Chief Kelvin Cochran suspended for telling the truth

December 18, 2014

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has suspended the city’s Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran from his position. It is a month’s suspension without pay.

I know Chief Cochran. He is a Georgia Baptist – one of us. Chief Cochran is a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church in the Noonday Association. He serves there as a deacon and a Sunday School teacher. He is a humble, dedicated, faithful servant of God. However, Chief Cochran has been suspended without pay for one month, because he authored a Christian book in which he describes homosexuality as a “perversion.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokeswoman Anne Torres said the administration didn’t know about (Cochran’s book) “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” until employees came forward with complaints last week. In addition to suspending Cochran, Reed’s office has now opened an investigation to determine whether the chief discriminated against employees.

“Cochran has been ordered to undergo sensitivity training and barred from distributing copies of the book on city property after a number of firefighers said they received them in the workplace, Torres said.”

Kelvin Cochran was born in Shreveport, LA in 1960. He was the fourth of six children and his father died when he was five-years-old. After his father’s death the family moved to a “shotgun” house on Rear Snow Street in an impoverished section of the city. His mother never remarried and struggled to make sure her children were fed and clothed.

One Sunday after church Kelvin and his family heard fire trucks headed down their street. The house across the street from where they lived had caught fire. Kelvin watched as the firefighters put on their equipment and got their fire hoses to extinguish the inferno. It was then, as a five-year-old boy, that Kelvin decided that he wanted to become a firefighter.

He had been taught that if you put your faith in God, get a good education, respect your elders and treat others as you would have them treat you that your dreams will come true.

During those years there were no blacks in the Shreveport Fire Department, but Kelvin was never discouraged from dreaming his dream. Kelvin grew up under the ministry of Rev. E. Edward Jones, who became the pastor of Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport in 1958, and who continues to provide godly leadership for the church.

Pastor Jones became a father figure and a role model for Kelvin. He also observed the character of godly men with good families. Upon graduating from high school Kelvin went to Louisiana Tech in Ruston, but it was a shortlived academic endeavor. He left the college and went back to Shreveport to fulfill his goal of becoming a firefighter. His dream was realized when he earned his place with the Shreveport Fire Department in 1981. ithin four years he was promoted to fire training officer and served in this capacity from 1985 to 1990, when he became assistant chief training officer and continued to earn promotions until he became the department’s fire chief in August of 1999. That was also the year he received his bachelor’s degree from Wiley College. Ultimately, he went back to Louisiana Tech, reversed his earlier academic misfortunes and earned a master’s degree.

On January 2, 2008, Chief Cochran was selected by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to become the city’s Fire Chief. He entered into a Daniel fast prior to making his decision and concluded that God was leading him to accept the position.

He served in that capacity until July 2009, when President Barack Obama appointed him as U. S. Fire Administrator for the United States Fire Administration in Washington, D. C. In that capacity, Chief Cochran was charged with overseeing, coordinating, and directing national efforts to prevent fires and improve fire responses.

On May 8, 2010 Chief Cochran returned to Atlanta to resume the position of fire chief. As the Atlanta’s Fire Chief, Cochran has spent innumerable hours training his force of almost 1200 people. He has shared the principles and values that he believes are essential to a caring and efficient department.

Among those principles, which he has called “The Fire Service Doctrines” is the value which he has called “Ism Free”. He insists that there is to be no discrimination regarding sexism, favoritism, racism, territorialism or nepotism. Under Cochran’s administration that has became the code for the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department.

Kelvin’s leadership as an Atlanta public servant roots back to his faith and commitment to Christ. Kelvin and his wife, Carolyn, are a part of Elizabeth Baptist Church and serve as an integral part of their fellowship.

Several months ago the men of the church were engaged in a series of studies called “A Quest for Authentic Manhood;’ and when some of the men began to mention their struggles with condemnation Cochran wondered how “saved” men could live under the dark cloud of guilt and condemnation. The question, “Who told you that you were naked?” gripped his heart and mind.

He began to study the word “naked” from a Biblical perspective and concluded that the “naked” were spiritually dead. He thought, “The instigator of spiritual death is Satan. The progenitor of spiritual death is Adam. And when Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s provocative temptation they realized that they were naked.”

Cochran also studied the word “clothed” and realized that it was a reference to redemption. He surmised, “When a man is adequately covered, he is confident and accountable – that a redeemed man is no longer ‘the naked’, but with Christ he is ‘the clothed.’”

The Fire Chief sensed that through his study the Lord was leading him to write a book that he chose to call “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”

Cochran has never tried to market his self-published book, but has shared the book with his church and has given books to his colleagues at work. After work on Monday the Chief has hosted a Bible study for those who were interested. Other colleagues have frequently sought him out for spiritual counseling. He consistently provided counsel by sharing truths from the Word of God.

Even when he gave his books to colleagues he never signed the books as the Fire Chief, because he did not want to appear to use his position in an untoward way. However on page 82 of Cochran’s book he wrote that uncleanness “is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion.”

Those words, which are consistent with the teaching of the Bible, are the words that prompted Cochran’s suspension. But this issue is bigger than the impact it has had on Kelvin Cochran. It impacts every Baptist and every person of faith in Georgia and in the nation.

I realize that our churches are open and our religious institutions continue to function and everything on the religious front may look copacetic. But when you begin to look beneath the surface, cknowledge the threats and analyze them, you begin to realize that our religious liberty is under an organized and concentrated assault.

Recently there have been multiple attempts to prevent Christians from speaking to the cultural issues of the day. The Christian Index have attempted to communicate to you, our readers, of some of the moves to silence believers, to push activist agendas, to stifle freedom and to intimidate our pulpits.

In Janet Folger Porter’s book, The Criminalization of Christianity, she writes, “As a Christian in this country, you may be understandably reluctant to speak out on moral issues like abortion, homosexuality, or pornography. But while we have the right to remain silent, that’s not what God calls us to do.

“Because if the world can silence the truth, it will silence the Gospel.”

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