5 things to remember after seeing terrorism in Chattanooga

July 17, 2015

I confess. I was speeding just a little bit. When it comes to speeding, the saying I’ve heard is, “Eight you’re great, but nine you’re mine.” I saw the lights and heard the sirens, so I pulled over right after I exited onto Lee Highway.

The policeman wasn’t going after me, though. He circumnavigated my minivan and pulled into the parking lot of the slightly-run-down strip mall. Usually, that lot is where people go to illegally park their cars to avoid airport parking fees, but something different happened on this day.

A terrorist attacked two military recruitment offices. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire and murdered four Marines. This act of domestic terrorism has rocked our city. It has rocked our country.

One of the recruiters at the next recruitment office on Abdulazeez’ hit list is a member of the church where I am the pastor. He and his wife called me shortly after the shootings and asked, “What should we do?” I felt led of the Holy Spirit to host a prayer vigil for our city. So, our church family and many others from our community gathered as we lit candles and prayed at length. I addressed five things to remember and for which to pray after seeing terrorism in our town. I hope they’ll help you learn how to address terrorism with a Christian ethic.

1. Avoid nationalism and racism, and ask God to give you concern for your city and country (Jonah 4:10–11)

“Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez” sounds a bit different than “John Doe.” It is obviously a Muslim name. You can tell he is of Middle Eastern descent just by looking at his picture. Most of us recognize that racism is a problem in our country. But a sin that is less discussed is nationalism—the belief that you and your country are better than someone when you compare your country to theirs.  But the danger with comparing yourself with someone else is that it leads to you feel either inferior or superior to someone instead of finding your sufficiency in Christ.

The prophet Jonah saw a revival come to Ninevah, and instead of celebrating of what God did through his ministry, he threw a pity party because people who didn’t look or sound like him received salvation. His bigotry superseded his theology. God concludes the book of Jonah by explaining His merciful heart for the Assyrian people. Let’s learn from Jonah’s mistake, and instead of falling into the temptations of nationalism and racism, ask God to give us concern for the people of our city and our country who come from every tribe, tongue and nation.

2. Ask God to give peace and prosperity to your city and country (Jeremiah 29:7)

Tourism has an $893.3 million economic impact on Chattanooga (Travel Industry Association of America). Needless to say, the idea of loading up the kids and driving to visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo may be a bit hard to swallow considering a terrorist just opened fire here.

Following terroristic activity, it is important to pray for peace and prosperity. I’m theologically conservative, and sometimes my fellow conservative friends get the heebeegeebees at the mention of the word “prosperity.” They automatically associate it with the name-it-and-claim-it vein of theology. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about asking God to provide economic health to an otherwise vulnerable situation that could threaten the welfare of our neighbors.

3. Pray for your city to become a place of refuge and rest instead of a place of terror (Psalm 5:11)

I want my city to be a place of refuge and no longer a place of terror. Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam addressed the sadness of the scenic city when he said, “Chattanooga is a great city with a broken heart.” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said, “This is a tragic day for our city.” Yes, we have been terrorized. I will not leave my house today with the same carefree attitude as I did the day before. However, it doesn’t have to stay that way. I will pray for this place to become a city of refuge where people can come to find a message of Hope and the rest they long for.

4. Pray for God to use this tragedy to stir up conversations about Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

The Apostle Paul spoke of the Thessalonians’ proclamation of Jesus to the Macedonians and Achaians, but then it went everywhere, and they received a “warm reception” when talking about Jesus. My prayer is that God would help us in the midst of this tragedy to have a warm reception as we seek to talk about Jesus. After all, this is the kind of time when people start thinking about their own life and death. May God give evangelistic opportunities in the midst of hurting hearts and trembling souls.

5. Pray for revival (Jonah 3:6-10)

Lastly, this tragedy should be a reminder of the need for the Holy Spirit to cause revival to sweep across America and the world. Yes, we need to think through the policy implications that might have prevented an attack like this. Yes, we need to beware of those with associations and fascinations with extreme violence. However, more than anything, we need Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Jeremy Roberts

Jeremy Roberts is married with two children and serves as the Lead Pastor of Church of the Highlands, Chattanooga, TN. He is an Adjunct Professor at Liberty University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes books and blog posts and host a weekly leadership podcast. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24