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Marginalizing Russell Moore is grave mistake for Southern Baptists

Russell Moore preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Oct. 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

(RNS) When Southern Baptists appointed a fresh-faced Russell Moore to head their public policy arm in 2013, many believed a new day had dawned for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. But when Moore became one of Donald Trump’s most vocal opponents, some leaders who once celebrated his ascendency suddenly came down with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

“Some Baptist pastors are considering cutting funds that flow from their congregations to the Southern Baptist Convention — or to its policy agency, which Moore heads — in a potentially dramatic rebuke,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

A news story about Southern Baptists having a good ol’-fashioned fight is hardly surprising. The denomination seems to be swept up in an endless fight over all things theological, social and political. But this time, Baptists should beware. The denomination’s combative posture and partisan reputation has likely contributed to its shrinking membership and baptisms. Moore may be the best thing going for Southern Baptists, and marginalizing him will only exacerbate the denomination’s problems.

When conservative leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention forced out moderates in the 1980s, some wondered if it would eventually lead to the demise of the denomination. After all, it’s often difficult for those accustomed to fighting to quit after the war has ended.

“If Southern Baptists are not careful, now that we are in a denomination without liberals to fight, we will turn on each other,” Baptist researcher Ed Stetzer once wrote. “Fifty years from now, what will historians write about us, that we were warrior children of the Conservative Resurgence, splintering into dozens of subgroups?”

Stetzer’s warning now seems more like prophecy. In recent years, the denomination has gone to war over private prayer languages, the consumption of alcohol, renaming the denomination, the rise of Calvinism, flying the Confederate flag and how to atone for its racist roots. There’s a reason the SBC has been dubbed “the battling Baptists.”

In the midst of its tumult, Moore has brought a sense of calm and conviction.

When critics claim Southern Baptists are bombastic and angry, a level-headed Moore appears in television interviews speaking in a measured tone and never losing his temper.

When haters argue that Southern Baptists are extreme and irrelevant, Moore tweets about the TV show “Stranger Things” and hip-hop albums.

When some claim that Southern Baptists are partisan hacks, Moore finds a way to challenge the Republican establishment while holding the line on cornerstone conservative issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

But in recent months, the last asset has become a liability. Because Moore opposed Trump from the start, and despite much pressure from fellow evangelicals, he never wavered.

His position made perfect sense to those of us familiar with evangelical beliefs.

Evangelicals value traditional marriage and sexual ethics, but Trump has married three times and has repeatedly bragged about sleeping with married women.

Most evangelicals believe gambling to be a moral evil, but Trump made millions from casinos, including one with a strip club attached.

Evangelicals support religious freedom for all, but Trump threatened to create a national registry for Muslims and deny immigrants based on religion.

Evangelicals have long said that “character counts” for presidential candidates, but Trump is a foul-mouthed serial liar.

The list rolls on, but you get the point.

Unfortunately, not all evangelical leaders behaved like evangelicals in this election. And some of them, it appears, now want to punish Moore for his consistency. But Southern Baptists should imagine for a moment what their future might look like without him.

The SBC has long struggled to attract young people to its denominational meetings and churches. Moore is one of the few top-tier young leaders in the denomination and has managed to develop a significant following among young people. In their eyes, he represents the best hope for the denomination’s future.

It’s difficult to imagine Moore’s critics are better suited to lead the denomination.

Consider, for example, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. For those unfamiliar, Jeffress is basically Pat Robertson without “The 700 Club.” Jeffress has called the Catholic Church the “genius of Satan” and said Mormonism is a cult. In this election, he claimed that any Christian who didn’t vote for Trump was guilty of the sin of pride.

Jeffress insinuated to The Wall Street Journal that his church may withhold funds from Moore’s agency because it may not be the “wisest expenditure.” It’s odd to hear Jeffress speaking about stewardship of church funds, considering his church just spent $130 million on a construction project. The building, which The Dallas Morning News called “the largest church building program in modern history,” was widely criticized as wasteful and unnecessary.

If Jeffress didn’t fill the gap, perhaps former SBC President Jack Graham could lead in Moore’s absence.

“There was a disrespectfulness towards Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders, past and present,” Graham said of Moore’s comments about Trump in the Wall Street Journal article.

It’s curious that Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in North Texas, seems so offended by disrespectfulness. After all, Graham penned a column at basically endorsing a candidate who commented on the sex appeal of his own daughter, attacked a grieving Gold Star family and speculated about a news anchor’s menstrual cycle.

When Trump publicly criticized former Miss Universe Alicia Machado’s weight, calling her Miss Piggy, Graham did not see fit to respond.

When it was revealed that Trump talked about sexually assaulting women by “grab(bing) them by the pussy,” Graham was silent. (This recusal is less confusing, given his church’s spotty record on responding to sexual abuse.)

If Graham is offended by disrespectfulness, you can’t tell it. The pastor continued to serve on Trump’s evangelical advisory board through some of the most disrespectful public comments ever uttered by a major American presidential candidate.

Try looking around for a more promising Southern Baptist leader than Moore, and you’ll likely not find one. Moore values principle over power, integrity over influence. But so many other Southern Baptist leaders have the opposite priorities.

As Graham noted, “(Moore’s) going to have no access, basically, to President Trump.”

Or as Brad Whitt, a Southern Baptist pastor in Georgia who is critical of Moore, told the Journal: “We want to see what he says, and whether he has a seat at the table in Washington. If not, we’ll be wasting a whole lot of time, energy, and finances that could be going to the mission field.”

Apparently, funds should go toward mission efforts unless they can buy Baptists access to the president.

Many Southern Baptists believe Trump represents their best hope at social dominance, or at least social renewal. They naturally want someone who is well-positioned to capitalize on their political agenda, not someone sitting in the bleachers watching it from afar. But unlike these Southern Baptists, Moore will not trade his principles and positions for a seat at the president’s table.

And this unwavering posture is exactly why Moore’s stock has risen while the SBC has struggled. He has proved himself to be a winsome and capable leader among even those outside his denomination.

If Moore left his post, he could walk into the doors of many prominent organizations in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere and get a job offer tomorrow. Meanwhile, a Moore-less Southern Baptist Convention may become a mostly aging denomination destroying itself through infighting.

So denominational leaders should choose their next steps carefully. All things considered, Southern Baptists need Moore far more than he needs them.

(Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for RNS and a contributing writer for The Atlantic)

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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  • Russell Moore is wasting his time opposing Trump. He would look as if he’s acting from Christian principle if he exercised that Grace and forgiveness thing in the Gospel, and set about healing the rifts in our deeply divided country. This would make him somewhat more acceptable to the Southern Baptists.

  • Dr. Moore tweeted several months ago that he loved politics. Well, Dr. Moore, here are the politics you love. It’s a dirty, dirty, business. He’s a great man but that tweet gave me a bit of pause to question what he was thinking.

  • I am no fan of Moore at all. But the attacks on him for actually putting his faith above his politics smack of the usual fundelibangelist hypocrisy when it comes to power and money.

  • I have great respect for Dr. Moore, as I know him personally from some conversations and several years’ involvement with the SBC convention. But I do disagree with him in one respect: the test for a presidential candidate is not his morals, but his ability to do the job. To serve the people.

    If I apply a religious test to one political candidate, then I had best apply the same test to every candidate for whom I ever vote. Which would require extensive research on literally hundreds of people every 4 years. Otherwise, I am hypocritical, and I know God’s opinion of hypocrisy.

  • Wouldn’t you say that a person’s morals have a bearing on his ability to do his job? I don’t think Moore applied a “religious” test to Trump, but a test of character. Should we expect untrustworthy, foolish, and wicked people to be able to serve the people well? And, isn’t he just saying exactly what the SBC said in a resolution after the Bill Clinton scandal?

  • Prior to the election, and especially during the Republican primary, it was an important thing for Moore to oppose Trump. Political engagement provides a way, albeit limited, for us to love our neighbors. That would include preventing someone as wicked as Trump from gaining the power of the Executive branch. Since then, Moore has been far less vocal in his opposition to Trump. I really do believe he is working towards healing the divides among believers and Southern Baptists.

  • ” the test for a presidential candidate is not his morals, but his ability to do the job. To serve the people.”

    Which is a remarkably hypocritical stance from years of claims to the contrary for the last 30+ years by Christian Conservatives. But it is not surprising. I guess when realpolitik finally suited the religious right, they embraced it openly.

    “If I apply a religious test to one political candidate, then I had best
    apply the same test to every candidate for whom I ever vote.”

    Again, a hypocritical stance when one compares to decades of prior policies and statements by Christian Conservatives. “Religious test” usually meant whether one claims to be religious, and whether they were of a Christian sect said Christian Conservatives found acceptable or amenable to their own. Minority faiths and atheists need not apply (and are usually made target of rather malicious defamatory campaign tactics).

    Of course the ability to do one’s job in public office is very much a function of morals or at least professional ethics. People notorious for lying, cheating others, fraud, maliciously harming others tend to garner a lot of unnecessary resistance to getting work done. They do so by creating unnecessary enemies and failing to garner trust from supporters.

    Thank you for finally acknowledging what everyone else already knew about Christian conservatives. That their statements concerning public morals are hollow and hypocritical. That power over others and access to government is really all that they really sought.

  • Yet those principles have frequently included promoting giving bigotry color of law. I have little sympathy for him now. It is tough to stand on principles when one hardly displayed them before.

  • You might remember that forgiveness usually follows repentance. So far as anyone is able to determine, the president-elect has never repented of anything. When he has a real change of heart and begins to lead a genuine Christian life, then forgiveness is called for. In the meantime Moore should call him and those around him to account for what they do and the sort of character they manifest.

  • I’m a huge fan of Dr. Moore, and largely agreed with his stance on Trump during the primaries. I worry about many of the same things that this columnist does regarding my denomination-that we’re losing our ability to reach people of my generation. I think that too many of our prominent ministers are focused on fighting the liberals more than advancing God’s kingdom-although that is better than focusing on building programs and self-glorification.

    BUT…I also think Dr. Moore should step down from his post at the ERLC in favor of another candidate with better access to the incoming administration. Churches fund his ministry so that public policy is made with the consideration of Christian morals and values in mind. From international adoptions, to the protection of faith-based ministries, to the protection of life, Southern Baptists have worthwhile, valuable concerns that can only be addressed with a robust presence in Washington, DC. Having your public face be a prominent critic of the incoming administration will shut many doors. A new face win ensure a seat at the table for SBC interests.

    Dr. Moore’s valuable perspective can continue to be a part of the public conversation through other means and one of the many think tanks or universities that can and should hire him. But if churches want a voice in public policy, their dollars would be wasted with him at the helm.

  • The religious left and their secular counterparts decried the evangelical focus on morality in politics for decades. Prominent feminists said they would get out their “presidential kneepads” to thank Bill Clinton’s advocacy of abortion rights despite his not-very-feminist treatment of female subordinates and members of the public. Guess what? You got your wish. Conservative evangelicals stopped focusing on the morality of the person and now look to further their public policy goals through coalition politics in a party system.

  • No. The reason Dr. Moore’s institution is funded by member congregations around the country is to have a voice in Washington, DC for interests that are more important than the character of any one individual. The pro-life cause, freedom for faith-based institutions, international adoptions, and other issues need the strongest voice possible, and Dr. Moore’s advocacy during this election makes him unsuitable to be an effective voice now. I wish him all the best but hope that another takes his place so that the SBC will have a strong presence in the coming years.

  • News flash for you: Russel Moore marginalized YOU!

    I for one have gone from a devoted SBC guy to supporting taxing the church because Moore and Mohler only care about the club – and if you are not in it they would rather continue killing babies and selling their parts than to allow a non club member to help stop it.

    Pathetic, self serving and no different than Hollywood except they wear more clothes and don’t use the “f” word.

  • The religious left is a lot like political correctness. Something whose existence is far rarer and unlikely in comparison to those who claim to be against them. They do not exist in any significant numbers or influence.

    “Prominent feminists said they would get out their “presidential kneepads”

    Please cite examples of “prominent feminists” here.

    As for your comparison, I have yet to see such groups stumping for restrictions on civil liberties based on their alleged public moral stance. Feminism (as with any movement of those who are not the political majority) was always about the push/pull between ideological stances and seeking tangible results. So your equivalence argument is thoroughly false here. The religious right was always about ideological stances and efforts which were thoroughly quixotic and doomed from inception.

    The religious right makes “values voting” the centerpiece of their movement. That candidates reflect their sectarian religious views in their most obvious and extreme form. Their support of Trump simply shows how such a stance has always been a load of garbage. Their opponents always knew this. Their support of serial adulterer Newt Gingrich made that obvious years before.

    Conservative focus on morality was always nonsense. “Family values” is a term used to justify attacks on religious freedom, minorities, the poor, and gays. To justify censorship, entanglement of church and state, and marginalize religious views which are sane and reasonable.

    Now we can cut through the pretense.

  • Gosh, Russell Moore must really be in the SBC doghouse, if **both** Jonathan Merritt and David Gushee are scrambling to save his SBC bacon.

    (“Elections have consequences,” a famous Democrat once said.)

    Anyway, Moore’s track record as a Christian leader is way too high-quality to just kick him to the curb. But Demo44 has got an excellent point there. A point that isn’t going to go away.

    Point is, since we’re talking about who will become the main SBC hookup to President Trump on key national issues, it honestly might help to look at some top-drawer SBC candidates other than a no-compromise 100 percent OPPONENT of the President. Just might be a really good idea.

  • Trump’s election was obviously the result of Christians’ fear and anger towards Hillary Clinton, ensuring at all costs that she would not be president.

    Like John Piper, Moore was one of the few who refused to operate on that fear and anger because he recognized from Scripture that Christ forbids us to do so. This allowed him to clearly see Trump for what he was: a contradiction of too many things we are Biblically commanded to stand for, like sexual virture and human rights (except possibly abortion, which neither candidate was likely to affect). If only more of us had been willing to accept the slightly less cushy existence in America that a Hillary presidency MAYBE threatened. It may have been a little costly, but being a truly radical follower of Christ always is.

  • I vote for candidates that promote my public policy priorities, which include advancing my values in Congress, through conservative appointments to Supreme Court, and through executive branch agencies. And guess what? My candidate won this time, and will get to implement some level of those priorities. I have zero interest in your caterwauling. You lost. I won. That’s all that matters.

  • “Churches fund his ministry so that public policy is made with the consideration of Christian morals and values in mind.”

    Excuse me while I laugh uncontrollably at the cognitive dissonance here. You hit upon an important point. “Christian morals and values” in a political context always meant imposing a sectarian view on others and attacking civil liberties. From promoting child trafficking, to attacking the separation of church and state, to attacking the basic dignity autonomy and rights of women, the SBC has always pretended morality and values was at the forefront of their actions. So you are correct. It makes sense that they support someone who is thoroughly immoral and unethical to further their goals. Morals and ethics never factored into their actions before, why should it now?

  • Glad to see you have dropped any pretense that morals and values have anything to do with your political stance. All you are doing is demonstrating what everyone else already knew about your public policy priorities. It was nothing more than a grab for power and a chance to impose upon others.

    “You lost. I won. That’s all that matters.”

    It is obvious that is all that mattered to you in the first place. So what?

  • A Hillary Clinton appointee to the Supreme Court would have irreversibly weakened the ability of states to place restrictions on abortion procedures. That’s not speculation. Hillary Clinton had an implacable hostility towards religious liberty laws that her own husband signed, and that’s not speculation either. How long would she have waited before imposing bogus Title IX interpretations on religious institutions, cutting off their ability to educate students? Which candidate promised to fund abortions with tax dollars, likely increasing the demand for legalized murder?

    Trump wasn’t my choice in the primary, and I respect those who didn’t eventually acquiesce to him like I did, but I don’t believe they have the moral high ground for refusing to participate in this election.

  • My public policy priorities are about the advancement of a society that allows Christian values to thrive. That includes protections for religious liberty and the end of abortion whenever possible. I make zero apologies for using the political system to achieve those goals.

  • You are dull. Alleging the hypocrisy of other political factions is the least valuable form of political discussion.

  • “A Hillary Clinton appointee to the Supreme Court would have irreversibly
    weakened the ability of states to place restrictions on abortion

    Keeping in line with not only the majority will of the nation, but also rights already established by the Supreme Court for over 40 years.

    “Hillary Clinton had an implacable hostility towards religious liberty
    laws that her own husband signed, and that’s not speculation either.”

    Its not true either. “Mini-RFRA’s” and “religious liberty laws” enacted by conservative state legislatures have nothing to do with the Federal RFRA. In every case they represented an attempt to institute a religious based version of Jim Crow in those states.

    “Which candidate promised to fund abortions with tax dollars, likely increasing the demand for legalized murder?”

    Abortion rates have been on a steady decline coinciding with its availability and with increased access to effective contraception.

    Abortion bans and draconian restrictions do nothing more than endanger the lives of women, as evidenced by the dramatic maternal death rate increases in Texas and rise of previously unheard of injuries due to unsafe self-abortion techniques.

  • I may be dull, but I am not incorrect here. The pretense of morals and values which the Religious Right touted to the public were always a load of bull. At least now you guys stopped pretending. 🙂

  • “Secular comments” = not trying to lie in service of my religious faith.

    People who rail against secularism are really just saying that they have no respect for beliefs other than their own. Secularism is how our society avoids sectarian discrimination.

  • And FYI, every single state RFRA was composed exactly from the federal statute or used exact language from federal caselaw. The only thing that changed was that liberals realized that gross evangelicals might use it to protect their religious minority views as well.

  • Secularism is why France punishes those who wear the cross openly or who wear modest Islamic garments. Once the state moves from toleration of religious viewpoints towards a disrespect for the validity of faith itself, it quickly uses the weaponry of the state against churches, believers, and institutions.

  • “My public policy priorities are about the advancement of a society that allows Christian values to thrive.”

    You are done with trying to keep that lie going.

    You already made it clear that morals and values have nothing to do with your position, and are of no use to you where it matters.

    “Christian values” have always meant sectarian discriminatory actions. Imposing your will on the civil liberties of others. You can drop the phony euphemisms now.

    You support of a leader who does not treat such things seriously. All done for access to power. I guess craven power grabbing is a “Christian value” here.

  • That is not even remotely true. They were drafted for the sole purpose of creating avenues for discrimination using religion as a pretext.

  • I was in elementary school during the Clinton presidency. I don’t give a fig about whatever Jerry Falwell used to do. I vote for candidates that advance my interests and not on the basis of their personal morality.

  • No, what the French call secularism is merely majoritarian discrimination. Europeans don’t get a lot of things. Civil liberties being the big one.

    Secularism is best exemplified by our first amendment. Freedom of exercise of religion and the separation of church and state. Respect for the religious beliefs of all by not showing favoritism or hostility to any.

    Why do you hate our 1st Amendment so much?

  • No, I said that I use political power to advance my political priorities, which include a society that allows Christian interests to thrive. I don’t know why that’s shocking to you.

  • I was an adult during that time. I know exactly what the Religious right has been doing since inception. Your ignorance of the history of your own platform is duly noted.

  • You are trying to justify support of an immoral person and immoral acts to justify what you claim is a moral platform. It doesn’t work that way. Morality means ends do not justify means.

    You already made it clear that access to power was more important to you than principles. You already disavowed any pretense of principles here.

  • I’m an attorney that took an oath to uphold it. I value the First Amendment for what it actually says and does, not for the distorted version that is promoted by the allegedly pro-civil liberties left. The ACLU backed the original RFRA and now opposes versions that copy its text word for word out of fear that a disfavored religious minority might use its protections.

  • The text is exactly the same or with modifications drawn from caselaw language that do not change the substantive impact whatsoever.

  • Whose Christian values? And thrive in the face of what?

    Conservative Christians have been behind every single antigay law and measure for the past 40 years, in the face of staunch opposition from secularists and Christians and Jews who do not believe that being antigay is a Christian value.

    All of the whining going on about “religious freedom” right now is from a handful of conservative Christians who simply cannot tolerate the idea that gay people, their favorite whipping boys for the past 2000 years, next to Jews, are no longer being treated by the government the way these so called christian so called conservatives want Them to be treated– I.e., badly.

  • “I’m an attorney that took an oath to uphold it.”

    I know too many attorneys to take such a statement seriously. It is certainly no gauge on the intelligence of a poster. To be honest, it is not the wisest thing to declare online that you are a lawyer. It tends to bring out a lot of denigrating remarks from others.

    ” I value the First Amendment for what it actually says and does, not for
    the distorted version that is promoted by the allegedly pro-civil
    liberties left.”

    If you attack secularism, you certainly do no such thing. Not the letter of the First Amendment, nor its purpose.

    “he ACLU backed the original RFRA and now opposes versions that copy its
    text word for word out of fear that a disfavored religious minority
    might use its protections.”

    Repeating a lie does not make it true. Mini-RFRA laws have nothing to do with the Federal versions. Especially since their intent is to allow a majority religious group to attack the civil liberties of others.

  • No it isn’t. You can stop repeating the lie.

    “By taking out the “substantial” requirement, said Maggie Garrett, legislative counsel for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, these states are “making a completely different test,” as RFRA “was never meant to trump anti-discrimination and health and safety laws.””

  • The ends justify the means!
    History will absolve me!

    These are not hard concepts either. They are far more honest than yours.

  • This conversation basically illustrates why I have zero regrets about my vote or my decision to stay in the political process. I share roughly zero common ground with your political side of the aisle. Conservative evangelicals have no voice and no influence in the Democratic Party and with any of its elected officials. That party believes millenia-old tenets of my faith are bigotry and should be eradicated whereever they are found and that abortion is not a choice with moral dimensions. I will never agree with you about anything, so not countering your vote with my own isn’t a risk I’m willing to take.

  • “funds should go toward mission efforts unless they can buy Baptists access to the president.”

    It seems like the SBC sees itself as a political party craving power far more than its a Christian denomination. There’s just no excuse for the full throated support given to the pres-elect.

    Shame on those Baptists for turning from Christ to the pres-elect.

  • Your insistence on making up your own facts and repeating them ad nauseum does little towards showing you have a serious POV which should be taken seriously.

    Your quick disavowal of the professed morals and values of your platform shows how little you valued them in the first place.

    “That party believes millenia-old tenets of my faith are bigotry and should be eradicated whereever they are found and that abortion is not a choice with moral dimensions.”

    All of which are true. But not put in a nice way. 🙂

    “I will never agree with you about anything”

    But you could have been far more truthful in the support of your views.

  • No, the party doesn’t think that your millenia old traits are bigotry. That’s just the story you tell yourself.

    As a gay man, let me tell you what’s bigotry:

    Sodomy laws, based upon your interpretation of the Bible and what god wants.

    Don’t ask don’t tell, a slander based upon lies that are justified by your religious belief, not informed by them.

    Anti adoption laws, justified by religious belief about who god’s favorites are and what constitutes a good parent. Also a slander based upon lies in formed by and justified by religious belief.

    Boy Scout bans: based upon the slander and the lie that gay people are godless and dangerous to children.

    Anti marriage laws: see the first Four.

    There is no where in the Bible that says I can’t be a good parent, that I am a threat to children, that I should be excluded from full participation in society, as I am made.

    But funny how many so called Christians will link the Bible and their basic bigotry together.

  • Well, Mr. Attorney, perhaps you can explain this to me

    We have laws at every level of government, going up to the civil rights act of 1964, which forbid discrimination on the basis of religious belief, yours or mine, sincere or otherwise.

    These so called RFRA’ s seek to allow discrimination on the basis of religious belief. And very tellingly, they wish to legalize it in just about one case, and one case only: so that some conservative Christians can discriminate against gay people on the basis of their religious belief.

    So, which way should we go?

  • How is he putting his faith above his politics? His objection to Trump was primarily political. Moore is a globalist who wanted Rubio or Bush’s brand of open borders/free trade/internationalist foreign policy + social conservatism. He disliked Cruz politically for many of the same reasons as he hated Trump.

  • He shares the same views as George Soros on a host of key national issues. He’s a terrible political representative for the SBC in this sense. He is completely out of step with a huge portion of his base and takes a scornful, elitist tack whenever he’s confronted with this (see his “angry white men” comments).

    His views get plenty of airtime from the liberal mainline denominations. We can find a pro-life, pro-family SBC political figurehead without all the Trotskyist baggage.

  • Apparently, and I mean this with all love and a smile on my face, you think Moore is a bigger hypocrite than I do.

  • George Soros? My goodness, where would conservatives be without him as boogeyman.
    And Moore as a Trotskyite? Al Mohler too? So there will be a whole wing of Southern Baptists in Marxist heaven.

    But that’s how its gonna be in today’s Christian world. If you hate gay marriage and abortion, but aren’t fond of Trump — you’re a traitor to the Truth. Probably going to hell. I guess you just don’t hate enough. And we wonder why the world rolls its eyes.

  • Right. Because of what it says in the Bible about free trade. You’re no Christian if you refuse to take your trade policy straight from. . . remind me, where is is it written? 3 Corinthians?

  • I don’t much care who people voted for. That was then, this is now.

    The question is what those Christians are doing now. If you voted for him because of abortion — are you fine with Steve Bannon too? How about Trump not being open enough about his assets and debts so that Congress can exercise oversight and examine potential conflicts of interest? Do you care about families with children having paid sick leave or a minimum wage? Trump’s labor secretary nominee doesn’t. Did you flinch when Trump said “millions of illegals voted” when in fact there was no proof of that, or that he won in a “landslide” when HRC received almost 3 million more votes. You don’t have to like her, right, to see that’s a flat out lie. Do you care that Trump says the CIA is lying — but he isn’t even attending security briefings. Does Jeff Sessions statement about the 1965 voting acts (“too intrusive”) concern you, when it was Martin Luther Kings greatest achievement and did away with things like poll taxes and voter tests. I want to know if my fellow Christians have woke up to the full picture of a Trump presidency, or when they might.

  • Would it have made any difference if s/he’d linked to the RCRC? (The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.)

  • The SBC isn’t able to attract millennials (my generation)? Good! I want the herd thinned and leaned. That way, those of us who actually believe and are serious about the missio dei can get on with it.

  • The test is “not his morals”? Do you realize that pretty much every one of the founding fathers argued that one’s morals are the most important criteria? You’re willing to say they were completely wrong, then?

  • The ACLU backed the original RFRA because it was intended for religious minorities, to protect them. It (the RFRA) was in response to a specific Supreme Court ruling on the use of peyote in religious services, and intended to be used for certain limited situations like that. It was never intended for a major religious group to be used as a cudgel to discriminate against people they hate.

    Evangelicals seized on the law, and distorted it’s purpose, to go after the legal and civil rights of gay people (a minority group) and discriminate against them.

  • Apparently Russell Moore has committed blasphemy for not endorsing and voting for Trump. And now he will likely be drummed out of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    This is what happens in any religion when the fundamentalists run the show. They don’t tolerate dissent, no matter how mild, and they’re always having religious “trials” and purges.

    I’m a flat-out heathen and even I can see that Russell Moore is a fine, principled man of faith. He’s really too good of a man to be a Southern Baptist. He should consider it an honor to get booted from the SBC.

  • If The Dallas Morning News thinks that that is “the largest church building program in modern history”, obviously they haven’t been paying attention to the Mormons.

  • In the WSJ article I read a quote that said some were “frustrated” with Moore. Because of that frustration some were considering their options in response to him.
    My response to Russell Moore, frustrating some is a Christ like quality. Let the predictable fear based hand wringers come to their predicable fear based decisions.

  • Moore refused to give his stamp of approval to “doing evil that good may come,” and his example will probably prove intolerable to those that did.

  • Is there a bigger open borders supporter than Soros? Read Moore on immigration – someone got the Open Society memo. Undocumented instead of illegal. Jesus was undocumented. Out of the shadows. Nativist bigotry everywhere. Etc.

    Cultural Trotskyism is a pretty good description of the underlying ideology. Internationalist, subversive, radical egalitarianism with cultural ambitions substituted for economic ones.

    This has nothing to do with salvation. ERLC is the political arm of the SBC. It’s become captive to an ideology that is demonstrably out of step with the rank and file. Out of step is pretty charitable – Moore dance on the edge of outright hostility (

    There’s a reason why WaPo and the NYTimes give Moore the megaphone – he is more than willing to join them in lecturing those darn backward Evangelicals.

  • What are you on about? Ben in Oakland claimed Moore put faith over politics. Seems pretty obvious that his primary objections to Trump were socio-political not religious.

    Pointing out that Moore is motivated by a political ideology isn’t tantamount to claiming divine endorsement of Trump’s trade policy.

  • Lifetime SBC member here who loves what Dr. Moore is doing. There is a group of older prominent pastors still hanging on to the so called glory days of the Moral Majority hoping Trump will resurrect it. When if fact, they are practicing salvation by morality, when they preach that salvation by grace as the only remedy for a wicked nation. At least Dr. Moore is consistent. I may have our church increase our funds to the ERLC.

  • I don’t remember reading any comments about Trumps policy from Dr. Moore. I do recall a lot about Trumps immorality. If his objection to Trump was political, as you say, with the borders/free trade/internationalist foreign policy, why didn’t he support Hillary?

  • Are you accusing Moore and Mohler of being pro-abortion, because that would be one of the most asinine comments I’ve ever seen.

  • Do you really want a man who is head of an Ethics Commission supporting Trump? Now THAT would be a conflict of interest.

  • He wanted Trump to drop out and urged Evangelicals not to vote for him all the way up to the election. He was never going to outright support Hillary because of her hard left position on abortion. But he certainly had no problem with aggressively advocating for scenarios that would ensure her victory.

    He desperately wanted Rubio. Social conservatism + amnesty/free trade/internationalism. Bush his fallback. Witness the absurd exclusion of Trump, Carson and actual Baptists in Cruz and Huckabee from the ERLC platform back in August of 2015. Somehow only the two candidates most closely aligned with Moore on globalism qualified.

    And Moore is not shy about policy. He’s a former congressional staffer. He has plenty of policy opinions, even if he usually dresses them up with sanctimonious language. Read a few of his many Trump articles and tweets.

  • I think the concept of “supporting” trump is too complex for most people and apparently moore. I support Donald trump because his policies as a whole fall in line with my own which are primarily based on scripture. Do i agree on everything? No. Do i support his various actions and turns of phrase? No. But i support trump because i KNOW it was God’s will for him to become President. If it wasn’t, then Cruz would have won the primary. So the fact that Moore won’t even support trump on a basic level proves quite strongly to me that he is a stuck up fool. He needs to swallow his pride and side with trump this reluctance needs to stop.

  • Was anything about this article respectful and edifying? I hope the writer will read in the Bible about most of the people that God used had sinned at one time or another. His aim wasn’t to build up rather than to tear down. Let’s cut the gosip and get on with building one another up.

  • A well written critique and a thoughtful one. There is a great deal to be disturbed about, not only in the SBC but in other Evangelical Circles, including the issue of hypocrisy, or the compromise of biblical principles in the hope of a doubtful political conservatism on the part of the president elect. I say this both as a conservative and an evangelical.

  • Fantastically stated, Jonathan, made all the more meaningful by the fact that you and he have your differences. I agree with every word of this. Dr. Moore is the best thing about the SBC right now, and in cutting him they would be throwing away their greatest asset, effectively alienating themselves from the most rapidly growing demographics in the country.

  • Sure, make fun of the movement that murdered over 130 million people during the 20th century and is still at it. Pull your head out.

  • Never Trumpers seem more interested in acting morally superior to others than in actually doing good work.

  • You are right – it certainly would be.

    No, I think they are more concerned with being acceptable to the liberal culture than they are about any one issue, however – whether abortion, gay marriage, terrorism, illegal immigration, crime, etc.

    How else do you explain their political position?

    It wasn’t an issue of abortion for them, because THAT choice is clear.
    Nor religious freedom – also clear
    Crime – (their choice was under criminal investigation most of the campaign)
    Illegal immigration – no question on that either.

    So, what was the deciding factor for those two? That Trump said “pussy”? Hasn’t been a Christian long enough? Don’t like his past? I’ve never heard a cogent argument against him from either man.

  • Voting for a vindictive, honorless, murderous thug, hoping that he’ll provide a shield from the destructive policies of the Left. What I heard over and over during the election was, “Who cares about how awful a person Trump is, what’s important is the Supreme Court!”

  • No, it’s making fun of the use of Orwellian language and discourse to exaggerate and demonize phony opponents. “Trotskyite” was a common arbitrary label Stalin gave to opponents. It was skin to kulak as an automatic designation of an old bent.

    George Soros becoming an Emmanuel Goldstein figure to direct hate towards. Pretend all opposing views are evil extremists. Ignore obvious extremism from ones own camp. Avoid or deliberately misrepresent material facts.

    Themillenialfalcon gave us a great example of Stalinist rhetoric one can find online. Irony meters are undergoing repairs as we speak.

  • Christian conservatives are never interested in doing good work. Their platform is all about immorally imposing on the lives of others.

  • I don’t know how you draw the line so clearly between socio-political and religious objections. It would seem quite odd to me to say that Bonhoeffer and Barth objected to Hitler on something other than religious grounds. Have you read the Barmen Declaration? It is an incredibly theological statement. Similar theological statement were made in South Africa, countering the theological justifications for apartheid. Whether Moore made his objections on theological grounds or not is beyond me, but they can be made.

    Perhaps I should add — you don’t think Moore is a good spokesperson for the SBC — because his political ideology doesn’t agree with yours. Is that a theological objection you are making, or do you simply want your religious leaders to agree with your political ideology?

  • I was not making fun of Stalin’s murderous regime. I was pointing out how nonsensical it is to call Moore the equivalent.

  • ooooookkkkkkk – I must have missed them. Made a lot of money? Wants a defensible border? Control immigration? What?

    Evil is a high bar in our society today, so give me something good.

  • Vindictive – I wouldn’t know – how do you? Honorless is VERY subjective in our culture and murderous – you must know something about him that no one else does.

  • You don’t need to draw a fine line when the objections are so distinctly socio-political. Moore was pretty candid about this when the GOP nominated someone whose politics he liked. This was him re: Romney:

    “Between these two people — President Obama and Gov. Romney — who is going to do the best for the common good and in protecting the United States of America and all the other questions that we’ve got to keep in mind. We are going to have to give up — on both sides — the idea of president as religious mascot.”

    This came right after his favorable comparison of Romney to Cyrus, the unbelieving Persian king who was a huge help to the Jews, a comparison he suddenly found horrifying/blasphemous when it was applied to Trump.

    To your second paragraph, I’d like the SBC’s political figurehead to not be a zealot for globalism who flip-flops between pragmatism and sanctimony as it suits his political goals. He’s neither a pillar of Baptist principles nor a pragmatic defender of sensible political policies.

  • So you want to deny salvation to people you don’t approve of based upon temporal political considerations.

  • Stop projecting. Soros isn’t a mythical hate figure. He’s a radical ideologue whose foundation is advocating and agitating directly for specific political and cultural changes. Changes that often align with Moore’s rhetoric.

    Meanwhile, radical policies merit radical labels. Citizenship for 12 million illegal aliens is radical. Opening the doors to large-scale immigration from the Islamic world is radical. Advocating for the rapid demographic transformation of the country is radical. It is (at least initially) a softer, cultural variation of the violent, political internationalism of Trotsky, but it’s no less revolutionary in long-term effects.

    I’m sure Moore would step back from the most radical immigration policies – he’s made the obligatory noises about securing the border before. But his pro-immigration rhetoric is indeed radical.

  • Defrauded the general public, defrauded investors, discriminated, refused to pay people for their work, abused legal process to attack people maliciously, promoted use of slave labor, and that is just his business dealings. Any pretense of moral fiber or character is a joke. Trump is simply not good person.

  • Your exaggeration and use of obscuring, deceptive language and terms is already self evident.

    Citizenship options for non violent, non criminal undocumented immigrants is simply acknowledging facts on the ground and deep sixing the underground economy the status quo and draconian measures produce. Your remarks smack of racist “– peril” nonsense which typified nativism arguments for the last 150 years.

    Accepting refugees from war torn areas or brutal dictatorships is what America has always done. Again you rely on fear mongering and prejudice rather than basic facts or principles. You aren’t going to fight Islamicist terror by doing what they want you to do. Which in this case is demonize refugees.

    Your use of Trotskyite is either ironic or ignorance on your part. As it was a typical arbitrary nonsense label Stalin gave to enemies. Your remarks are closer to communist rhetoric and forms than you realize.

  • Russell Moore as Josef Stalin or Leon Trotsky? What illegal drugs were you under the influence of when you wrote your last two bizarre posts?

  • No, because I can’t deny anyone their salvation in any way, shape, or form. I don’t have that power. God will save whom He will save. What I do want is a denomination that isn’t going to pander to my generation’s liberal tendencies to maintain its position of power. Better for us to lose their membership and stay orthodox than have their praise and be compromised.

  • Denial is a chintzy way to avoid a subject.

    Yes, Slave labor. He has construction interests in Dubai. Which is entirely built upon slave labor. You thought I was talking about the near slave wages of any of his clothing related products?

    Glad you are done. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • Can you unpack your logic a little here: “i KNOW it was God’s will for him to become President. If it wasn’t, then Cruz would have won the primary.” I am totally stumped by this statement and am trying to figure out how you got here. If you had said that you knew it was God’s will for Trump to be President because he beat Hillary, I guess I could see it, though that is a pretty deterministic view of the universe. But the fact that God wills that anyone who beats Ted Cruz in a primary to be President is beggaring my ability to reason. Please expound.

  • “Vindictive – I wouldn’t know – how do you?”

    The myriad of petty and public spats the Angry Oompa Loompa gets into with pretty much any of his critics is a good enough sign as any.

    Do you happen to work for Kellyann Conway?

  • “my generation’s liberal tendencies to maintain its position of power.”

    Liberal tendency? That has been an aspect of organized Christianity since Constantine. Its a reactionary thing. Ever since church met state, there was the urge of churches to maintain political power. Ever since church and state were separated by operation of law 200+ years ago, they have been trying to claw their way into political power ever since.

  • “The denomination seems to be swept up in an endless fight over all things theological, social and political.” Okay, Mr. Merritt. Let’s have them leave the Confederate flag and race alone so they can measure up to your standard better. Never mind your thoroughly research causality “The denomination’s combative posture and partisan reputation has likely contributed to its shrinking membership and baptisms.” You would have put Peter Berger out of work had you been his contemporary. Christian Smith, you’re warned. A group of Christians vigorously debating is right out of Acts 15. Don’t be a fluffer and try to create a seemingly more profound premise, just get to the story – some SBCers want payback for Moore’s posture on Trump. That’s interesting and newsworthy.

  • Interesting comment from a black man about his denomination and their liberal tendencies.

    This was the denomination that vigorously supported the God ordained institution of segregation 50 years ago, and took only 130 years to apologize for the god given institution of slavery.

  • Well there is always ivanka, who mOved her own manufacturing operations from china to Ethiopia because it was cheaper.

    Oh those job creators. Always creating jobs

  • Jonathan, the fact that a liberal writer from a left-wing publication like the Atlantic comes to the breathless defense of little baby face rusty Moore makes the point of his detractors.

    The problem with little Babyface rusty Moore is that he does not have the support of Baptists but rather seek the approval of left-wing journalists like Jonathan.

    It’s time to send Rusty to sojourners or Relevant Magazine, perhaps he can get a job with the Episcopalians or Presbyterians.

    He’s from Tennessee where I think they’re fond of saying “dance with the one who brung you”.

    Rusty has been shameful and disrespectful to the vast majority of Baptist men ever since he put his self in front of a camera. It’s time for him to go and until he does all Baptist should keep their hands in their pocket when the offering plate for him and his staff comes around.

  • “When Southern Baptists forced out moderates in the 80’s…”

    Uh… Define moderates? Denying the deity of Christ, the sufficiency and reliability of Scripture, and the swallowing a form of universalism is now qualifications for the “moderate” label??? Seriously?

  • This is one of your BEST articles ever. Right on target. Moore is a Crown Jewel in the SBC and to dismiss him would be the height of foolishness. It is the Grahams and the Jefresses of the the SBC that should be criticized. I find myself stunned by this, and stunned by the silliness of the response of your critics in the comments. The SBC risks losing its integrity, and yes, Ed Stetzer looks to be prophetic. No wonder he left for Wheaton.

  • Vindictive — not just Trump’s response to a tough but fair question from Megan Kelly, but continued to hound her for months. Then there’s the ambush he set for Cruz at the convention. And the trap he POSSIBLY set for Romney with the offer of consideration for Secretary of State. (No, I don’t know if he did, but after his treatment of Kelly and Cruz it’s certainly believable.) His attempt to drive an elderly widow out of her long-time home so he could bulldoze it for parking lot wasn’t vindictive, it was just evil.

    Honorless — He is not only a serial adulterer, and tried to convince at least one married womon to join him in adultery, but he’s BOASTED about both! And then there’s the way he’s pushed small business people to the edge and maybe over by refusing to pay what was contractually owed to them.

    Murderous — He called for our military to murder the families of terrorists.

    So yes, my description of Trump stands, as revealed by both his actions and statements.

  • All this talk about the political chicanery inside Southern Baptists is just testament to their fraudulence when they try to pass themselves off as implements of Jesus Christ.

  • Shorter Ken See: “Millennial are the worst… but I deserve to be left out of that generalization because I’m special!”

  • This article fails to mention the many flaws of HRC, that caused many evangelicals to choose Trump also praying for leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1 (NIV) I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

  • He didn’t say he wanted to do it
    He didn’t say he did it,
    He DID say “When your a star, they let you do it” which means it would be consensual
    Lastly, he apologized for the language he used in a private conversation that he didn’t know was being recorded.

    What is your problem? Did you just take the New York Times word for it, or did you listen to it yourself?

  • Sure. Hillary’s imaginary flaws are so much worse than trumps actual sins, and the imaginary principles of evangelicals that supported trump are nowhere near as true as their actual ones,

  • Losing its integrity?

    They justified slavery as god’s word. They justified segregation as god’s word. The justified their jihad against gay people as god’s word.

    When exactly did they have this integrity that they allegedly lost?

  • I was more concerned about HRC actual flaws, should I remind you about sending classified emails over unsecured web server, and her losing her right to practice law, mysterious deaths, etc.

  • The mysterious deaths are only mysterious to people who don’t need facts.

    Sending emails over unsecured servers? See SOS rice and SOS Powell, and the failure of any charges about this to stick.

    Mrs. Clinton being disbarred? Oh, yes, that old chestnut. It never, ever happened. She allowed her license to lapse.

    Oh wait, you’re not concerned about facts.

  • Wow. The lengths that you go to deny the notion that your political savior might have any flaws at all shows who you really truly worship.

  • Huh? Black man? If that was directed at me then my picture may be making me look black. No, I am native american. Sorry for the confusion 🙁

    And, no one alive today can answer for the crimes of our denomination that happened before we were born. I won’t apologize for sins I didn’t commit.

  • Never said that. There are any conservative millennials and I am one of them. Never said that they were the worst, just that we have liberal leanings as a general rule of thumb. Which, I think is undeniable. Pandering to progressive belief will lead to horrible theology and I don’t want that for the SBC.

  • We elected Trump the CEO of the United States of America. We expect a good return on our investment. More for our money, enforce our laws and protect the stockholders…. I’ll bet we get it.

    If he has time left over and wants to start drinking, having frequent sex with other women, watching porn and cracking dirty jokes, I really don’t care. As a matter of fact I don’t even know the name of the CEO of most of the companies I have investments with – but I know their record. That’s all I care about.

    Spuddie is just like Russell Moore and Al Mohler, but he’d never admit it – he has an agenda he wants to see enacted and damn the little people.

  • So you are as gullible as the myriad of investors and contractors he has left in the lurch. A business which apparently relies on bankruptcy and onerous litigation to stay afloat does not point to one being run well. Oh well.

    He can’t even run a business with any degree of reliability or professional conduct. So it’s no wonder his personal life is also rife with improprieties and moral quicksand.

    You didn’t help elect Warren Buffet, you helped elect Monty Burns.

    And no I am not like Russell Moore. He was a political scumbag before and remains one. I don’t find his attitude credible. I am not one of his defenders. I am not a defender of Donald Trump either.

  • Yeah that’s right – he’s a complete buffoon. ANYBODY could make 10 billion dollars. Why – YOU could do it if you wanted to, but you don’t want to be greedy and unseemly.

    You know nothing about business, especially building projects the size of Trump’s. Bankruptcy is not illegal and it is not uncommon AT ALL in this business to withhold payment from a sub until the work is complete per specifications. This sometimes ends up being litigated.

    There is nothing unusual about any of this – you are grasping at straws (with your tiny fingers)! hahaha! See what I did there? 🙂

  • According to various billionaires who actually run their businesses well, given what he started with, “ANYBODY could make 10 billion dollars” would be very true. In fact many say that had he invested his inheritance wisely, his net worth would have been far more. He squandered more money than he has made. Hence the reluctance to divulge his tax records.

    Donald Trump is the proverbial guy born on 3rd base and talks like he hit a triple. Again, we are not talking about a Warren Buffet type self-made man. He inherited his wealth and business and simply ran with it.

    “Bankruptcy is not illegal and it is not uncommon AT ALL in this business
    to withhold payment from a sub until the work is complete per

    Neither are signs that someone is doing business in a responsible fashion either when done constantly. Your apologia for the Angry Cheeto is becoming less and less anchored to reality here.

    The next 4 years should be a fun ride. Maybe we will be around to see it. 🙂

  • Or something that everyone who’s been watching knows, but denied by closed minds with closed eyes. Read any ten facts about Trump and you’ll realize he’s evil.

  • And gosh. Mrs. Clinton has escaped prosecution for her innumerable crimes for nearly 30 years.

    One would almost think there isn’t any evidence outside of the right wing mindset.

  • The conservative SBC is basically a cult, where thru tacit demands and expectations, they demand that their followers behave, act and believe like each other. As a former SB, I am horrified by the acts of the leaders, who seem to pronounce their beliefs with the authority of the Pope. Funny how they despise Catholicism, but exert the same authority on their congregations.

  • Yes it was only by God’s appointment that they became in charge. I’m not sure what you mean by that second question though.

  • Cruz is a fantastic senator and he does a great job there. That being said, he is no President. I can guarantee he would have buckled under the pressure and wouldn’t be willing to stand by his previous statements as trump has.

  • Mr. Moore has marginalized himself. With his attempts to twist Christian principles into a “social justice warrior” political platform, he has distanced himself from traditional Christianity. His smug political pronouncements, which culminated in his announcement, early in the Presidential campaign, that Donald Trump is not a Christian (because of his disagreements with Moore’s stances), have demonstrated his disdain for basic Christian ideas, and revealed him to be just another leftist ideologue. He is damaging the Baptist church with his attempts to drag it into the political fray.

  • The baptist church has been dragging itself into political feats since the ’60’s. whether 18 or 19 doesn’t matter.

    Basic Christian ideas? Which ones are we talking about?

  • As a Southern Baptist minister, I believe, as the Bible says, that my job is to pray for our government leaders. I have the opportunity to vote and I chose to vote against Hillary Clinton because I will not vote for anyone who wants to so desperately to kill unborn and born babies. I voted all my choices, lost some and won some. Ultimately God is in control whether the morals are right or wrong of my government leaders. In most cases, to my disappointment, most of our leaders are corrupt. I speak against the issues but it ultimately it comes down to having to let the government leaders to make the right or wrong decision. I don’t agree that Russell Moore should be speaking against the man but speaking against his moral a constitutional issues right now. Trump is not even President yet. And many of our Presidents had questionable moral issues. On the other hand I think it is wrong for churches or other Southern Baptist organizations to withhold their “tithe” from the convention since that would be sin. If I don’t like my Pastor, which I have had some I did not like very much, I still gave my tithe to my church because that is what the Bible tells us to do. Are we going to believe our basic moral issues for ourselves from the Bible or pick and choose like the world does what we decide is right and maybe have an exception to. The Bible tells me how to live but I can make right and wrong choices which will have good consequences and bad consequences. All people concerned here need to go back to basic biblical principals and biblical faith. Love your neighbor as yourself whether or not they live Christian morals or are morally corrupt just like Jesus loves them and will always love them. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind which means seek Him for knowledge, understanding and wisdom, not knee jerk.

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