2016-12-22

Right about the Right


This is the best thought piece on the Religious Right, by a member of the Religious Right, that I have read in years (or watched). Russell Moore represents what is best in that tradition, and I found myself nodding in agreement more often than I frowned in disapproval. The whole thing is worth the hour of time invested in it. Yet, despite large swaths of my sympathy, there are three areas where I think he gets it wrong: 


First, one gets the sense that Jesus is something that must be shoehorned into his theological-social system, rather than his system being an unfolding of what he finds in Jesus. But if Jesus is God Incarnate, the very Word of God made flesh-- which I believe he is-- then he forms the fundamental fact which orients our theology, and the axiomatic set of values that define our ethics. And if we base our social positions on Jesus' values, rather than the values of Reformation Europe or an imagined 1950's era Americana, we will create a movement that is a vital third alternative to the "right" and "left" we currently have to choose from.

Second, I think the frames Moore uses-- conservative vs liberal, right vs left, Biblical vs secular-- no longer correspond to social or theological reality, and tend to obscure common areas of concern around which a new movement could be formed. These labels have been stretched and appended, cut and remodeled, so often, by so many, for such different reasons over the last 50 years, that they are essentially meaningless. If we drill down past labels to specific issues, we might find we have more sympathy with each other than the polarized, ad-driven media machine tells us that we have.

Third, while I applaud his emphasis on strong families, I think he unwisely limits that to a single type of family he is culturally programmed to be comfortable with. The Biblical and social witness is that family is a much broader category than the nuclear heterosexual family. And the very things that make a nuclear family strong-- unconditional love, faithfulness, peacemaking, discipline, forgiveness, etc.-- make every type of family strong. And strong, diverse families formed by common ethical and spiritual values in turn form strong communities, which form a strong culture. 

If Moore means to form a Jesus-centered, values-based, consistently pro-life movement which seeks to protect the unborn, feed and educate the young, provide healthcare to the sick, bring racial reconciliation, make peace, end war, and strengthen all kinds of families in all their diversity, then I will join that movement. But if he just wants to resuscitate the moribund religious right of the 1970s, then I say let the dead bury their dead. As the author himself said "The religious right turns out to be the people the religious right warned us about". 

Moore is, after all, right about the Right. With this election it signed its own spiritual death certificate, even if it lumbers on socially and politically for the next decade as some kind of undead zombie. Calling the Religious Right out on its undead status has, in fact, gotten Moore in no small bit of trouble lately. This advancing necrosis, this tendency of the Right to eat its own, is why I left the religious right a decade ago. Yet, while the religious right may not be able to be saved, in dying it may just allow something new and transformed to be resurrected in its place. And for that I'm willing to work and pray. 

You can watch the whole address on Youtube, or read it at First Things.

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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.