By Douglas Webster

Christians in the state of Alabama are experiencing a painful identity crisis. Roy Moore impresses many around the country as an ideological warrior for a brand of conservative Christianity that has little to do with Jesus Christ and the New Testament. Never mind about the Sermon on the Mount, Moore flies under the banner of God, Country, and Guns.

He doesn’t want to be bothered with the Jesus way and he hasn’t grasped the fact that America is not a theocratic state under a generic God. Moore is an embarrassing anachronism that dates back to a form of cultural Christianity that cannot discern between prejudice and conviction. Indifference to what the Bible has to say coupled with ideological indoctrination cripples a Christian understanding of politics and government and distorts the witness of the church.

But if America finds Roy Moore weird and dangerous – and he is, America will find real Christians even more weird and maybe more dangerous. Christ-followers believe that they are resident aliens in their American homeland. Believers are no longer defined primarily by their ethnicity and nationality, but by the rule and reign of Christ. They are citizens of the Kingdom of heaven both now and for eternity. This new identity inevitably leads to a clash with secular and religious cultures. These chosen outsiders and resident aliens form a non-competitive holy community. Doesn’t that profile strike most Americans as weird?

Real Christians go beyond the sensible, modern wisdom that Americans call reasonable. They  embrace revealed beliefs like the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the bodily Resurrection and the Ascension – the weird stuff. The Danish Christian thinker Søren Kierkegaard identified the great invisibles of the Christian faith as absurd: “Christianity has declared itself to be the eternal essential truth which has come into being in time. . . .It has required of the individual the inwardness of faith in relation to that which is an offense to the Jews and folly to the Greeks – and an absurdity to understanding.” Yes, this is why the world thinks Christians are weird, and who can blame them? Of course the world thinks the followers of the Son of God are strange. The gospel of Christ speaks of truths the world finds utterly inexplicable.

But the weirdness extends well beyond personal beliefs. The Christian witness reaches into the public sphere. From the beginning Christians have defended the poor, opened their homes to the stranger, sought social justice, cared for the weak, shown compassion to the needy, befriended the deviant, protected the unborn, rescued the infant, preserved the sanctity of marriage, and sought the welfare of their home culture. Under King Jesus they have practiced a kingdom ethic without imposing their will on others. But wait, it gets even more weird. Christians are committed to overcoming evil with God’s goodness. There have no devious or clever strategies to change the world. No big plan to outsmart the system. They are content to be a faithful presence in society bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians have not been called of God to flee the world or fight the world. They have not been called to withdraw into their own tight-knit culture. They are not separatists, narrow-minded, and opinionated. They do not impress the world as hostile and rigid and angry. Their form of offense, the offense of the cross, is the most winsome and attractive offensiveness that human culture has ever known. They understand in themselves their own sinfulness and the fallen human condition. But by God’s grace they have experienced the power of God’s sacrificial love and the responsibility of the ministry of reconciliation. T. S. Eliot observed in the 1930s: “The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.”

Roy Moore’s brand of Christianity is embarrassing, weird, and offensive, and not anything like the real offense of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Douglas Webster is Professor of Pastoral Theology at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL.

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  • Cal P

    I don’t understand. Is this piece Hauerwasian or soft-dominionism? Is the problem that Moore may be a pervert or that’s he dragging Christ into it? Christian witness “reaches into the public sphere,” ok, but what does that mean? Christians rescued abandoned babies, but did not try to press converted senators or magistrates into changing laws. What is the boogeyman of separatism? You do know that the ante-Nicaean Christians, that this piece implicitly is referencing, were disliked for their “anti-social” behavior, not involving themselves in most civic events? This comes off as a puff piece trying to have its cake and eat it too.

  • Dan Grubbs

    Building on the theme … I’ve sadly heard too many Christians claiming to have dual citizenship: Christ’s kingdom and their U.S. citizenship. I think the Bible is pretty clear that we can’t serve two kings. However, we can exist as little Christs while living within a kingdom in which we should consider ourselves aliens.

    Call me jaded, but regarding the notion of a candidate or incumbent being aligned with “God, country, and guns,” well, to me that’s just political expediency and usually has little to do with how they truly believe.

  • WildernessVoice

    The fact that TGC linked to this article from their main web page shows just how desperate they really are. They are so rabidly intent in standing against Judge Moore and President Trump they apparently will print, post, or link to anything they can get their hands on to use as a “weapon” in their crusade no matter how far from the truth it may be. For people insisting that their home is not this Earth, or specifically the USA, they are certainly expending a great deal of effort fighting an Earthly battle…lol.

    Bravo TGC! You have made it exceptionally easy to identify your true agenda.

    • Anodos7

      Yeah, their agenda is Christ-centered testimony on this earth on account of a gospel commission, not the degraded Westboro Baptist Church version of Roy Moore or grotesque worldliness of Trump.

  • You can’t build a civilization without competition and backbone (otherwise you’ll just get invaded by Muslims). Roy Moore has both. How does this writer think Christians can rebuild society post-neo-dark ages without violence and offensiveness?

  • walter

    “Real Christians go beyond the sensible, modern wisdom that Americans call reasonable. They embrace revealed beliefs like the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the bodily Resurrection and the Ascension – the weird stuff.” where does roy moore ever deny these things?

    seems as if Webster would be happy to see the gates of Hell overcome the Church so that his non christian friends wouldn’t be offended. Speaking of “real” christians, id’ like to know if Webster is a protestant.

  • Jonathan Guiltner

    To the contrary, Roy Moore believes the true gospel of Jesus and that is why so many people find it offensive.

  • tom skill

    This is a silly article. “Roy Moore’s brand of Christianity is embarrassing, weird, and offensive, and not anything like the real offense of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” But all you do is call his brand names, without saying what it is and why it is wrong. It sure looks like just the snobbery sophisticated evangelicals have about simple Christians.

  • WildernessVoice

    Something else to think about… Consider who has declared war against President Trump, and by extension, Judge Roy Moore:

    The entire Democratic political machine, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a majority of establishment Republicans,The Pope, The World Council of Churches, The National Council of Churches, The EU, The UN, Antifa, BLM, George Soros, Jeff Bezos, every witch, warlock, Satanist, atheist, and Muslim, EVERY major media outlet-printtvweb, 90% of Hollywood and the “entertainment” industry, EVERY major higher ed institution, The NFL, and….wait for it…..THE GOSPEL COALITION.

    Let that sink in for a bit… EVERY enemy of the Gospel in the world has declared war on a man who only by the providence of God attained the position of “President of the United States”. A man who has openly acknowledged the God of the bible AND Jesus Christ His Son, and promised to work towards restoring CHRISTIAN freedom of religion and liberty in our nation. A man who believes like many of us “unlearned” (Acts 4:13) men and women that a strong and vibrant United States best supports the Gospel and offers hope to millions of people worldwide.

    Maybe it is time to rethink who we consider “brothers in the Lord”?

    • Anodos7

      Maybe you’re listening too much to paranoid right-wing media that uses religion as a tool to manipulate Christians, and not listening enough to brothers and sisters in the Lord who have very solid and conscientious objections to evangelicals damaging the church by identifying so strongly with the likes of Trump and Moore.

      • MKulnir

        The “paranoid right wing media” is not supportive of “the right to choose” to murder unborn children. Moore’s opponent is. For that reason alone, voters can vote for Moore with a clear conscience. Those who call themselves “Christians” and vote for his opponent should be ashamed.

        • Anodos7

          Voting a write-in or not at all is a better choice then, if your real concern is a clear conscience. How bad does a candidate have to be before you won’t vote for them as long as their opponent supports “the right to chose”? Would you vote for a pro-life KKK grand wizard? A fascist dictator, as long as he is against abortion and doesn’t kill as many people annually as does abortion?

          Further, there is something to be said for education and health care actually doing more to reduce the number of abortions than outright banning it (and potentially spurring black markets and maternal mortality rates).

        • hoosier_bob

          For white evangelicals, abortion is nothing more than what psychologists call a “defensive fetish.” It’s a moral position that costs little to hold, and serves as a kind of trump card to justify personal views that are otherwise morally reprehensible.

          Yes, there are certain evangelicals who have honest convictions concerning abortion. I know many such people. But few, if any, of them favor recriminalizing abortion. Bear in mind that there are only a few states in which recriminalizing would have any traction, and those states account for a minuscule percentage of abortions. Therefore, those who have genuine moral objections to abortion typically speak little of overturning Roe, and instead focus their efforts on alleviating the reasons why women often feel compelled to choose abortion. Incidentally, you tend to find those folks in blue states. I’ve yet to meet a Southerner whom I was convinced had a genuine moral objection to abortion.

          In many cases, Southern white evangelicalism represents little more than a recrudescence of the KKK. The vocal opposition to abortion is simply a not-so-clever attempt to claim moral high ground in a world where white supremacy carries negative moral currency. White evangelicals aren’t supporting Moore out of some genuine moral objection to abortion. No. It’s painfully clear that they’re supporting him because they actually share his morally repugnant views concerning racial minorities, women, gays, and lesbians.

  • hoosier_bob

    I largely agree with what Webster says here. But I’d ask him the same question I persistently asked PCA pastors and elders during my years within that communion: What are you going to DO about it…beyond publishing an online article or two distancing yourself from the kind of sub-Christian paganism that Moore represents? Words are cheap. I’d be more encouraged if Webster identified actions that he plans to take to fight this kind of heresy.

    My former denomination, the PCA, contains a number of alt-right types, although they represent a minority. But the majority tolerates them, and does nothing to purge the denomination of them. I suspect that this is due to cultural reasons. Many within the Christian majority grew up in and around the pagan subculture that Moore represents. They are comfortable with it, even if they disagree with it. And separating from it would be costly, as they have friends and relatives that acribe to that heresy. Within the world of the SBC and PCA, it’s not remotely costly to rail against the false gospel of political progressivism. Consider that most members of SBC and PCA churches live in states where the GOP has veto-proof majorities and where liberals, gays, and feminists are few and far between and pose no material threat. So, it’s easy to break fellowship with such people and expel them from your churches. It costs nothing. Taking similar steps against those who ascribe to the false gospel of reactionary right-wing politics is another thing.

  • KimballDonald

    It’s disturbing to see so much visceral reaction to this piece – while Moore’s political stances are appealing to a small government person such as myself, he in no way embodies the beatitudes, in no way shows Christ’s humility, nor his discernment.

    Evaluate Moore as an individual, not as a player for a team. Ultimately politics will not save or damn the United States. You are culpable for your support, your actions. Support individuals who employ wholesome, thoughtful judgement, not a reactionary who fights the enemy team.

  • matman13

    I don’t own a gun, but I defend the right of people to own them and use them in self-defense. I stand for the national anthem and disagree with the NFL protests. I believe that the USA is still largely a force for good around the world, although we have succeeded in destroying many families in our own nation in the name of compassion.

    I guess this makes me part of the cultural Christianity club. But I’m a Christian. I’m a sojourner in this life, a pilgrim in a foreign land patiently abiding until home. And I struggle with my role as a Christian – to be kind to others, to love of my enemies, ti embrace the unlovely – while at the same time being salt and light in the public square.

    So I struggle with this characterization of Roy Moore. Is this because of the unraveling allegations? If so, how can he prove his innocence? How is he different from Clarence Thomas?

    It is interesting to hear Roy Moore defend traditional marriage and read Trevin Was so the same, but Moore is somehow dangerous? I don’t see it.

    I don’t think Moore is hated by both sides because he’s a patriot. I think it’s because he stands for Christian beliefs. It’s why I voted for him.

    • hoosier_bob

      The allegations didn’t unravel. Yes, there was an admission by one of his accusers that causes some doubts concerning the most serious allegation. But much of her story holds up, and there are a number of other credible allegations that point to the conclusion that the man has tendencies towards predatory pedophilia.

      Further, Moore’s actions as a judge are not comparable to anything that Trevin Wax said or did. For the record, I’m no fan of Wax. Even so, Wax didn’t take an oath to uphold the law and to administer justice to litigants without respect to person. Moore’s judicial order concerning the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses undermines the rule of law in fairly severe ways. It’s the kind of thing that happens in autocratic countries.

      Moore isn’t hated because of his alleged Christian beliefs. He is hated–and rightly so–because he insists that members of a certain subculture (white, Southern cultural “Christianity”) ought to enjoy benefits under the law at everyone else’s expense. In fact, today, audio was released of a radio interview in which he described the amendments that ended race-based slavery as “problematic.” Seriously, Alabama evangelicals are about to elect a man to office who believes that the end to race-based slavery was problematic. This is nuts.

      • matman13

        Predatory pedophilia? Really? That behavior doesn’t stop, so where are the recent accusations? 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

        Like Clarence Thomas, he has denied the criminal allegations against him. Is he not to be believed given that the allegations are unravelling? Yearbook doctored. Moore ruled against two of the women in court, providing motive. Sorry, but I believe this is a witch hunt because Moore is a conservative of principle.

        • hoosier_bob

          Yes, the one charge that involved criminal conduct is unraveling. But there are a number of other allegations that suggest that he is not ethically fit to serve (at least under the standards to which we once held public servants). Not to mention that he was twice removed from judicial office for ethical violations.

          I’m not sure that any of the allegations against Justice Thomas would have given rise to criminal liability. But there are other reasons why someone may be ethically disqualified from service. For example, Judge Bork was denied a seat on the Supreme Court due to his morally repugnant views concerning women and racial minorities.

    • BWF

      Moore doesn’t have Christian beliefs. To be honest, I question whether you truly do as well.

  • siglavy auerga

    It does look bad for him. But what if we don’t vote for him and it turns out it was a set-up and he is innocent? How do you unring that bell? Over the years I have seen some partisan political operatives do some very evil things. Do we sit out trying to improve the country we care about with our votes as much as we can? In a good faith effort? Why isn’t anybody pressing charges if indeed this ‘evidence’ is real? I read that there is NO statue of limitations on this type of crime in Alabama. If he is elected and it turns out he’s guilty, which party would tend to deal out a harsher sentence? we have to ask, do we proceed as if the person is convicted with no trial, no jury and no verdict? And ruin someone’s life based on that alone? Is the Constitution only valid for one party and not the other? It’s good to convict two klan members, I agree. But why didn’t the party that founded the klan do something about it sooner? Why aren’t there MORE convictions obtained them? Why did one party at a national convention refuse to condemn the klan? And how many of our children do we need to allow to be aborted everyday for us to be ‘happy’? I think it’s a tougher decision than many of my Democrat friends are trying to make it out to be…How long will we get away with killing so many of our own children? Not long. who will take care of us when Social security fails? I have already heard of some activist groups who think that Christian ‘have no place in voting in elections’, not realizing that after they feed Christians to the lions they can enjoy their pet sins more for only a little while until things get MUCH worse for the lack of them.

  • Carolyn

    As a long-time reader of The Gospel Coalition, I am really disappointed by the promotion of this ridiculous piece.

  • MKulnir

    True Christians find government approval of abortion on demand abhorrent. That’s the “choice” in the upcoming Senate election in Alabama. Let’s get real people. Either vote for the man who will stand against the slaughter of the unborn, or the man who supports it.