By / Mar 19

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Jenn discuss the Georgia massage parlor shootings, the White house no longer getting daily COVID-19 tests, federal efforts reducing poverty, and March Madness. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including the Policy Staff with “Explainer: The crisis unaccompanied minors are facing at the border,” Jordan Wooten with “Does the value of children depend on their usefulness? Children are a gift not a liability,” and David Dunham with “Why addicts must learn to practice honesty: Deception’s role in aiding addiction.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Jenn Kintner for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Jenn

Jenn Kintner serves as the Office Coordinator for the Nashville office of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She holds a Doctorate of Education from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to her work at the ERLC she spent 10 years discipling and teaching women in Christian higher education. You can connect with her on Twitter: @jennkintner

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Georgia massage parlor shootings: What we know
  2. White supremacy and hate are haunting Asian Americans
  3. Suspect in Atlanta-area spa shootings might have intended more shootings in Florida, mayor says
  4. White House staff no longer tested for Covid-19 daily
  5. Explainer: New federal efforts could reduce poverty in America
  6. Chelsea & Michael Sobolik adoption
  7. March Madness returns

Lunchroom

 Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Caring Well: Churches should be a refuge for those who have experienced abuse. The Caring Well Challenge is a free resource from the ERLC in which we take you through a year long journey with 8 different steps to help make your church safe for survivors and safe from abuse.
  • Stand for Life: At the ERLC, we stand for life. Our work to save preborn babies and care for the vulnerable is vital to our work. Believing that abortion can end in our lifetime, will you join us as we STAND FOR LIFE?
By / Mar 19

With the recent rise of hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans, the terroristic shootings in Atlanta this week touched a tender cord for many in the Asian-American community. Though the alleged shooter, Robert Aaron Long, has taken responsibility for the murders, he has stated that his alleged crimes were not racially motivated.

However, with six of the victims being women of Asian descent, it feels sadly familiar. Last summer’s killings of Ahmad Arbery and George Floyd sprung to mind as more information came out about the Atlanta killing spree. It was difficult not to think of Dylann Roof, who joined an evening Bible Study on June 17, 2015, at the historically Black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, only to kill nine church members, all of whom were African-American.

Even though Long denies his crimes were racially motivated, the church cannot overlook the facts of this tragedy and the growing hostility toward Asian-Americans in the United States. The New York Times is reporting that there have been almost 3,800 “hate incidents” against Asian-Americans in the last year. The reality is, our brothers and sisters in the Asian-American community are hurting, and have been since at least the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Having endured growing hostility and targeted aggression in the wake of COVID-19, Asian-Americans have been the regular recipients of hateful rhetoric and worse, bringing unimaginable pain and frustration. As hate and hostility seem to be growing nationwide, this community of Americans is suffering acutely.

Racism and the Tower of Babel

In lamenting the events of the last year, I have found myself wondering where all of this originated. We can certainly look at the stark heritage of racism in our nation’s history, what many call America’s “original sin.” And while there is no denying our country’s regrettable complicity, racism pre-dates our founding by thousands of years, all the way back to the Tower of Babel.

At the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, we see a picture of all of humanity together, united in culture, language, and purpose. Though, as the Bible makes clear, that purpose was to rival God’s reign over the world. God’s image-bearers were meant to rule over the earth as God’s representatives. But in constructing the tower, our forebears were attempting to rule as his replacement, which resulted in their exile, just like their forebears Adam and Eve. He scattered them and confused their language because together their aspirations proved deadly, and he knew things would get worse. It was merciful discipline. But, because sin infects every human heart, the desire to rule over something different from us has never left.

We still do not know if Long was motivated by racism or sex addiction or a combination of these and other sins. But we do know that human beings have brought our Babel-like tendencies with us to our respective cultures, languages, and ethnicities. Since we could not rule like or over God, we’ve now set our sights on one another. In our society, racism and white supremacy seeks to make other image-bearers, those who speak different languages and come from other cultures, subject to another’s rule. And because sin makes us think we can rival God, the sickest among us imagine that we have the right to give and take life, a right that only belongs to him. 

The responsibility of the church today

Those who are in Christ have a responsibility to speak out against racism and white supremacy. Why? Because racism and white supremacy have no place in the kingdom of God and are fundamentally antithetical to the gospel. And as we continue to see, these are problems that continue to plague our country and churches. As those who have been saved by grace through faith, we are called to the good works of protecting the vulnerable, caring for the oppressed, and fighting against evil. We have been saved not just from our sin, but into the work of the Triune God who saved us, to restore all that was lost in the fall. We seek to make straight what is crooked and make whole what has been shattered. Christ did that for us, and we go and do likewise.

Diversity and the destiny of the church

Our destiny as the church is a multiethnic one, a future that has been set from before the foundation of the earth. As Paul argues in Ephesians 2, any dividing walls of hostility between Jew and Gentile have been banished in Christ, resulting in a beautiful, multiethnic temple. The body of Christ, therefore, consists of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. It was a plan, Paul says, that was set in motion from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4). In other words, for the glory of God and the holiness of his church, homogeneity was never part of the plan.

Because it was always God’s intention to build a multiethnic kingdom, we cannot say we are “seeking first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33) unless we say and show that we care about racism. Hate crimes against the Black community are the most notorious in American history, but a crime against any person because of their race is an affront to God’s genius, design, and image. As the body of Christ and as emissaries of the kingdom of God on Earth, we cannot sit by and watch our Asian-American neighbors, or any others, suffer such injustice.

We may never know the answers to the questions we have after the shooting spree in Atlanta. But there are two things we know to be true: God hates sin and comforts the broken. Right now, the pain present in the Asian-American community is real. Our neighbors are hurting and living in fear. We must join our voices with the chorus of lament and speak up in opposition to such forms of hate. Even more, we must get involved. We are a people called to love our neighbors not just with our prayers and voices, but with our hands and feet. Only then will all that has been shattered in this world begin to be made whole. 

By / Mar 28

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Governor of the State of Georgia.

Good morning.

The decision surrounding HB 757 has generated more intense feelings than most legislation, perhaps because it has highlighted the concerns of many in our religious communities regarding the actions of federal courts, especially the United States Supreme Court in its 5-4 opinion last summer which legalized same sex marriage.

HB 757 enumerates certain actions that religious leaders, faith-based organizations and people of faith shall not be required to take or perform. These include solemnizing a marriage, attending such marriages, hiring church personnel or renting church property when such acts would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Most people would agree that government should not force such actions, therefore it has puzzled me why a large coalition of advocacy organizations and big businesses would voice such vehement opposition to this law. If they, like most Americans, don't believe that churches should be forced by the state to violate their religious beliefs, then why are they prepared to punish the people of the state of Georgia and rob value away from their own shareholders in order to make sure that we don't explicitly protect liberties that are merely mild, noncontroversial provisions of what religious liberty has meant in this country for two centuries?

It is true that we have not yet experienced the kind of compulsion that has darkened the so-called jurisprudence of some other states, but the examples that we see across the landscape of our country give us ample reason for concern.

One example that is used is the photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a same sex marriage. That state has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it was not applicable. It was the New Mexico Human Rights Act that determined the results in that case. Georgia does not have a Human Rights Act, but it is clear that the businesses and advocacy groups who have threatened Georgia have it as their ambition to pass such laws in Georgia and in every other state of the union.

The second case that is cited is that of the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple. There the court ruling was based on Colorado’s Public Accommodation Act which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Georgia does not have a Public Accommodation Act, but again, to veto this act would most certainly encourage the efforts of those who have it as their stated ambition to pass such legislation from coast to coast throughout our nation.

Although as I have examined the protections this bill seeks to provide to religious organizations and people of faith I can find no examples that any of the things this bill seeks to protect us against have ever occurred in Georgia, I do recognize that the Fire Chief of the City of Atlanta was terminated just months ago solely because the Mayor objected to his deeply held religious beliefs. Although it is apparent that the cases being cited from other states occurred because those state had passed statutes that specifically protected their citizens from adverse actions based on their sexual orientation, and although Georgia has no such statutes, the present state of our law is such that it permitted this unjust firing to take place under my watch, and I cannot with good conscience turn a blind eye to such injustices.

HB 757 appeared in several forms during the recent session of the Georgia General Assembly. I had no objection to the “Pastor Protection Act” that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith based community.

I appreciate the efforts of the General Assembly to address these concerns which they did with great care and precision. Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it will allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how contentious these matters have become that truly were already suitably addressed long ago by the broad protections of the First Amendment of the United State Constitution. Our Founding Fathers did not attempt to list in detail the circumstances that religious liberty embraced. Instead, they adopted what the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia referred to as “negative protection.” That is, rather than telling government what it can do regarding religion, they told government what it could not do, namely, “establish a religion or interfere with the free exercise thereof.” HB 757, likewise, simply provides “negative protection,” offering the simplest, least controversial provisions that I can imagine, and, as I have stated above, upon which most people actually agree. The government should not be able to force free people or religious institutions to perform, host, or attend any event that violates their consciences. The Founding Fathers had previously proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that Man’s Creator had endowed all men “with certain unalienable rights,” including “Liberty” which embraces religious liberty. They made it clear that those liberties were given by God and not by man’s government. Therefore, it was unnecessary to enumerate in statute or constitution what those liberties included. And yet, left to their successors has been the task of applying those principles to daily life by means of legislation and court rulings. This is nothing new. It has been ongoing for the full history of our Republic. Those who would argue that the First Amendment need not be applied specifically are practitioners of either amnesia or sophistry.

In light of our early history, it would be ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections, but in light of our recent history, with Christians being fined, fired, bankrupted, and threatened merely for holding beliefs that are not even peculiar to one religion but were shared by every major world religion until the last decade or so, Christians need not be paranoid to wonder whether any limit exists to the determination to force uniformity by those who have championed a new morality in our land. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the “hands-off” admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution, and may God grant that we should return to a stable and shared presumption that these things are true. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is a risk to take, and it is unfortunate that our current legal climate requires that we state explicitly what should have been obvious all along. Nevertheless, the greater risk lies in losing the heart of religious liberty protections that have well served both the state and the churches since the dawn of our nation.

Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will made sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do.

As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives, nor do I think that we have to use the compulsive force of the government to force people to violate their religious consciences at the point of a gun. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side-by-side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. In our personal lives we tolerate difference of opinion on questions like same-sex marriage without forcing anyone to perform, host, or attend anyone else's wedding. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.

For that reason, I will sign HB 757.

This was orignally published here.

By / Dec 14

Editor’s Note: Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, where Bryant Wright, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is pastor, was recently featured in The Atlanta Journal Constitution for their work in helping to resettle a Syrian refugee family. The ERLC reached out to Dr. Wright to ask him why, despite the controversy surrounding refugee settlement, their church decided to assist this family.

Why is it important for JFBC to help refugees like the Syrian family you are currently assisting?

As a church, we take seriously Christ’s command to share his love and spread his gospel to all nations. We go to great lengths to empower our people to live out Christ’s Great Commission to the ends of the earth. In that light, we send numerous mission teams all over the world—in 2015 alone we sent out 1,922 people on 80 teams to 31 countries.    

And yet, we cannot ignore the needy in our city, such as the homeless and now the refugee population. We are astounded by the number of refugees who have made it to our city in recent years, people from war-torn countries like Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Burma, Colombia and now Syria.

How could we ignore these people?  

Christ clearly commands us to be his ambassadors, his hands and feet among these poor and vulnerable families. We are compelled to help meet their physical needs, and we also are compelled to address spiritual needs. In addition, Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, were refugees in Egypt when an evil and cruel King Herod ordered the massacre of Jewish boys younger than two years old in Bethlehem. Jesus also teaches us in Matthew 25 that how we treat the “least of these” is how we show our love or lack of love for Him.

The gospel is the “power of God for the salvation of all who believe,” including refugees fleeing the horrors of war and seeking a new life. As great as America is, our country cannot truly satisfy their needs. The new life these families seek can only be found in Jesus. It is for this reason that we serve them.