Race-Baiting and the ERLC: Dwight McKissic Defends Russell Moore and Demonstrates Why Eliminating the ERLC is the Best Course of Action

“The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.'” —Saul Alinsky

mckissicYesterday, Texas pastor Dwight McKissic published an article entitled “If Russell Moore is fired, ‘Unto Us’ A Trump Baptist Convention Is Born” at Southern Baptist interest blog SBC Voices. McKissic is not a regular contributor at Voices but is often called upon (apparently because of his race) to opine on social issues. In his most recent article, McKissic defended the continued employment of embattled Ethics and Religious Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore. Moore, who has come under fire from conservative evangelical pundits, is a darling in progressive evangelical circles. Accordingly, McKissic does his best Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton impression to make a race-baiting defense of Moore. Hoisting himself by his own petard, McKissic defeats his own cause by putting forth arguments that actually show why it would be a good idea to eliminate the ERLC altogether. Below is a point-by-point refutation of McKissic’s defense of Moore and the ERLC.

McKissic: (Russell Moore) is the most compelling and effective spokesman ever to hold (the) office (of ERLC President) in the history of the SBC.

Response: The ERLC was founded in 1988 (at that time, it was known as “The Christian Life Commission”). Since that time, it has been led by only two men: Richard Land and Russell Moore. So, McKissic is just saying that Moore is a “more compelling and effective spokesman” than one other guy. Even if it’s true, it’s not much of an accomplishment. Additionally, Moore is demonstrably ineffective when it comes to influencing Southern Baptists. Moore vociferously opposed the presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump. Trump received 80% of the white evangelical vote. Exactly who was Moore “effecting” and “compelling” on his months-long anti-Trump campaign? Apparently very few evangelical voters.

McKissic: The lynch mob in SBC life who is going after Moore are taking their cues from Donald Trump

Response: McKissic’s language is just plain offensive. To call Moore detractors a “lynch mob” is to employ the language of race-baiting in order to score cheap rhetorical points. Are men like Mike Huckabee, Bill Harrell, Jack Graham, and Robert Jeffress truly “a lynch mob”? To label these men as such trivializes the very real offenses of actual racists who actually murdered people through lynching during the Jim Crow era. Furthermore, Southern Baptists who are tired of Moore’s high and mighty progressivism are hardly taking their cues from Donald Trump. Many Southern Baptists, right or wrong, voted for Donald Trump simply out of concern for Supreme Court appointments and fear of Hillary Clinton. Russell Moore, like Hillary Clinton, began his career as a moderate Democrat. Arguably, he feared her political policies less than his more conservative brethren did (Dwight McKissic actually voted for Hilary Clinton).  Surely no Southern Baptist approves of the many moral offenses of Donald Trump. To suggest otherwise and to suggest that Russell Moore detractors are “taking their cues” from Donald Trump is absurd. Mike Huckabee, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, simply and frankly addressed the problem with Russell Moore by stating, “I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them.” Those aren’t the words of the leader of a lynch mob, they are the words of a man who is tired of being talked down to. McKissic’s rhetoric does nothing but gin up anger.

McKissic: What has Russell Moore done to generate such vitriol and hatred from Trump and his supporters and sycophants in SBC life?

Response: This is more cheap and offensive rhetoric from McKissic. In keeping with radical Saul-Alinksy-style polemics, McKissic identifies his opponents as “hateful” and “vitriolic”. While not conceding that Moore detractors are either, McKissic’s question is easy to answer. Here are twenty disagreeable things Russell Moore did that have almost nothing to do with voting for Trump:

McKissic: When the majority of the SBC embraced the diabolical institution of slavery, we needed a Russell Moore, even if he was being paid by the SBC. When the majority of the SBC denied women the right to vote as messengers within the SBC annual meetings and supported laws forbidding women the right to vote in the secular realm, we needed a Russell Moore. When the majority of the SBC voted to support Jim Crow laws and would not support Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, we needed a Russell Moore. When the majority of the messengers in the ‘mid-’70’s voted at an SBC annual meeting to support abortion, we needed a Russell Moore.

Response: McKissic’s short history of the SBC’s abysmal ethical record demonstrates the very reason why the ERLC should be eliminated. If there was an ERLC in 1845, it almost certainly would have lobbied the government to tolerate or expand slavery. If there was an ERLC in suffrage era, it almost certainly would have lobbied the government to suppress female voting (it’s up to the reader to decide if that would have been good or bad). If there was an ERLC in the 1970s, it almost certainly would have filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to support Debbie Roe. The ERLC is the ethical arm of the SBC and the SBC’s political machinations are often detrimental to the advancement of the Kingdom. Even in the conservative era, the ERLC failed to influence governmental abortion and “gay rights” policies. Roe v. Wade is over four decades old and abortion on demand is still legal in the United States. “Gay Marriage” became the law of the land right under the ERLC’s nose (but not under Ricard Land’s nose). The ERLC seems to constantly be on the losing side of effecting change in the public realm. To make matters worse, The New Yorker reported in November that the legacy of liberal, pro-abortion activist Foy Valentine “informs everything that the ERLC. does today.” A portrait of Valentine is hanging outside of Russell Moore’s office. Southern Baptists have a terrible political record, they should get out of the politics business altogether. The first step would be to hand pink slips to Russell Moore and the ERLC altogether.

McKissic: When the IMB created unbiblical landmark baptismal policies and unbiblical policies restricting missionaries’ private worship in 2005, God raised up a Wade Burleson to prophetically address these matters; and he was publicly maligned and marginalized, and now the same attempt is being made toward Russell Moore. In 2015, everything Wade Burleson was asking the IMB to do, they did: Return to the pre-2005 private prayer policies, and the prior baptismal policies. Now that they have done so, Wade Burleson is owed an apology, because their actions now prove he was right from the beginning.

Response: Wade Burleson has provided valuable commentary on SBC life for many years. Unfortunately, he’s also a progressive. Wade Burleson is an egalitarian who has said, “I would put money on the table that 50 years from now, Southern Baptists will look at women and the role of women the way we now look at slavery”. The idea that “God raised up” a progressive like Wade Burleson to prophetically address the SBC is laughable. Burleson is a good example of the type of man Dwight McKissic views as a hero. Wade Burleson and Russell Moore (and apparently Pentecostal missionaries who babble incoherent gibberish during their private prayer time), these are “prophetic” men according to McKissic.

McKissic: Minorities tend not to be Republican because they view Democrats as being more sensitive to social and economic justice, equality and fairness issues. They also view these matters as life issues and equally as important as abortion and gay marriage issues. Russell Moore is one of the few Southern Baptists that really have a heartfelt identification and understanding of social justice issues from a minority perspective.

Response: If Russell Moore has such an appreciation of affirmative action and social justice, then perhaps he can go to work at one of the progressive Baptist conventions that support these notions. What Dwight McKissic is essentially saying here is, “If Southern Baptists want black churches to join, then the SBC needs to adopt the social justice agenda of many in black Christendom.” That would be a disaster. If the moral majority is the right wing example of the folly of Christian politics then the social progressivism of the black church (which is rife with female leadership) is the left wing example of such folly. Are minorities truly as concerned with central economic planning and affirmative action as they are with murdering babies in the womb and institutionalized sodomy? What a disaster! Martin Luther King was a Southerner. Martin Luther King was a Baptist. Martin Luther King denied the historicity of the resurrection. Theology matters, Southern Baptists. When the social gospel takes the front seat, the real gospel is relegated to the back of the bus.

McKissic: Russell Moore really feels our pain. In many ways, he is being treated as a racial minority by the Convention in this situation. So to fire Russell Moore is to say to minorities, you are only welcome in the SBC if you remain silent regarding your political views. Seriously? Is that what you really want?

Response: If McKissic’s assessment of minority political views is accurate, then the answer to this questions must be “yes.” Leave and take Russell Moore with you. Russell Moore and the ERLC, as they stand, are actually attracting progressives like McKissic to the SBC!

McKissic: During this yuletide season, let’s practice our faith and seek peace on earth and in the SBC and good will toward all men. Brethren, let’s drop our swords and be The Southern Baptist Great Commission Convention and not the Trump Baptist Convention.

Response: Ummmm…so says the man who just compared Moore detractors to a racist lynch mob.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant