Why Christians continue to serve while being maligned

May 5, 2020

The global crisis precipitated by COVID-19 has changed many things. In the United States, the drastic steps we’ve taken to deal with the pandemic have fundamentally altered our normal patterns of life. But in at least some ways, this period of hardship and struggle has brought forth the very best in humanity. Stories abound of neighbors, friends, and even strangers going to lengths great and small to serve or assist those in need. And as a society, we've developed a new appreciation for the men and women working each day to perform the essential services all of us depend upon. It is heartening to see a collective sense of gratitude not only for doctors and nurses and medical professionals, but for truck drivers and grocery store clerks and the many factory workers sustaining our supply chains.  

Intolerance on display  

But despite this good news, some things haven’t changed. And perhaps a prime example is the intolerance displayed toward Christians and other people of faith. We’ve already witnessed this kind of behavior on multiple occasions from New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. Over the weekend, Corey Johnson, the Speaker of the New York City Council, put forward a statement on Twitter demonstrating the same kind of intolerance. The statement was directed toward the humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Purse, and its CEO, Franklin Graham, specifically the beliefs about human sexuality which Graham and the organization espouse. While Johnson acknowledged that Samaritan’s Purse stepped up to meet vital needs in New York “at a time when our city couldn't in good conscience turn away any offer of help,” he has since made the determination that it is “time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave.” Johnson derided Graham as being “notoriously bigoted” and “hate-spewing,” and said without irony that the “continued presence” of Samaritan’s Purse in New York is “an affront to our values of inclusion.”  

Honestly, Johnson’s words are difficult to read. Knowingly or otherwise, he is not merely disparaging Graham and the employees and volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse, but millions of Christians who also hold to the church’s historic teaching on human sexuality. As our culture rushes to embrace the sexual revolution, to affirm sexual libertinism, and to uproot any obstacles to sexual expression, it seems that dissenters to these efforts are to be written off as collateral damage. That’s unfortunate for so many reasons, but especially so because that kind of calloused dismissal doesn’t even meet Johnson’s own moral standard.  

In denouncing Graham and Samaritan’s Purse, Johnson stated that their presence in the city he serves is an affront to their “values of inclusion.” This is nothing less than cognitive dissonance on display. How it escapes Johnson that true tolerance runs in both directions is hard to fathom. But again, this is nothing new. To advance the sexual revolution, words like inclusion have taken on a very specific meaning—inclusion is about affirming what one approves while condemning what one despises. In this case, Johnson plainly stated that anyone who disagrees with his views of sexuality doesn’t merit inclusion, or really seem to matter at all.  

In his statement, Johnson also stated that New York is a city that “values diversity and compassion for all.” Surely these are laudable traits. Yet sadly, these words also ring hollow. Clearly Johnson thinks that only a certain kind of diversity is valuable and that only those with the correct beliefs are worthy of compassion. Apparently he’s willing to cast aside not only Graham and Samaritan’s Purse but the countless New Yorkers who hold the beliefs he so openly ridicules.  

Hated, but continuing to serve  

I wrote last week that the church will never give up its position on human sexuality. The upshot of that argument is that it isn’t really up to us because God has clearly spoken about these issues. The church doesn’t have the ability to change or reinterpret what God has clearly said. And all those who seek to live their lives in submission to Jesus and under the authority of God’s Word will never reject the sexual ethics set forth in the Scriptures—regardless of the nature or duration of pressure to do so.   

Analyzing Johnson’s response leaves one pondering many questions. Can he not see the stunning incongruence between the values he espouses and the way he disparages the very people who have voluntarily stepped up to provide critical services and meet vital needs in the midst of an unprecedented threat? Indeed, it strains credulity to think that those motivated by “hate” as Johnson alleges would willfully martial their resources and risk their health and safety in order to serve indiscriminately the people of New York. Does this really strike him as bigotry? If I were able to speak with Johnson, I would point out that one could hardly wish for better enemies.  

Christians will never be forced to choose between fidelity to Jesus and serving our neighbors in need (Christian or otherwise), regardless of how we are treated in return. In fact, this is the task before us: to show the world the love of Christ (1 John 4:7-21).

But as the people of God, we realize that Johnson is not our enemy, nor anyone else made of flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). One need not agree with Franklin Graham’s politics or theology to recognize what motivated the organization he leads to volunteer to serve the people of New York; it was not hate, but love. And the sad thing is, in dismissing their religious convictions, Johnson overlooked the very thing that motivated Samaritan’s Purse to serve his city in the first place. In offering aid to New York, Samaritan’s Purse sought to put the gospel on display. In their service and sacrifice, they were being exactly what Christians are called to be, the hands and feet of Jesus.   

And this happens all the time. Chick-Fil-A is another organization that is frequently maligned for being “anti-LGBT.” Yet in the aftermath of the awful mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, one of the best known gay bars in Orlando, Chick-Fil-A employees at multiple restaurants voluntarily went into work on a Sunday (the day Chick-Fil-A is traditionally closed in order for its employees to worship and spend time with family) to prepare and serve free food to those waiting to donate blood.   

Christians are people of conscience and conviction. But we do not hate people—regardless of how they feel about our beliefs. Not only that, but it is our faith and convictions that motivate us to show love, compassion, and mercy to those in need. It is sad to see Christians reviled because of their beliefs, but we should not be surprised when such takes place. Indeed, Jesus told us so (John 15:18). One thing we must remember, though, is that whatever worldly power or influence those who revile us may wield, our gospel wields the power of God (Rom: 1:16). Even those who oppose us most fiercely at any given moment, may well find themselves overcome by the grace of God found in the gospel. Some who revile us now will may soon become our brothers and sisters.  

It seems safe to say that in the future our beliefs, especially those concerning human sexuality, will draw more scrutiny, not less. But there is no shame in holding fast to these beliefs. Christians will never be forced to choose between fidelity to Jesus and serving our neighbors in need (Christian or otherwise), regardless of how we are treated in return. In fact, this is the task before us: to show the world the love of Christ (1 John 4:7-21). Take heart, brothers and sisters—in this world you may be called a bigot or worse, but Jesus has overcome the world (John. 16:33).  

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. 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