Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Curious Case Of Russell Moore

The firestorm of controversy over the on-going employment of Russell Moore has sort of died down. After a media blitz from some of the major media outlets like the Washington Post, NPR, Fox News, the Atlantic and many others, a quiet meeting was held and peace seems to have been made. Make no mistake, the same media outlets that reported on this internal issue with the SBC with such "concern" are not interested in the long-term health of the Southern Baptist Convention and in fact would like nothing more than to see the SBC and every other Biblically faithful manifestation of the Christian faith exterminated. They don't care if Russell Moore gets fired or not, they are just attracted to a controversy like a vulture is drawn to carrion.

I wanted to look at another angle to this story that I thought was interesting. The generally accepted narrative is that principled Russell Moore took a noble stance against the prevailing opinion and was a prophetic voice speaking truth to power in marked contrast to crude and vulgar Donald Trump and his cartoonish supporters in the "Religious Right".

What if it is not quite that cut-and-dried?

While individual Southern Baptists and SBC churches provide all of the funding for the various ministries of the SBC, they exert very little direct control over the ministries they fund. So who did appoint Dr. Moore as the new head of the ERLC? The board of trustees of the ERLC did.
Russell D. Moore has been elected as the next president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 

The ERLC's board of trustees approved Moore, currently dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a special, called meeting Tuesday (March 26) at a Nashville hotel.
So who is on this board? Well the current chairman of the ERLC board is one Ken Barbic (same article, emphasis mine)....
In addition to Creamer, other ERLC trustees on the presidential search committee -- all members of Southern Baptist churches -- were Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Barbic, a lobbyist with the Western Growers Association in Washington, D.C.; Lynne Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan.; Ray Newman, executive director of Georgia Citizens Action Project in Atlanta; and Bernard Snowden, family life pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Bowie, Md. ERLC trustee chairman Richard Piles, who appointed the search committee, was an ex officio member. Piles is pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.
He was not chairman at the time Moore was appointed as far as I can tell.

What does Ken Barbic do for the Western Growers Association? His title is "Sr. Director, Federal Government Affairs". That sounds innocuous enough but what it means is he is basically a lobbyist as noted in the story above. Back in the day I thought about working for lobbying groups and all of the muckety mucks had "government affairs" in their job title. Like a lot of lobbyists he used to work in Congress where he made contacts in government that he then in turned cashed in by becoming a lobbyist.

Now that is his business and it is legal so no harm there. But what exactly is the "Western Growers Association"? Well they represent produce growers in the West. Again, perfectly legal and proper. Virtually every industry has a lobbying arm to represent their interests before the government.

One of their signature issues is immigration. They sponsor workshops on topics like “What to Do during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Visit”. So who benefits from cheap (and often illegal) immigrants to work fields tending and harvesting produce which is very difficult and labor intensive? That's right, people who grow produce and that is who makes up the Western Growers Association. Again, nothing necessarily wrong here.

What else do we know about the ERLC? Another initiative they are involved in is the so-called Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a somewhat amorphous group. What is their deal? From their webpage we read: "The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values." Well that seems innocent enough, right? Maybe not. The EIT is sort of a clearinghouse for different groups involved in "immigration reform". It is kind of a hard group to get a handle on as it is apparently not even a registered political entity or non-profit, which seems to allow it to be kind of opaque. What we do know is this. EIT is deeply tied to the National Immigration Forum (NIF), another immigration "reform" advocacy group. OK, so who is NIF and why does it matter? The NIF receives funds from the Open Societies Institute. That group is a front for George Soros, the same George Soros who once said: "The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.". The same George Soros who made a billion dollars off of currency speculation. The same George Soros who is widely considered to be an "open borders" advocate. This is the same George Soros who is a billionaire atheist that has no interest in seeing the Kingdom of God advance. Another member of the EIT is Sojourners, the far left group headed by Jim Wallis. Shocker, Sojourners has also received funding from George Soros even though Jim Wallis initially denied it and called Marvin Olasky a liar. Then he backpedaled and said that they did get money from Soros but it was a long time ago. Ironically Wallis said: "So, no, we don't receive money from George Soros. Our books are totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That's where it comes from." before a staffer admitted that yes they actually did get money from Soros but of course they were not beholden to him. That was in 2010. In 2011 Olasky reported that Wallis admitted that they took another $150,000 from Soros. Again he claimed to not be beholden to him but if you think that getting nearly half a million in donations (that we know of) from a far-left figure doesn't impact the decision making of an organization, you are naive. George Soros doesn't give money to conservative groups after all.

So what? That is a lot of information about a lot of groups you might never have heard from with acronyms and vague sounding names. What does that have to do with Russell Moore? Maybe nothing but then again maybe a lot. At a minimum it looks like ERLC under Dr. Moore is unequally yoked with a number of far left groups including a man, George Soros, who is using his billions to try to overturn abortion laws in Europe, starting with Ireland and in doing so the ERLC seems to be working at odds with what the rank and file SBC member probably thinks they are doing.

Please hear this. I am not saying that George Soros is the marionette pulling the strings of Russell Moore. What I am saying is that it seems to me that ERLC is making some poor decisions and is involved in some questionable partnerships and that based on information like the role of George Soros behind the scenes of EIT (and Soros is no dummy, he knows that direct involvement would cause a stink so he hides his influence behind layers of innocuous sounding organizations) and the oversight of Moore being carried out by a lobbyist for a group that relies on ample, cheap immigrant labor, the lines are getting blurry between the stated mission of a group, the ERLC, that is supposed to be a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, and being a quasi-lobbying organization that is pushing for pet projects of Russell Moore in partnership, however shadowy, with George Soros and Jim Wallis, that I would be willing to bet the majority of Southern Baptists would oppose.

The signature policy issue of Donald Trump is immigration reform. On a number of fronts it appears that Russell Moore, his boss and his co-laborers in different groups, are politically opposed to Trump's plans. At the very minimum it raises in my mind questions about the real source of Moore's opposition to Trump. I have little doubt that many of the objections Moore has raised are legitimate issues but you cannot help but wonder just how much of his vitriolic rhetoric is fueled by pragmatic concerns. At a very minimum, for the sake of transparency and to ease the minds of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Russell Moore should speak up directly about the questions I and many others have raised. Sometimes silence only serves to fuel speculation and right now all of the talk is asking questions that could and should raise serious red flags for many in the SBC. Perhaps some of those associations should be raising red flags for Dr. Moore as well. It can be easy to get caught up in our work and not see the shoals that are dead ahead.

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