I had never heard of Johnnie Moore before he became a court evangelical, but according to his own website he is “a modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer” and one of “the world’s most influential young leaders.” Yesterday he defended his court evangelicalism in a piece at Religion News Service (RNS). Read it here.
I appreciate Moore’s desire to pray for the POTUS and provide spiritual counsel. In fact, most of his RNS piece makes him sound like he is some kind of White House pastor. Let’s assume for a moment that this is true. If Moore is serving as one of Trump’s spiritual guides, what is he doing to address Trump’s endless lies, his constant failures of character, his destructive tweets, and his willingness to make a moral equivocation between white supremacists and the people protesting white supremacy? I imagine that many of his followers may want to know this. What kind of counsel is Johnnie Moore and the rest of the court evangelicals giving Donald Trump? Either their supposed “access” is little more than what former court evangelical A.R. Bernard described as a mere “photo-op,” or they are giving moral instruction to Trump and he is just ignoring it. This POTUS is not growing morally. Instead, his moral compass is getting more skewed by the day. Did you see him in Arizona on Wednesday night?
Trump has a track record of using people to get what he wants–usually power and adulation–and then discarding them. If history is any indication, he is using the court evangelicals in the same way. Trump is playing them, just like Richard Nixon played Billy Graham. Why do these court evangelicals, who I presume have a robust view of human sin, suddenly become optimistic about human nature when it comes to this particular POTUS?
Yet, rather than discussing Charlottesville’s tragedy sensibly, we lapsed into vicious and judgmental rhetoric with no room for discussion. The president’s press conference was insensitive and some in the press editorialized their coverage of it. Most Americans didn’t watch the whole thing from beginning to end. Yet, everyone had an opinion. It was an important discussion begun at an inappropriate time in an inappropriate venue.
Then, America invested all her energy into fighting herself rather than healing herself, and as spiritual advisers to the White House we were numbered among those especially targeted.
It all reminded me of a few phrases I used to teach my students to prod them to think more deeply, discover the reasons for belief, and to not allow themselves to get too comfortable in their own preconceived notions. I provoked them to seek understanding and not simply to form opinions. I told them “not every reason has merit but everyone believes what they believe for a reason” and “everything is always more complicated than it seems.”
First, what would it mean to discuss the “Charlottesville tragedy sensibly?” What is the “discussion” that Moore want to have when a bunch of white supremacists march into town with lit torches chanting Nazi rhetoric?
Second, Moore engages in his own version of moral equivalency. He suggests that there is a moral equivalence between the president’s “insensitive” press conference and those in the media who called the POTUS out for suggesting there were many “fine people” on “both sides” in Charlottesville.
And why does Moore only criticize the media? Why not talk about the business leaders who took a moral stand by resigning from the POTUS’s manufacturing council? Why not bring up the growing number of GOP leaders like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, who condemned the President’s remarks. What about conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer and Michael Gerson? It wasn’t just the so-called “liberal” press who “editorialized.”
It is time for the court evangelicals to get a moral backbone.
Remember when Nathan said to King David “thou are the man?”
Or think about the Old Testament judge Samuel. When God was angry with King Saul for his disobedience, He sent Samuel to rebuke the King. Samuel “cried to the Lord all night,” presumably because he did not want to upset the King, but the next morning he obeyed God and confronted Saul.
It is not until the next to last paragraph of his RNS piece that Moore explains what he actually does with his “seat at the table.” Apparently he is there for more than just prayer.
You only make a difference if you have a seat at the table. There is a long list of progress we have made with this administration because we took our seat at the table. We’ve provided consequential feedback on policy and personnel decisions particularly affecting religious liberty, judges, the right to life and foreign policy. We are also actively at work on issues like criminal justice reform, and when we’ve disagreed, we’ve had every opportunity to express our point of view.
So is Moore in the King’s court as a pastoral counselor or a policy adviser?
If the latter is true, what does a Liberty University graduate who served as a travel assistant to Jerry Falwell, worked for television producer Mark Burnett (also the producer of The Apprentice, I might add), and now runs a Christian PR firm, have to say on matters of federal judges, criminal justice reform, and foreign policy? What kind of credentials do any of the court evangelicals have in these policy matters? What kind of advice are they giving the President in these areas? What is their agenda? How does their agenda relate to building the Kingdom of God and their role as ministers and people concerned about the advancement of the Gospel? Why do they feel like they need to accomplish their agenda through the pursuit of political power?