the way things are,” for fear of “exile.” American Christians will “say things that we know to be false, just to prove that we are part of the tribe.” (Journalists pay heed as well.)

* Identity — He warns that authoritarian political movements “almost always want to co-opt religion.” Though a moral traditionalist, he is worried by aspects of the current “culture wars” and “ever-expanding political idolatries.” He especially abhors a resentful “Christian nationalism” that “is a prosperity gospel for nation-states, a liberation theology for white people.”

* Integrity — Moore takes on the evangelical grass roots enthusiasm for Trump. But he also excoriates “serious character issues in ministry waved away because of the minister’s giftedness and ‘success.’” Too often, winking at “wrath, greed and dishonesty” has become evangelicalism’s version of corrosive moral relativism.

* Stability — In recent years, Christians have inflicted a “collective trauma” that produces the “wrecked lives, the split churches, the compromised witness” we see. Instead of nostalgia for “an idealized (and often imaginary past” combined with “anxiety about the future,” evangelicals need to work, pray, renew and reclaim the power of traditional Christian faith.

Media contacts: Though Moore’s magazine is based in Illinois, he lives in suburban Nashville; reachable via his new executive assistant Ronda Patton at [email protected]. The book’s publicist is Stefanie Brody at [email protected] or 212–366–2430.





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