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Hello, fellow wayfarers. How Tucker Carlson taught us to fear the wrong thing … What an insult from Tucker Carlson taught me about praying for people who don’t like me … Why the future always seems ridiculous … A Desert Island Bookshelf that went down to Georgia … And “May the fourth” be with you … This is this week’s Moore to the Point.

Russell Moore

Tucker Carlson and the Fear of Replacement

“I only get an hour a week; Tucker gets five.” I’ve heard a sentiment along these lines countless times from evangelical pastors—although they sometimes replaced “Tucker” with “Laura” or “Sean” or another Fox News cable host.

After his firing by the network, Tucker Carlson no longer has five hours a week. But his legacy ought to tell us just how much the church has secularized. Nowhere is this clearer than in the kind of replacement theory embraced by so many Christians.

Originating on the white nationalist fringes, the “great replacement theory” holds that “globalist” elites are seeking to replace white Americans with Black and brown immigrants from around the world. At the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, for instance, the alt-right crowd chanted, You will not replace us; Jews will not replace us.”

This view was made mainstream by Carlson, perhaps more so than by any other figure, because he promoted extreme voices few others would. When others would hint in the direction of the great replacement theory, Carlson would explicitly articulate it, even arguing that immigrants were making the country “dirtier.”

Many Christians have never heard of the great replacement theory and never watch Carlson or any other cable news commentator. Yet they can find themselves changed by the great replacement theory’s vibe, if not its explicit content. That’s because the most significant carrier of conspiracy theories such as this one is not cognitive but limbic. What’s needed is a general stance of fear about an existential threat—like the threat of being replaced.

Two years ago, commentator David Frum argued that there actually is a great replacement happening, but not the one popularized by Carlson and others. Frum said, “The most politically important ‘great replacement’ underway in the United States is the ‘replacement’ of conservative Christians by their own liberal and secular children and grandchildren.”

Frum’s argument should come with lots of caveats and qualifications. As with those who say that demographic change with increased minority populations would lead to a permanent progressive majority in the United States, some naively assume that secularization trends will mean the end of religion—especially of conservative Christianity.

For all sorts of reasons, this is not the case. But Frum is correct that one of the most seismic generational changes over the past 20 years is the rise of the “nones,” referring to those with no religious affiliation. And the younger we go on the generational chart, the sharper the decline of religious self-identification, worship attendance, and other metrics.

One reason American Christians are in a state of denial about these realities is that so many are sorting themselves into the wrong “us.” Every blood-and-soil form of fear-based identity politics thrives on defining us in terms of visceral categories like race, tribe, or nationality. This assumes a blatantly social Darwinian view of what human communities are or can be.

The problem for Christians is that the gospel contradicts this ideology at its very root.

If “Christianity” for you is white and American, then it is not only out of step with the Bible; it is also precisely the kind of religion that almost every chapter of the New Testament explicitly repudiates as carnal and pagan.

The gospel situates us in a whole new story—one based on the promise God made to Abraham (Rom. 4; Gal. 3:1–9). If the church is just another way for humans to protect their gene pools, then Jesus was a fraud from his first sermon onward (Luke 4:25–27). If the blood-and-soil nationalists are correct about what defines success, then the crowds were right to call out for a leader like Barabbas instead of Jesus (John 18:40).

But Jesus and his apostles gave us an entirely different vision of how we and us are ultimately defined. The apostle Paul is in sync with the rest of the New Testament canon when he reveals that “here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11).

Once we lose that biblical sense of “we-ness” overall, any threat to the places where we do catch rare glimpses of it is considered an ultimate threat—capable of destroying “us” completely. If we have misplaced hopes, we will have misplaced fears. When we seek the wrong kingdom, we will fear the wrong apocalypse.

That sense of paralyzing fear can also fuel the loss of the next generation. If the only choices we offer are secularization and paganization, we shouldn’t be surprised that they choose one or the other. Moreover, our children will find it very hard to connect a scared and anxious church with a Jesus who perspired not a drop before the leaders of the Roman Empire but sweat blood before the face of God (Luke 22:44).

The implicit but faulty logic is that if we teach a generation to fear many things, they will at least fear the things they ought to. But it doesn’t work that way. When my generation was taught that rock music included hidden “backward masked” satanic messages, this did not lead us to become more discerning about cultural narratives. And when we found out this wasn’t true, it only taught us to wonder what other of our elders’ fears were imagined or fabricated.

But if Jesus is right that our ultimate belonging comes not by our flesh but through the Spirit (John 3:3–8), then none of us can consider our present or potential future siblings in Christ scary or “unclean.” If we really believe in the unstoppable advance of God’s kingdom, then we will be known by our joy and peace—not by our fear and loathing.

Cable television hosts come and go, but there will always be people who try to make us find our identity in the wrong places and our enemies in the wrong people. They want us to be afraid so we will look for someone or something to fight for us. The great replacement theory is bad for democracy, but it is even more poisonous to the church.

The church will go on into the future, even in America. And it will probably be led then by the very people we are told to fear now.

Jesus Loves Tucker Carlson

A few weeks ago, Tucker Carlson blasted me on his show as a “chest-beating Christian.” The initial transcript, which I saw before I saw the clip, had it as “breastfeeding Christian,” which was really confusing. Either way, I’ve been called a lot worse. When news of Carlson’s firing went out, lots of people called or texted, asking me what I thought of it. The short answer: I wasn’t beating my chest about it.

People have a tendency to view public figures like him as either superheroes or supervillains. One’s stance on Fox vs. Dominion and so forth can determine whether a firing like that is considered a news item to celebrate or one to denounce.

But Tucker Carlson is not an avatar. He’s a real, live human being who just lost his job.

I know what some of you would say—because part of me is saying those things to myself. Whether with lies about the election, denigration of immigrants and refugees, January 6 revisionism, or giving platforms to nativists and white nationalists, Carlson has hurt a lot of people.

But the tax collectors of the Roman Empire in Jesus’ day hurt a lot of people too. Jesus went to Zacchaeus’s house anyway—and not with reluctance or hesitation. I’m not equating cable television hosts with first-century tax collectors, but Jesus’ obvious love for the latter should alter whether and on whom we have compassion.

I know that Tucker Carlson is rich, the heir to a fortune even before he ever went into television. Yet firing is not just about a loss of income; it hurts even when no bills go unpaid as a result.

I’ve never been fired or even close to it, but I know what it is like for people (mostly those who didn’t understand how our complicated denomination’s system actually worked) to think you’re about to be fired. Suddenly, some start avoiding you in public, stepping back to see whether you will “survive.” When you do, they’re back, and that’s even more disorienting.

Those who have been able to separate their sense of identity from their jobs might have a different response, but for many, being fired can feel less like a job loss and more like a death. “It’s not like a loved one has died,” one man whose factory laid him off once told me. “It’s like I’ve died.”

That kind of hurt deserves our compassion, even with someone who did a job in a way that we might find wrong. That’s possible only if we see people as people—with the possibility of change and with emotions that go deeper than their personas.

So whether you love or hate Tucker Carlson the television character, you can still pray for Tucker Carlson the human being, created in the image of God. Jesus loves him; this I know. With all kinds of folks, I have to remind myself of that and repent of doing the opposite. Even when I’m chest-beating, I’m not yet the Christian I want to be.

The Future Is Ridiculous

At a conference of pro-democracy folks in Philadelphia this week, someone quoted a person I’d never heard of—a futurist named Jim Dator. The quote was this: “Any useful statement about the future should appear to be ridiculous.”

I have no idea of the context or intended meaning behind Dator’s remark. But I do know that, at least in the most significant ways, the idea is on target, especially at this time in world history.

Most people don’t think much about what they find ridiculous and what they find ubiquitous. Yet the time gap between the two has narrowed dramatically—what seems absurd quickly becomes commonplace.

Over the years of teaching Christian ethics to future pastors and missionaries, I tried my best to find the most ridiculous yet semi-plausible scenarios to use as examples. As I’ve mentioned here before, my students usually thought these stories were akin to science fiction, something that would never happen. But I believed (and still believe) that they would be doing ministry in a science-fiction-y future.

Some think of the future in terms of straight-upward progress; others, in terms of straight-downward decline. Both are myths. But whatever our beliefs about the future, it seldom turns out the way we assume it will—just a linear continuation of whatever we see in front of us.

As Augustine told us in The City of God, every era between the Fall and Jesus’ return is a mixture of both darkness and light. We are often surprised by how grim the future can be. And we are often surprised to find that even in the future, grace abounds.

The Scriptures show that our temptation is to just say, “Tomorrow will be like today, only more so” (Isa. 56:12, NASB). But whether in our personal lives or in history as a whole, that’s just not true.

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose crops were plentiful and who assumed that his future would be filled with that kind of abundance. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:20). The apostle Peter wrote that people wrongly say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).

It’s good to prepare for the future, but only if we recognize that it will look a lot stranger than what we can see from here. Since that’s inevitable, embrace the strangeness. Focus on what will outlast the future. Those permanent things often seem even more ridiculous sometimes. But that makes them no less true.

Desert Island Bookshelf

Every other week, I share a list of books that one of you says you’d want to have on hand if you were stranded on a deserted island. This week’s submission comes from reader Patty Rasmussen in Conyers, Georgia, who writes that their family used to play this when her kids were young, but they limited it to three to five books. Here’s her list:

  • The Melendy Family by Elizabeth Enright—I’m cheating a little with this one because it’s an anthology of three outstanding young adult books written in the 1930s and 1940s: The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, and Then There Were Five. I loved them as a young girl, read them to my children, and now read them to my grandchildren. The volume pictured is a treasured first edition. I literally never tire of reading about Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver and their adventures.

  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker—I am a home cook and enjoy trying new things. The spine of this book is broken, the pages are stained and warped, but there are entire sections I haven’t read.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—It’s a beautiful story of family love led by a strong matriarch. Let’s just say, I can relate.

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens—Is there anything more poetic than Dickens’s opening to this masterful novel and anything more tragically heroic than Sydney Carton’s sacrifice?

  • A Man for All Seasons (play) by Robert Bolt—I grew up in a Catholic military family. There was a lot of talk about doing the right thing for the right reasons. And I went to a Catholic school for a couple of years: St. Thomas More.

  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand—This book was meaningful to my dad at a time when his mind was going because of dementia. It was a blessing and comfort to him, and I understand why. It’s a story of strength, sorrow, humility, and salvation.

  • Favorite Poems Old and New, compiled by Helen Ferris—My mother and father gave this to me for my 10th birthday. It’s moved with me all over the world. Like my cookbook, the spine is broken, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read this one cover to cover.

Thank you, Patty!

Readers, what do you think? If you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life and could have only one playlist or one bookshelf with you, what songs or books would you choose?

  • For a Desert Island Playlist, send me a list of 5–12 songs, excluding hymns and worship songs. (We’ll cover those later.)

  • For a Desert Island Bookshelf, send me a list of 5–12 books. If possible, include one photo of all the books together.

Send your list (or both lists!) to, and include as much or as little explanation of your choices as you would like.

Quote of the Moment

It is wholesome therefore for the Church to stand under the stinging rebuke “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” a rebuke in the form of a statement of fact which history has validated again and again.

—Reinhold Niebuhr, in his essay “The Christian Church in a Secular Age”

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Russell Moore

Russell Moore
Editor in Chief

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