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He was a top church official who criticized Trump. He says Christianity is in crisis

People pray during a "Evangelicals for Trump" campaign event in 2020.
Joe Raedle
/
Getty Images
People pray during a "Evangelicals for Trump" campaign event in 2020.

He criticized Donald Trump and the Southern Baptist Convention's response to a sexual abuse crisis. Then he found himself on the outside.

Who is he? Russell Moore was one of the top officials in the Southern Baptist Convention.

  • When Donald Trump came on the scene, Moore criticized him publicly and found himself ostracized by many other evangelical leaders who embraced the former president.
  • Moore also criticized the Southern Baptist Convention's response to a sexual abuse crisis, as well as what he viewed as an increased tolerance for white nationalism within the church.
  • Suddenly, in 2021, Moore found himself resigning from his post and on the outside of a denomination that had, up until that point, defined his life.
  • What's the big deal? According to Moore, Christianity is in crisis in the United States today.

  • Moore is now the editor-in-chief of the Christianity Today magazine and has written a new book, Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call For Evangelical America, which is his attempt at finding a path forward for the religion he loves.
  • Moore believes part of the problem is that "almost every part of American life is tribalized and factionalized," and that has extended to the church.
  • "I think if we're going to get past the blood and soil sorts of nationalism or all of the other kinds of totalizing cultural identities, it's going to require rethinking what the church is," he told NPR.
  • During his time in office, Trump embraced a Christian nationalist stance — the idea that the U.S. is a Christian country and should enforce those beliefs. In the run-up to the 2024 presidential election, Republican candidates are again vying for the influential evangelical Christian vote, demonstrating its continued influence in politics.
  • In Aug. 2022, church leaders confirmed the Department of Justice was investigating Southern Baptists following a sexual abuse crisis. In a statement, SBC leaders said: "Current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future."
  • In 2017, the church voted to formally "denounce and repudiate" white nationalism at its annual meeting.

  • Listen to the full All Things Considered conversation with Russell Moore by tapping the play button at the top.


    What is he saying? Moore spoke to All Things Considered's Scott Detrow about what he thinks the path forward is for evangelicalism in America.

    On why he thinks Christianity is in crisis:

    It was the result of having multiple pastors tell me, essentially, the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount, parenthetically, in their preaching — "turn the other cheek" — [and] to have someone come up after to say, "Where did you get those liberal talking points?" And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, "I'm literally quoting Jesus Christ," the response would not be, "I apologize." The response would be, "Yes, but that doesn't work anymore. That's weak." And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we're in a crisis.

    On how he begins to address the issues he sees:

    I don't think we fix it by fighting a war for the soul of evangelicalism. I really don't think we can fix it at the movement level. And that's one of the reasons why, when I'm talking to Christians who are concerned about this, my counsel is always "small and local." I think we have to do something different and show a different way. And I see in history every time that something renewing and reviving has happened, it's happened that way. It's happened at a small level with people simply refusing to go with the stream of the church culture at the time.

    On how much he thinks politics is part of the problem:

    I think that the roots of the political problem really come down to disconnection, loneliness, sense of alienation. Even in churches that are still healthy and functioning, regular churchgoing is not what it was a generation ago, in which the entire structure of the week was defined by the community.

    Learn more:

  • He walked away from his evangelical roots to escape feeling suffocated
  • This writer shares the right (and wrong) ways to honor Indigenous spirituality
  • The importance of religion in the lives of Americans is shrinking
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
    Gabriel J. Sánchez
    Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.