The solution to domestic violence in the NFL

October 1, 2014

Multiple domestic violence cases in the NFL in the past few weeks have caused outrage in the media, throughout the league, and among the fan base. Many fans and media outlets appear to be just as outraged by the way the Commissioner initially handled the earliest reports of the recent domestic violence cases. Consequently, the Commissioner’s critics continue to call for his resignation, which he currently refuses to give.

Far too many women suffer from domestic violence regardless of their race, social status, or geographic location. Growing up as a child, I witnessed my mother in my early pre-teenage years suffer domestic violence at the hands of her husband—who was not my father. I witnessed firsthand the ugliness of this gross sin and the emotional trauma that it causes a child. However, I also know very well that the fundamental solution to the sin of domestic violence, which is not limited to the NFL, is not merely policies, procedures, training, rules and regulations.

The solution to domestic violence, just as any form of discrimination and injustice, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I saw my mom beaten by her husband, there was no law or policy that could make his spiritually dead heart want to stop kicking her in the head after he threw her on the ground, or from smacking her in the face, or from hitting her till she was severely bruised. Even when people in my family came to my mother’s rescue with violent threats and defensive actions against this coward of a man, he eventually returned to his violent actions against her after protective family members were no longer a threat to him. The only solution to his cowardice, to his rage, to his violence, and to his sin against my mom was the transforming power of the gospel—a gospel which this man did not personally embrace and obey.

And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the real solution to the problem of domestic violence in the NFL.

As I listen to and watch the talking heads offer various criticisms and solutions to the problem of this domestic violence, I have heard very few offer ridiculous excuses for the players (e.g. bad social environment, difficult home life, etc.). However, I have heard both unhelpful and helpful solutions to rectifying this problem within the league. I have not yet heard anyone on ESPN or in the mainstream media offer the gospel of Jesus Christ as the solution to this egregious problem.

Regardless of how much money NFL football players make, how famous they are, how difficult their childhoods were, and how much God-given talent they have, we must remember that they all are totally depraved sinners and guilty before God because of their sin, just as every other son and daughter of Adam and Eve. Many of these men are simply spoiled, violent, entitled, and self-worshipping idolaters, just as Adam, Eve, and their descendants (e.g. Gen. 3:1-7; 4:8). And many of them overtly practice the sins within their own hearts by doing what is right in their own eyes because of their spiritual deadness (Gen. 6:5; Eph. 2:1-10).

As a result, these men do not fundamentally need rehabilitation or parental or marital classes—although these things can be helpful—as though these actions will by themselves change the evil within their violent hearts and that shows itself via their violent actions toward women. Instead, they need to hear, believe and be transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to hear and respond by faith to the gospel message that a Jewish Messiah violently suffered the wrath of God on the cross and resurrected from the dead for sinners who were alienated from God and one another so that those same sinners would be peacefully reconciled to God and one another by faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-22).

These men need to repent of their sins, embrace Jesus Christ as Lord by faith, and seek to live in faithful obedience to him in their social interaction with the women in their lives.

The reason some of these men in the NFL beat their wives, beat their girlfriends, are bad fathers, and live as irresponsible citizens is not fundamentally because of their race, their society, or their environment, but rather because of the spiritual deadness of their own hearts (Eph. 2:1-10).

Yes, one’s environment affects how one acts, but sin makes one’s environment sinful. The gospel can radically transform these men. If the gospel can transform a violent persecutor of the church like Saul of Tarsus into the greatest missionary in the history of Christianity (Acts 7:58-8:3; 9:1-31; Gal. 1:12-16), it can transform an unregenerate domestic violence offender in any sports league.

To clarify, my point is not that the NFL is filled with domestic violent offenders. There are many good men in the league (e.g. Peyton Manning). Furthermore, my point is neither that only Christian NFL players are law-abiding citizens. There are non-Christian players who love their wives and their kids. And my point is not that one’s embrace of the gospel will automatically result in peaceful relations with one’s wife. Christians fail daily to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Unfortunately, some Christian men have even sinfully committed domestic violence against their wives.

The point that I’m accentuating is that the gospel of Jesus Christ will transform the human heart that is dead in sin.

It provides the solution to the problem of sin and the provision for how sinners can be saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-4:25; 5:6-10). It will supernaturally enable Christians to pursue love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) and put away enmity, strife, and fits of anger (Gal. 5:19). By the Spirit, it will enable Christians to avoid the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:10), one of which is domestic-violence.

I hope the NFL will quickly take the appropriate actions to rid its league of domestic violence offenders. In addition, I hope that the league will take the measures to allow their Christian chaplains to have even more freedom to preach boldly and freely the gospel of Jesus Christ to these men so that they will be transformed and be divinely enabled to love and follow Jesus and to love their wives as Christ loves his church (Eph. 5:21-33). And I hope that gospel-believing players, coaches, and owners will use the horrible reality of domestic violence in their league as an opportunity to proclaim the violent gospel of Jesus Christ that accomplishes peace with God and with one’s fellow-man. It’s the only eternal solution.

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