Are Southern Baptists Softening Stance on Immigration?

In recent comments after visiting Central American refugees in Texas, the Southern Baptists’ emerging point man in the culture wars, Russell Moore, cleverly managed to capitalize on the polarizing problem, even after the public statement of Texas’ Catholic Bishops that “Now is not the moment for inflammatory political rhetoric, but of compassionate and orderly resolution to the conditions of these women and children who are already in a difficult humanitarian situation.”

Moore evidently interpreted this statement to mean that he had permission to engage in the art of subterfuge as long as his message was sufficiently masked by expressions of kindheartedness for the children he had encountered. Even as he melodramatically expressed compassion he also managed to resonate with hardline opponents of immigration reform, implying, for instance, that the onus for the crisis rests on the president.

By identifying the current “moral crisis” with the activities of Latin American drug cartels he managed to relieve his intended audience of any sense of responsibility for the very refugees and validating the anger of those currently using them as hostages in a campaign against meaningful immigration reform. Moore uttered no words of “moral outrage” over the collapse of immigration reform in America.

While some have taken Moore’s comments as an indication that he and other Southern Baptist leaders are backing away from their commitment to the hardline agendas of religious and political conservatives, his calculated rhetoric is in reality a manifestation of Southern Baptists’ current focus on building coalitions with them.

Moore is working overtime these days to strengthen the partnership of Southern Baptists and like-minded congressional republicans. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year co-written with Ralph Reed, the pair issued a call for the creation and passage of a GOP version of immigration reform that reflects “conservative Christian values.” Although the doublespeak of that manifesto was laced with effusive expressions of admiration for immigrants it effectively associated immigration with crime and emphatically ruled out any proposals for blanket amnesty or special paths to citizenship.

Meanwhile, his mentor Al Mohler has been devoting his energies to building a political alliance with Mormons. Effusive proclamations of affection for Mormons, despite the proviso that he believes no Mormons are going to heaven, can be explained by Mohler’s appreciation for the political benefits of a Baptist/Mormon alliance. (Mohler’s “loving” way of saying that Mormons are going to hell—i.e. not going to heaven—was an ingenious way of allowing fellow Baptists a means of stomaching what would otherwise be considered an unacceptably unholy alliance.)

Mohler and Moore recognize that they will increasingly need these various alliances because Southern Baptists have now settled into an irreversible pattern of numerical and financial decline.

While Moore has somewhat curtly told his fellow Baptists that they should embrace their newly discovered status and see themselves as a “prophetic minority,” Mohler believes they should see themselves as the faithful remnant preparing for a coming persecution. They and the Mormons will soon go to jail together, he claims, because of their joint refusal to peacefully surrender their religious freedoms.

Moore has also been known to lend his voice to this developing mythology of religious persecution, as when he applauded Marco Rubio for condemning “the recent trend of intolerance among some liberals toward those who disagree with them about same-sex marriage.”

Mike Greer is a retired ex-Southern Baptist minister who has lived in Kentucky for more than 25 years. He received a BA from Georgetown College, and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He lived and ministered in the West Bank for 5 years.

  • Tyler

    It appears I will have no choice but to leave my local Southern Baptist Church to show my disapproval with Dr. Moore and the SBC allowing the SBC to used by the Obama administration. Far to many quotes from the White House citing the SBC support of the illegal alien legalization effort. Why would the church want to get into this political issue and if so why not represent the vast majority of Baptist who oppose amnesty. Dr. Moore is free to personally go to border and pick up several children, vast majority are well over 15 and let them stay with him. Stay out of politics especially when you are being used. Dr. Moore and others must know Obama is just using them for this one issue. Start of SBC becoming a liberal progressive force for good. Keep the faith.

  • cranefly

    Leviticus 19:34

  • David_in_Nashville

    Did Mike Greer read the same piece I just read? Nowhere does Moore imply that the onus for the crisis rests upon the President. And if he associates the crisis with gang violence in the countries of origin–well, so do most observers. Has it escaped Greer’s notice that real hard-liners pooh-pooh gang violence as a cause and view the children as freeloaders trying to take advantage of an alleged offer of amnesty from Obama? The notion that if refugees are fleeing gang violence it somehow absolves white Americans of responsibility for helping them can be found nowhere in this statement. And dragging in Mohler on a completely different topic is irrelevant. Finally, Moore is voicing a long-standing SBC stance on immigration, one going back to his predecessor Richard Land; the SBC isn’t “liberal” on this issue, but it’s never been “hard-line.” I’m no fan of any of these guys, but I believe in giving the devils their due.

  • oh2props

    The SBC test on this matter will be if Moore’s trip to the border has any resonance with SBC congressmen and Fox News Darlings Trey Gowdy of SC and James Lankford of Oklahoma. Gowdy is a mber of Billy Graham’s congregation, FBC Spratanburg; and Lankford is the son in law of recent SBC President Tom Elliff. So far it looks like Ted Cruz, himself a product of 2nd Baptist Houston’s HS Acaademy. Ed Young, sr pastor there is alos a former president of the SBC after the fundy takeover.
    So the real politik of the matter has yet to be dedided. If the upcoming Life and Liberty Conference at FBC Spartanburg is an indicator, roster personalties don’t bode well for Central American Refugees.
    Even so Randall Balmer has called out another Baptist congressman, Gohmert of Tyler Texas. Balmer has written rcently about how SBC fundies “ginned up” the politics of abortion, a “caba” tto defeat Carter in 79. I doubt the children of Paul Pressler will do much better with immigration, unless somehow it benefits Exxon Oil.
    Even so it is my best understanding Dan Cathy of Chick Fil A endorsed the Dream Act in 2008. So Stay tuned; and Pray

  • GMG248

    To be fair no one asked Moore in these interviews about what role republicans played in the creation of this crisis. I have not heard him speak of their responsibility regarding this “moral” crisis. This crisis is obviously also a political crisis forwarded and exacerbated by the republican agenda of emasculating the president. The only words I heard from Moore about responsibility to deal with political or moral issues were directed at the President and the governments where the drug cartels are wreaking havoc. Moore has the ability to deflect blame by reserving praise as well. I would never expect him to thank the president for his efforts to ameliorate the effects of the crisis. If he did so his republican allies would go ballistic. With Moore one has to listen to what he does not say as well as what he says.

  • GMG248

    I think the Southern Baptist Church is the perfect place for those who see the president as the scapegoat to blame all of our national sins on. I am not sure how you see Moore as being an ally of the President? The SBC and the republican Tea Party agenda are inseparable these days. You should be right at home where you are.

  • GMG248

    Good words. The term alien has been associated with the term illegal so often that the two are synonymous in many American mindsets. Immigration has also been associated with crime in many people’s minds. We must constantly listen for the propaganda and political/economic motives that drive the narratives.