Today’s ERLC Leadership Roundtable brings together several members of the ERLC Leadership Network Council to discuss what specific cultural issues they are particularly interested in during 2014.
Today’s Roundtable participants include:
- Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Houston, Texas
- Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas
- Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn.
- Richard Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.
- Phillip Bethancourt, Executive Vice President, ERLC
- John Powell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hamlin, Texas
- Justin Wainscott, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.
What is one particular cultural issue you are carefully watching in 2014 and why?
- Bart Barber: At the beginning of the year I’m seeing an increase in non-religious critiques of our pornography culture. I’m watching that because I believe that pornography lies at the heart of a lot of the other sex-related problems that our culture faces. Pornography normalizes the sexually abnormal and destroys the sexually normal. It will take a lot more than GQ articles to make a difference, but if the tide would turn against pornography, that would be a major change in our culture.
- Jon Akin: I will keep an eye on the gay marriage/traditional marriage debate for at least two reasons. First, I don't think the church has generally engaged this issue like Jesus would. It seems to me from the New Testament that Jesus would be friends with and show much more grace to those who face same-sex attraction, so should his Body on earth. Second, I am interested because this seems to be a religious liberty discussion as well with those arguing for tolerance being very intolerant.
- Richard Piles: I am very interested in the same-sex marriage rulings. To think this is just an issue outside of the Bible belt is wrong. A lawsuit has been filed in my state of Arkansas and will be up to voters again very soon. How will Arkansas respond?
- Phillip Bethancourt: 2014 is the year of religious liberty. Many are aware of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases going before the Supreme Court over religious liberty concerns with the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The less familiar Supreme Court case is the Town of Greece case, which has significant religious liberty implications for public prayer. Outside the United States, religious liberty is a major concern, with recent reports indicating that the number of Christians martyred in 2013 doubled from 2012.
- John Powell: I'm watching the legalization of marijuana as an interesting issue with implications for my local community. There is an increasing usage of “legal drugs” (termed K2) in my small community amongst the junior high and high school aged kids. Legislation is not on the books to ban this particular drug, and there is a lot of local community effort to push this issue to our state legislators. Growing popularity for legalization of illegal drugs will have implications for this legislation, and for the children in our youth group in particular. We're watching families decay and this is just another piece of that equation.
- Justin Wainscott: Religious liberty, both at home and internationally. The recent threats to religious liberty here in the U.S. should motivate us to be more aware, but the global persecution of Christians, which is steadily on the rise and much worse than anything we are facing here at home, cannot be something we just ignore.