The Corner

Do the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolutions Contain a Partisan Caveat?

I’m old enough to remember when Southern Baptist leaders really and truly cared about the character of public officials. The year was 1998, Bill Clinton had sullied the Oval Office with a tawdry affair, and the Southern Baptist Convention passed a Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials. It’s a powerful document — an eloquent and true statement of Christian truth. Some highlights, first from the “whereas” clauses:

WHEREAS, Some journalists report that many Americans are willing to excuse or overlook immoral or illegal conduct by unrepentant public officials so long as economic prosperity prevails; and

WHEREAS, Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment (1 Kings 16:30; Isaiah 5:18-25)

And now, from the resolutions:

Be it further RESOLVED, That we implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character; and . . . Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

That was then, when the Clintons were in charge. Now it’s time to Make America Great Again. New standards apply.

At least that’s what I’m taking from much of the criticism leveled at my friend Russell Moore, the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Moore, you see, is under fire for consistently imploring Christian leaders to apply the Southern Baptist Convention’s own standards to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Some pastors are angry that Moore called out Christian leaders who sacrificed principle for access to power. They want their pound of flesh. They want to punish the ERLC with reduced funding. Some even want to see it destroyed.

Moore did not condemn individual Christians who walked into the voting booth and made the hard choice to support either major-party candidate for president. Instead, he made the point that in excusing or rationalizing Trump’s actions – especially his sexual misconduct – Christian leaders were harming the church’s witness for the sake of short-term political gain.

He was right.

While political races are undoubtedly important, the church’s business isn’t politics, and even short-term political wins can be long-term spiritual losses if the church “wins” at the expense of its moral credibility. There are Christians who made good arguments for voting for Trump, including the argument that Clinton’s cultural extremism rendered a vote for Trump nothing more and nothing less than a vote in self-defense, but none of those arguments rationalized sin or applied double standards for Trump’s benefit.

Moore has been unapologetic, consistent, and courageous in his defense of life, religious liberty, and biblical sexual morality. He has been consistent in calling for Baptists to apply the same standards to the GOP nominee that they applied to Clinton. In other words, he’s been doing exactly the job that he was hired to do

I’m a Presbyterian, not a Southern Baptist, but Christians need the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to stand clearly for biblical truth regardless of political party. Its 1998 resolution should stand not just the test of time, but also the test of partisan politics.

To quote the SBC to the SBC, when leaders tolerate serious wrong, “God’s judgment” is at stake. Are pastors really going to punish a Baptist for holding the church to its own convictions?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More