How Christians can care for displaced college students

COVID-19 through the eyes of a college senior

March 26, 2020

We are all shaped by the events that we live through. I was born in 1998; I’ve never known a pre-9/11 world. I felt my parents go through the 2008 financial crisis. I graduated high school in the national turmoil of the 2016 presidential election. And now, I graduate college, without a ceremony, into a world that feels like it is collapsing around me. I’m looking for a job in a world of tremendous illness, uncertainty, fear, hiring freezes, and soaring unemployment. Young people today, just like those before us, have known tragedy and loss一 we grew up in it. But this feels unprecedented, and brings a different kind of grief.

My friends and I were given days to evacuate our campuses. Student-athletes’ careers were instantly over. The internships, study abroad programs, and things we’ve worked so hard for were suddenly gone. We were sent back to places that, for many, no longer feel like home and prematurely said goodbye to the people that have become our families.  We can’t help but feel like important lasts went unnoticed and meaningful goodbyes went unsaid. 

In addition to the very real emotional losses we are facing, our futures feel especially uncertain. Some students had already moved out of their homes before college, and now, they have been evicted from their schools to return to a “home” that no longer exists. As they were forced to leave, many college students lost the part-time jobs they relied on to meet their needs. While paying down crippling student loans and continuing to pay rent and tuition, college seniors are trying to find jobs in a world where no one is hiring and pre-existing offers are being rescinded. 

It is natural and right to grieve the loss of the time we were supposed to have and the incredibly difficult circumstances we are facing, but Christian college students must not stay there. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us that we do not grieve as those without hope. We have confidence that, although we may not walk across a stage, God sees and knows the work that we’ve done. We can reflect with gratitude on the gift that our college experiences have been. We can remind ourselves that God has always been in control and will remain in control in the days to come. As our circumstances seem more uncertain and our comfort has been stripped away, let us lean into the Comforter and trust that none of this has taken him by surprise. 

So, what can the church do? How should Christians care for the college students among us?

1. Pray: Ask God to reveal himself in a new way to college students as they are forced to recognize dependence on him more completely than before. As I said before, college seniors are facing a daunting job market. Many were forced to leave or laid off from their current jobs at their schools. Some go home to financial uncertainty or scarcity. All are losing their community and will face loneliness. Pray that God would provide in tangible ways with jobs, finances, friends, and peace.

2. Extend grace: In times of tragedy, it is easy for us to minimize the experiences of others and count their feelings as less valid than our own. As young people, there is the temptation to say, “Well, I’m not vulnerable—who cares what I do?” As older people, there is the temptation to say, “You’re not even at risk—why are you complaining about your loss?” While we all have seen our fair share of tragedy, none of us has lived through a pandemic and done this before. It is a weird time for us all, and we are all doing our best with what we have to make it through this. Love your neighbor by extending grace to each other, genuinely listening and seeking to understand the pain we are each feeling in our own ways.

3. Give: Reach out to a local church or university and see if they know of any college students in need. Giving financially, providing temporary housing, storing items, or helping with transportation are practical ways to love college students well. If you order takeout from a restaurant, consider tipping above your normal amount. If you are working from home, ask a college student in your neighborhood to help you with childcare as a form of employment. If you want to look further, check out this spreadsheet that Jefferson Bethke created where people are posting needs and others are meeting them.

4. Celebrate: Think of creative ways you can celebrate and champion the accomplishments of the college seniors in your life. Send them a card in the mail. Give them a call. Even if there are no ceremonies to attend or parties to throw, let them know that you are proud of them and love them.

As we journey through these tragic days and grieve all of the things that should have been, cling to the one whose ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:8) and who is in control yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). In him is our trust and our hope.

Hannah Daniel

Hannah Daniel serves as the ERLC’s director of public policy, representing the policy interests of Southern Baptists to government through advocacy and education. Originally from Tennessee, she graduated from Union University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in economics. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., … Read More

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