On August 4, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will host a civil forum as part of the Send North America Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. At that event, I will talk with two candidates for President of the United States, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, about their vision for the future before an audience of 13,000 pastors and leaders from around the country.
Last year, we decided that we would have some sort of forum, about issues of concern to evangelicals. Because we only have time for any substantive conversation with two or maybe three candidates, we decided early on we would need an objective standard by which we would determine who would receive an invitation. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were among those who qualified to receive an invitation, and I’m very glad they accepted. We also invited Hillary Clinton, and she declined. I regret that, since I think it would have been respectful conversation that would have enabled her to speak to questions evangelicals have, and could have modeled our disagreements with her with civility.
This forum will be the first in a series of conversations with candidates, and we’re already in conversation with other campaigns about these. I want our constituency of gospel Christians to hear from everyone possible, of all parties and all ideologies. I’m glad that Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio have agreed to kick off this ongoing conversation.
In recent years, some candidates have sought to woo evangelicals with God-talk. If a candidate can give a “testimony” of “faith,” and quote from a couple of hymns, sometimes he or she expects that to be enough to win over evangelicals. The stakes are too high for identity politics. Instead, we should return to an older part of our heritage. The early Baptists—such as John Leland and Jeremiah Moore and the Danbury Association—were nobody’s political pawns or proxies. But they were deeply engaged in talking to candidates and leaders about matters such as religious liberty and the limits on the state over conscience. We should do the same.
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SOURCE: Moore to the Point
Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.