By / Jun 27

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” The SBC’s commitment to love of neighbor is grounded in the truth that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Through the Equality Act, Congress would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage. While the proposed intention of this bill is to protect individuals who identify as LGBT, the bill fails to respect people’s freedom of conscience. A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere. In its pursuit of fleeting cultural ideals, the Equality Act erodes foundational constitutional freedoms.

The Equality Act undermines decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. Women’s shelters for those escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological males who identify as women. The Equality Act disregards the privacy and safety concerns that women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the opposite sex. This legislation would also harm women’s sports and scholarships as girls would be forced to compete with biological males for limited positions.

The Equality Act threatens the efforts of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, thereby forcing faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. State enforced closures of such agencies is especially harmful at a time when multiple social crises increase the need for children services.

The Equality Act hinders the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. While religiously affiliated hospitals routinely serve patients of any background, including those who identify as LGBT, providers who hold moral or religious beliefs cannot perform every procedure a patient requests. For example, doctors and nurses who object to gender reassignment surgeries for moral, religious, or scientific reasons would be forced to provide the procedure or risk losing their jobs.

The Equality Act would also force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. This bill would roll back decades of conscience protections that protect pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious beliefs. No person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be the taking of a human life. Additionally, it would jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion.

The Equality Act would undermine the ability of Americans who disagree to work together for the common good. These legislative changes represent a dramatic departure from the foundations of civic tolerance. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom. Due to these concerns, among many others, the ERLC strongly opposes the Equality Act.

By / Nov 17

Recently, viewers were given a new season of “The Crown,” the Netflix series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth. In the wake of her death earlier this year, the season is all the more interesting because of the new monarch who sits on the throne, her son, King Charles III. Charles is being dubbed the “climate king.” His concern for the environment has led to controversial mentions of overpopulation in the past. But, where does this idea come from, and how should Christians think about it? 

The myth of overpopulation

In 1968, Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, warning that the earth was overpopulated and that millions of people would starve to death. His doomsday warning did not come true. Starvation has occurred on much smaller scales, due largely to government mismanagement and corruption, not overpopulation. 

Yet the myth of overpopulation persists. Ecologist Emma Olliff of the U.K.-based group Population Matters recently said, “More of us is only going to make (the environment) worse. This kind of reasoning was famously cited by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are choosing to have only two children because of global overpopulation. 

At the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall said that human population growth is responsible for most environmental problems. Goodall stated, “All these (environmental) things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of the population that there was 500 years ago.” Apparently, Goodall pines for the good ol’ days when the average life expectancy was around 40 years of age and infant mortality was around 20%. 

Human life is not the problem, and human death is not the solution. Since the publication of The Population Bomb, several books have debunked the myth of overpopulation, including The Myth of Over-Population (1969) R.J. Rushdoony, Fewer (2004) by Ben Wattenberg, and Population Control (2008) by Steven Mosher. Governments in Japan, Finland, Italy, and Australia (to name a few) are now paying people to have babies. 

Currently, no European country has a population replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman. Globally, many countries are below the replacement rate, including  China (1.7), Brazil (1.7), Canada (1.5), Puerto Rico (1.1), Thailand (1.5), and Chile (1.7).

In 1968, the fear was global starvation. In 2020, humans wasted an estimated 1.6 billion tons of food at a cost of $1.2 trillion dollars annually. In 1968 the fear was overpopulation. In 2020, under-populated towns and cities paid people to move there. 

Dangers of the myth

Overpopulation is an old myth. Catastrophic predictions about human population and food shortage go back (at least) to 19th-century Anglican pastor and economist Thomas Robert Malthus. In his book An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus argued that human population would outpace food production. Malthus advocated preventative measures such as family planning, late marriages, and celibacy. 

Global overpopulation is not only a myth; it is a dangerous myth. Bernie Sanders said that abortion is an important way of addressing global overpopulation. National Public Radio (NPR) has even reported on the research of journalist Mei Fong, who in her book One Child (2016), estimated that China’s one-child policy led to 30 million forced abortions. 

In popular culture, Thanos (of the Marvel Universe) channels his inner Malthus in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” saying, “The universe is finite, its resources finite, if life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist.” This is the same faulty logic (and bad theology) peddled by Malthus, Ehrlich, Goodall, and Sanders. Unlike in the Marvel Universe, the “bad guys” aren’t always so easy to spot.  

A Christian response

God created marriage between a man and a woman, commanded human procreation, and placed the family as the primary building block of human flourishing in a world that he equipped to accommodate human growth (Gen 1:26-28). He did this, in part, by creating humans with a capacity to solve problems using science and technology. As global population has grown, standards of living and life expectancy have increased while infant mortality and extreme poverty have decreased. Human population growth is not the problem. 

There are a variety of possible ways that Christians can respond to the myth of overpopulation. First, Christians do best when telling the true biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Christians can place the growth of population into the storyline of Scripture where it is a good thing, not a problem to be corrected. It is part of God’s command to fill the earth and steward it. 

Second, local churches can promote and support healthy and normative patterns of human flourishing by offering biblical counseling and parenting services, supporting pregnancy resource centers and adoption and foster care ministries, and by welcoming children and those with special needs into the worship service. In so doing, they evidence that the family is essential to God’s plan for flourishing and the Church has a vested interest in helping strengthen this building block of society. 

Third, Christians cannot allow the sin of materialism to go unchecked. That amounts to aiding and abetting the enemy. Human population growth is only a problem if one accepts the lie that joy, identity, and comfort are found in unchecked consumption and material possessions. There is nothing inherently wrong with living in a large home, owning recreational vehicles, retiring early, or sending your kids to the best schools. However, such things are not the biblical picture of success or an indication of God’s favor and blessing. Christians are to be those who steward the created world, not those who intentionally put off God-ordained gifts because they are controlled by the things of this world.

Conclusion  

Ideas have consequences. Most tragically, the idea of overpopulation has resulted in global mass murder, including calls for expanding abortion access in developing nations where population growth is higher. It is a myth that continues to be used to justify both abortion and suicide. Christians who believe in the sanctity and goodness of human life should expose the myth of overpopulation for what it often is: A pretext for murder and justification for opposing a biblical view of children,family, and procreation.   

By / Jul 5

On June 14, 2022, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in a 5-2 decision that Happy was not a human. Happy is a 51-year-old Asian elephant who has been kept at the Bronx Zoo for the past 45 years, having spent the previous 15 years in isolation in her enclosure due to a hostile relationship with other elephants at the zoo. The Nonhuman Rights Project representing Happy in the case contended Happy ought to be legally considered a person, thus possessing the ability to invoke habeas corpus which would free her from isolation at the zoo. The court, while acknowledging that “dialogue regarding the protection and welfare of nonhuman animals is an essential characteristic of our humanity,” ultimately disagreed with Happy’s defense, asserting that Happy is, in fact, only an elephant. 

There is certainly merit within the public square, and particularly among Christians, to deliberate and discuss how we can best care for creation and animal life. The first commandment God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden was to have dominion over the rest of what God created (Gen. 1:28), a responsibility characterized by cultivation and stewardship. Yet, this case, rather than demonstrating how best to care for creation, can serve as a warning to Christians who seek to define what is or is not a human being especially since this question strikes at the core of many of the most pressing social questions of our day.

Defining a human being 

Integral to The Nonhuman Rights Project’s argument to free Happy was the human-like qualities elephants possess. They asserted that “elephants are intelligent beings, who have the capacity for self-awareness, long-term memory, intentional communication, learning and problem-solving skills, empathy, and significant emotional response.” This appeal was unconvincing to the court because “the selective capacit[ies] for autonomy, intelligence, and emotion of a particular nonhuman animal species . . .  are not what makes a person.” They continued their disagreement by stating, “the right to liberty of humans because they are humans with certain fundamental liberty right recognized by law.” 

In these meager two sentences at the core of the court’s opinion, we find the crux of the matter: there is something more to being human than mere rational capacities, intelligence, or emotional capabilities. Even though the court rightfully never attempted to define what it means to be a person, their reticence to do so serves as an example of wisdom for Christians seeking to ensure human dignity for each person. 

Genesis 1 communicates that persons are different from the rest of creation because we are made in the imago Dei, or in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Theories as to what the imago Dei might include range from having rational capacity, creative freedom, walking on two legs, or self awareness. Yet, these definitions fall into the same trap as The Nonhuman Rights Project—by ascribing what it means to be a person to a set of attributes, these potential definitions are both underinclusive and overinclusive. They are underinclusive in that some persons who do not have the defining capacity can be excluded; and overinclusive in that some non-persons possess certain capacities traditionally associated with humanity.

If the New York Court of Appeals had agreed with The Nonhuman Rights Project’s definition of what it means to be human, persons with mental disabilities, those who are preborn and newly born, and persons with cognitive diseases would have been excluded from personhood. Christians can fall into the same trap. Whether it be rational capacity, emotional capabilities, social disposition, or any other well-intentioned articulation of the principle found in Genesis 1, groups of persons who are made in the image of God will invariably be denied their dignity if one attempts to define the image of God. When this happens, we desecrate the image of God because we refuse to affirm it in others simply due to a lack of the specified quality we have come to value. Such patterns of thought disorder a Christian theological anthropology because it locates human dignity in an attribute rather than the status of the imago Dei that is the very root of what it means to be human. 

3 lessons from this case

While the Christian who is concerned for the inherent value of other beings can celebrate the court’s decision to unwittingly protect the rights of all persons regardless of ability, three lessons are to be gleaned from this case: 

1. The world is composed of human beings with a range of abilities and perspectives. Each of these persons is to be celebrated because they are created in the image of God and loved by him. Further, church communities ought to be constituted of persons of all abilities and all stages of life, as each person teaches and instructs us on the love, creativity, intelligence, and care of the Creator. 

2. Creation is marvelous. The fact that an elephant can possess all these traits similar to humans should be worthy of our praise to the Creator. Allowing ourselves to find wonder within creation permits even more opportunities to worship God. Such an ability found in a non-person in creation simply points to the creativity and intelligence of our Creator. Yet, even as amazing as creation is, let us not confuse an animal as what it means to be a person.

3. Christians valuing and advocating for every person’s inherent dignity ought to use this case as a clarion call for our vigilance in protecting the vulnerable. Theologically, we ought to use this case as a reminder to be cognizant of what it means to be a human being and what it means to be made in the image of God. Politically, this case should serve as a reminder to Christians in the public square to remain vigilant in our defense of others who have their human dignity threatened. Because all people are created in the image of God, the rules and laws governing our country should respect the inherent dignity of all persons. 

As we go forward, let us think carefully about our emotions, language, and actions. 

We can enjoy God’s kind gifts, such as amazing animals, without disrupting the value of each human being made in the image of God and abandoning God’s design for the created order. Sometimes, in our culture of confusion, events that might seem silly to some of us, such as the legal trial of an elephant at a zoo, can mount a significant challenge to what it means to be a person, and thus, what it means to be made in the image of God. Let us be a people who meet these temptations and challenges with the truth of God’s Word, a ready answer, and a commitment to uphold the special value God has bestowed on every human being. 

By / May 18

With more than 26 million refugees and over 82 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, how Christians and churches see migrants and refugees is vitally important. What we believe about God’s mission to seek, save, and reconcile the world to himself through Jesus is revealed, in part, by how we see migrants and refugees when it comes to ministry, care, and concern for them as people made in God’s image and loved by him. For American Christians, the global refugee crisis and presence of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers at our southern border provides us an opportunity to transcend political and cultural controversies in order to minister and love in the name of Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:33-34, God says to Israel, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” This same ethic was reflected by Jesus in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This was a specific command for the covenant people of God in ancient Israel, and while modern nation-states have unique responsibilities related to borders and security, the church embodying the character and mission of God has corresponding responsibilities and opportunities when it comes to ministry, mercy, compassion, and justice for the sojourner.

Personalizing our country’s border crisis

Back in 2018 when migrant children, families, and individuals traveling to our southern border were in the news, I remember the concern expressed by many. It can feel overwhelming and scary when we see news reports of large numbers of people coming to our borders to ask for entry. I had worked with immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy for a few years, but the more cable news I watched and the more images I saw, the more concern I had about what was happening with these new people coming—and the more concern I heard from my neighbors, friends, and other Christians.

What I didn’t yet understand is that a large portion of the people I saw in the news at that time were not trying to come illegally. Many were coming here to claim asylum, which involves a legal process of presenting oneself on United States soil to ask for protection from violence and persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The right to claim asylum is established in U.S. Code and is longstanding federal law. Once the request has been made and credible fear has been established by border patrol officers trained in this regard, the asylum seeker is to have their case heard before a court that will judge whether or not the petitioner is granted asylum and allowed to stay. 

But, there was something more important at work for me personally than how our country manages its borders, as vital as that is. As I prayed about all of this, I realized that for me as a Christian and as a private citizen who is not a state agent or Border Patrol officer, I should think first about migrants and asylum seekers as people, as those God desires to come to him, and about opportunities to partner with Christians at the border in ministry. I believe that order at the border is an important part of caring for migrants, as well as providing security for a nation’s citizenry, but, while our government has clear responsibilities in maintaining order and security at our border, which we should support and encourage, the church also has a role in ministering to people in the midst of crisis. Border security and order provided by the government is not mutually exclusive to the church engaging in gospel and compassion ministry to those who come to us seeking refuge. 

Remembering how Jesus responded to the crowds who were harassed and helpless, how he was moved with compassion for them, and how he instructed his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the harvest field (Matt. 9:35-38) will help frame our views of those who come to our borders seeking help. While some rejected the desperate crowds, Jesus saw people he could minister to and love. We can do the same.

Ministry on both sides of the border

I made my first trip to the border at Nogales, Arizona, in late summer 2018 and then to Tijuana in December of that year to visit ministries that were serving migrants from all over the world. I went to El Paso in 2019. Then, as I moved out to California to pastor a church that year, I went back to Tijuana to view what was happening with churches doing ministry there. I began to see the border as a place where people from many nations gathered and where churches on both sides worked behind the scenes to care for those in need, to pray, and to share the love and gospel of Jesus while people waited for legal entry. 

I learned that many of the people who come to the border are already evangelical Christians or come to faith in Christ as they encounter churches who are opening their sanctuaries, homes, and lives to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (See World Magazine reporting from Sophia Lee in 2019 explaining border ministry in the Las Cruces-El Paso area). Instead of seeing the border primarily as a place of fear and chaos, I began to also see it as a place where human need and desperation meets the ministry of the church as it holds out the life and hope of Jesus in the midst of a raging storm. God is at work in and through his people in the borderlands. 

In work led by Juvenal Gonzalez working with the San Diego Baptist Association and Mexican Baptist churches, I have seen people from many nations receive food, shelter, love, and the gospel at the El Chaparral Gate in Tijuana while they live in tents and wait. I joined with Ed Litton, current SBC president, and other SBC leaders in August 2021 to connect again with this ministry and to provide care, hope, and breakfast to hundreds of migrants who were there waiting for a chance for their asylum claim to be heard. Recently, Gonzalez and the churches on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fed and ministered to hundreds of Ukrainian refugees a day who traveled to Tijuana to wait and petition for protection in the U.S. California Baptist Disaster Relief, Send Relief, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) stepped in and provided assistance as well. 

In October of 2021, I visited the El Paso Migrant Ministry Center at Scotsdale Baptist Church that works in partnership with the El Paso (TX) Baptist Association. I saw a church that transformed their facility to make room for migrants that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol brought to them for care. The ministry center now works with NAMB to receive teams and volunteers from around the country to minister to the dozens of migrants who are brought to them each day. 

I have visited churches and seen ministries in border towns that altered their ministries to make room to provide places for people to stay while they transition to other parts of the country. While I’ve never visited Brownsville, Texas, I’ve heard about the ministry of West Brownsville Baptist Church and others who have cared for and seen many come to Christ through the work of receiving migrants. Just last fall, I heard from Mexican border officials in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, tell us that the churches on the Mexico side were making all the difference in providing care and ministry during the migrant surges. When the Mexican government doesn’t know what to do with the people who come to them, they turn to the churches for physical and spiritual help and resources. The U.S. government often does the same thing.

Christians along the U.S.-Mexico border are acting in the name of Jesus to bring hope and order out of chaos, pain, displacement, rejection, and desperate need. When I ask pastors on both sides of the border why they engage in this ministry of welcome, they are always confused by the question. They’ve told me that they do this because this is what Jesus does and it is who he is. They see no other way to follow him in their context than to welcome and minister to the stranger who comes to them.

This kind of ministry doesn’t just happen along the border. It is happening everywhere, from South Carolina to California. Recently, I spoke with an Afghan man in Northern California who told me that many of the Afghan refugees he’s met know they are being received and treated well in America because of the influence of Christians and churches who follow the Bible and are welcoming and loving from the heart. This man was not a Christian, and he came from a Muslim background, but he said it was clear that the teachings of Jesus had an influence on how Christians welcomed his fellow countrymen. He recounted stories of pastors bringing Afghan refugees to his store to buy supplies for them with their own money. This left an impression on him as he recognized that their faith led them to act in kindness toward others. He let us pray with him at the end of our conversation.

More migrants coming?

We will continue to have opportunities to welcome and minister to immigrants and refugees in the name of Jesus, either at the border or in towns across our country. The COVID-19 pandemic public health order called Title 42, which allowed the U.S. government to suspend asylum law and expel migrants without hearing their claims in court, is set to expire in late May. With this potential change in policy and the possible full renewal of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP or Remain in Mexico), expectations are rising that there will be a significant increase in the number of migrants coming to our southern border seeking asylum and refuge. 

While concern grows over this development, churches on both sides of the border will continue to represent Christ and minister to people in need who come to them. In addition, churches all over the country have the opportunity to join with these border churches and ministries to support their ongoing front-line work in ministering to the sojourner. While our government and Border Patrol have a job to do in keeping order and security as they manage the border, battle cartels and human and drug smuggling, and enforce our laws, the church also has a role in helping those in deep need who enter our country. And, with the arrival of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees over the past several months, along with others from around the world, the opportunities to receive and minister to the nations that have come to us are potentially greater than ever before. To learn more about this, you can watch the recent webinar hosted by the ERLC.

As the world continues to experience wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, corruption, and persecution, Christians in America have an opportunity to welcome refugees fleeing violence and support fellow believers engaging in ministry along both sides of our own southern border. Our first response to migrants and refugees should not be fear or rejection. Instead, we should prayerfully ask God what he might be doing through these circumstances and how we can join him to tell a better story by bearing the burdens of others and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

By / Dec 2

The eyes of the nation are turned toward the Supreme Court this week as the Justices heard the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This is a pivotal moment regarding abortion rights in America. Never before has the Court seemed more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade than it does at this moment, and it could be decades before another chance like this arrives. Many articles will be able to better explain the legalities of this case. While it is important to consider what the Constitution says about abortion, it is even more important to consider what God says. Below is a brief overview of the Bible’s teaching on early human life.

What the Bible says about life

John and Jesus

The Bible is clear that all human beings are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), that the wanton shedding human blood is deeply sinful (Gen. 9:6), and that life even at the earliest stages is precious (Ps. 139:13-16).  In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read of Mary, the mother of Jesus, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Luke tell us, 

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me” (Luke 1:39-44). 

This text tells us a few things. First, Elizabeth speaks of her child in terms indicating he is at that moment, in her womb, alive and worthy of being spoken of as a baby, not simply a potential life. He was a prophet from the womb as he was declaring that this was the Christ. Gabriel even tells Zechariah, John’s father, earlier in the chapter that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). 

The Greek word for “baby” in 1:41, 44 is brefoß (brephos). Luke (who, if you will recall, is a doctor) uses the same word to describe the infant, Jesus, in the next chapter during the narrative about the shepherds. He writes, “This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby (brefoß) wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger” (2:12). It is also the same word Luke uses in 18:15 to describe the infants (brefoß) that the people tried to bring to Jesus when the disciples sought to prevent them, and Jesus rebuked them.

Aside from what this text tells us about John, it says a great deal about the Lord as well. Both John and Elizabeth recognize that Jesus is, at this specific point in time, the Messiah. Luke 1:26 says Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. Even if Elizabeth were nine months pregnant when this meeting took place, the furthest along that Mary could have been is around 12 weeks. This is well before the US Supreme Court’s litmus test of viability. When Roe v. Wade was handed down, this was believed to be around 28 weeks.

Job and David 

In Job 3, after seven days of sitting quietly on the ground in mourning with his friends, Job speaks and curses the day he was born because of the unthinkable suffering he had endured. He says, “May the day I was born perish, and the night that said, “A boy is conceived” (3:3). Job does not view the beginning of his existence from viability or from the moment he passed through the birth canal. He views the beginning of his life from the moment he was conceived, which has direct bearing on the abortion debate today. 

David says something similar in Psalm 51 when speaking to the depth of his sinfulness. He said, “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (51:5). David and Job did not see their own lives as coming after that which was conceived in the wombs of their mothers. Rather, they identify their beginning from the moment of their conception. 

Furthermore, David speaks of God’s work in fashioning him in his mother’s womb in Psalm 139. He says, 

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began (139:13-16).

David is not speaking of his potential self in these verses. Clearly, he believes that what was in his mother’s womb was not merely a “product of conception” but rather himself as a formless, immature baby. He also indicates in 139:16 that while his days began at birth (that would be the counting of them as one would count a birthday) that his life and existence had already begun. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, human life is valuable because man is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). Man does not derive his own worth from inside himself but from his Creator. Abortion is such an egregious evil because the destruction of life made in his image is a destruction of the image of the holy, almighty, infinitely glorious, and eternally valuable God.

Abortion has caused the destruction of countless lives — inside and outside of the womb. Women who have had an abortion should not suffer alone. These women or those who believe that their only hope is to have an abortion should find safety, not ridicule, from those in the pro-life movement. Loving both mother and baby is the only acceptable option. Stopping the death of unborn babies is but one part of a holistic worldview that churches who promote life must have. This issue is one piece of a larger framework for creating healthy marriages and families and enabling the society around us to flourish.

Believers everywhere should pray for this week’s events at the Supreme Court. Pray that God will have mercy on our nation. Pray that the scourge of abortion will end. Pray that the sun will finally set on the great human rights crisis of our time. Pray that those made in God’s image will no longer have to be subject to instruments in the hands of abortion doctors. Pray that moms would be encouraged to embrace the unborn life inside of them. And pray that the right to life will prevail. 

By / Aug 26

In the aftermath of the sudden, tragic fall of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban, thousands of refugees have been fleeing the landlocked nation to escape persecution and retaliation from the extremist group. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of Southern Baptists, has begun the process of helping Afghan refugees as they resettle around the world by working with World Relief and other ministry partners.

Photos of packed aircraft and video of desperate Afghan people surrounding planes as they take off have captured the world’s attention in recent days. Those who served alongside the United States military in some capacity are among the groups in the direst situation, but there are thousands of others whose lives and livelihoods are now at risk because of the Taliban.

“We need to pray for the Afghan people as many are fleeing with nothing but the clothes they have on,” said Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief. “Any remaining Christians will be targeted. The women and girls who are left behind will lose the freedoms they’ve gained over the last 20 years. May the church minister to any refugees our government allows in who have supported American efforts or faced persecution there.”

Thousands of Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the United States in the coming days and weeks, and World Relief — a global Christian humanitarian organization that partners with local churches to serve vulnerable populations — has 17 offices across the United States where they aid refugees who will settle there.

As churches seek to respond, Send Relief will provide training and materials to equip churches that want to serve refugees in their communities and connect churches with organizations, like World Relief, that will help make direct connections with refugee families.

Most refugees arrive in the United States and need to find places to live, figure out how to enroll their kids in school and purchase basic household and hygiene items. Many also need assistance with learning English. Organizations like World Relief often work with local churches to help meet some of these needs.

“We don’t view this through the lens of politics or even through the lens of the images coming out of Afghanistan right now,” said James Misner, senior vice president of strategic engagement for World Relief. “We view this through, and we respond through the lens of the commands of God in scripture—which tell us over and over again to welcome the stranger in need.”

Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s U.S. director of church mobilization and advocacy, also addressed concerns about the vetting process for refugees entering the United States with Baptist Press.

The U.S. government has, in recent decades, taken steps to ensure that those applying for refugee status receive background checks against several databases, according to The Heritage Foundation.

Afghans who provided assistance to the U.S., and are seeking to flee Afghanistan apply through a process called the Special Immigrant Visa program, a long vetting procedure that often takes more than two years to complete. Christians, women and other religious minorities are likely to flee the nation and seek refugee status in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Along with assisting in the refugee resettlement process in the United States, Send Relief also coordinates with international partners in resettling refugees in other nations around the world, helping those forced to leave their homes adjust to life in what is oftentimes a strange, new land.

To learn more about how you can give or serve refugees in this current crisis, visit sendrelief.org.

This article was originally published here

By / Jul 30


The ERLC has submitted an amicus brief in an important Supreme Court case that could affect the future of abortion in America. The amicus brief explains why the court should overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), twin decisions that have prevented states from prohibiting abortion.  

“For too long, the Roe and Casey decisions have allowed our nation to turn a blind eye to the plight of those who have no voice,” said Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, ERLC’s acting director of public policy. “Our brief asks the Court to overturn those two cases and set a new precedent that respects every life. With each passing day, more and more people recognize preborn lives are worthy of protection. The Dobbs case provides another chance for the Court to come to that same conclusion and affirm the fundamental right to life.”

An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

ERLC joined other religious organizations — including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod — in filing the brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Supreme Court agreed this past May to revisit a previous decision “by reviewing a Mississippi law that would replace the ‘viability standard’ with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.” Viability refers to the stage of development at which an unborn child is capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus. The viability standard is the primary justification for supporting federal legal precedents regarding abortion. Gerard Bradley, a law professor at Notre Dame, says, “the removal of the judicially created barrier of ‘viability’ could let loose a cascade of pre-viability prohibitions, and in due course test the hypothesis that there is no principled, coherent stopping point between removal of the ‘viability’ standard and flat-out reversal of Roe.”

The brief ERLC joined requests that the Supreme Court uphold the Mississippi ban and says the U.S. Constitution “does not create a right to an abortion of an unborn child before viability or at any other stage of pregnancy. An asserted right to abortion has no basis in constitutional text or in American history and tradition.”

The brief also points out that the state has an interest in protecting human life. 

“Government has many responsibilities. Chief among them is protecting innocent life,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC chief of staff. “How much more important is that responsibility when it comes to protecting preborn lives that cannot speak for themselves? Christians have long pleaded the case for America to recognize the inherent dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors. This case gives us another opportunity to do so. Until that happens, our nation will not be able to fully achieve that lofty goal of being a land that preserves life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every individual.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case sometime between October and April, and should issue a ruling next summer.

The ERLC will always advocate for life, in the public square, before the courts, and before Congress.

By / Jul 29

There has been a lot of conversation recently in Southern Baptist circles and beyond about the right way to fight against abortion. Perhaps you’ve heard about the debate over incrementalism or abolition. Essentially, those views represent two different camps within the broader movement of pro-life Christians seeking to end abortion. But before I dive into the specifics of each view, I wanted to say at the outset that both camps are comprised of faithful brothers and sisters who all share the same fundamental goal. In fact, even this current conversation about the way forward for the pro-life movement further reflects that the movement itself is a broad, diverse, and expanding coalition fueled by a passion to protect the unborn.

Abolition

The first thing to say about the abolitionist camp is that they are laser focused on the goal of ending abortion. And because of that commitment, abolitionists dedicate their time and energy to calling for the immediate end of abortion. Through their activism and advocacy, they support legislation — focusing largely on bills in state legislatures — that would immediately outlaw abortion if passed and signed into law. 

Additionally, abolitionists tend to oppose efforts to restrict abortion that fall short of abolition. And while they may do so for many reasons, a common refrain from abolitionists is that they cannot support laws that allow any lives to be legally aborted. Though I do not consider myself to be an abolitionist (for reasons I set forth below), I think their fierce advocacy in opposition to abortion plays a critical role in keeping the heinous and grievous nature of abortion before the eyes of the American public.

Incrementalism

In a sense, the incrementalism label is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not aware of a single person in the incrementalism camp (of which I consider myself a part), who would not desire or support the immediate eradication of elective abortion. Incrementalism doesn’t mean that one supports the slow destruction of abortion. Instead, it means that one embraces a comprehensive approach to ending abortion — one that leaves every tool and resource on the table to advance the fight for life.

Why incrementalism

At root, I consider myself an incrementalist for one simple reason: I will support almost any measure designed to save the lives of unborn children. As a Christian, I believe that every life is sacred and precious because every single human being is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). And as an image-bearer, every person deserves to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect. That certainly means that every human being has a natural right to life. Though I don’t love the label, I’m an incrementalist because I will support a whole range of efforts to save more unborn lives — up to and including the total abolition of abortion.

Another reason I’m in the incrementalist camp is that I believe abolitionism is morally right but practically wrong. I stand alongside every person in the pro-life movement in opposing the Supreme Court’s wicked and devastating decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in all 50 states. More than that, I lament and oppose every legal effort to further protect or establish abortion in the United States. But despite my opposition to these things, I recognize that short of civil war — which no one is advocating — the only legitimate remedy to the status quo is through our legal system. 

I respect the moral correctness of attempting to pass state laws to abolish abortion. But at present, if any state were to pass such legislation the federal court system would simply strike down that law as unconstitutional. And in effect, passing such a bill simply maintains the status quo. (I know some within the abolitionist camp predict more successful outcomes such as a cascade of states refusing to submit to the will of federal courts, but I am wholly unpersuaded that such scenarios represent even a remote possibility). 

Instead, I’m convinced that the best way forward is to gain every inch of ground we can. This is the long-held strategy of the pro-life movement. And it is working. That strategy includes things like heartbeat bills, partial-birth abortion bans, pain-capable bills, informed consent laws, waiting periods, and more. Each of these are tools the pro-life movement has employed to save the lives of the unborn. 

As Joe Carter has written, “Since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973 the [abolitionists] have made absolutely no progress, while the incrementalists have helped to save the lives of thousands of children. Over the past 45 years, incrementalists have helped to pass hundreds of laws restricting abortion, including 45 in 2018.” The fact is, there are men and women alive today — attending school, raising children, following Jesus — who wouldn’t be here apart from these “incremental” laws. Moreover, with a still freshly-minted conservative majority on the Supreme Court, it is possible that one of these incremental state laws may lead to the weakening or reversal of the Court’s dreaded Roe decision.

Conclusion 

Supporting incremental measures to reduce abortion isn’t choosing a morally compromised strategy over one that is morally pure. Rather, it is about choosing not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. It is reprehensible that the abortion regime remains firmly ensconced in America’s legal and cultural fabric. And because it is, I continue to have a deep respect for those who are committed to seeing the immediate destruction of abortion in America. But even so, I remain convinced that the best and most serious effort to reach that goal is found in the comprehensive strategy of incrementalism that seeks to take every step possible to end the culture of death and secure for us a pro-life future.

By / Jul 22

Every person reading this is a human being. But what does that actually mean? “Human dignity” is a term used by Christians (and non-Christians) in policy conversations about a vast array of topics including poverty alleviation, humanitarian aid, abortion, and euthanasia. As Christians, we believe that God creating humankind in his image means that every person possesses an inherent and inalienable dignity. In other words, every human life is precious because every life belongs to a person who bears God’s image. Because of the value and preciousness of each life, it is vital that we develop a clear biblical understanding of what a human is and what the image of God implies. 

What is a human?

Our culture has wrongfully placed the responsibility of defining personhood onto individuals instead of our Creator, who, as “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), has the rightful authority to define our being. Claiming false authority over personhood has led to broken families, distorted views of sexuality, and heinous acts such as abortion in our society. Thankfully, through the creation account, the Bible helps us understand specific ways human beings are set apart from the rest of creation. Though faithful scholars differ in certain respects about exactly what it means to be made in God’s image, below you’ll find three characteristics about humanity that are clearly implied by the opening section of Genesis. 

1. Humans are relational

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26)

When God created mankind, he did so as a Trinity of three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God created us to live in community with him and with one another, reflecting his relational nature. As one God in three persons, God is relational by nature. Similarly, humans are made to operate in relationships. This is precisely what God emphasizes when he creates Eve to live in union with Adam and says, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). 

Through the blood of Jesus, God invites us into fellowship with the divine Trinity. John writes in 1 John 1:3, “Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” God’s heart for relationships is further revealed in the New Testament when he establishes the familial nature of the church, encouraging believers throughout the New Testament to “devote themselves to fellowship,” to “have one heart and one mind,” to “bear one another’s burdens,” and to “love one another with brotherly affection” (Acts 2:42; 4:32; Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:10).

2. Humans are distinct/unique

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). 

In creating us, God not only gave us the ability to love and enjoy companionship with one another and himself, but he also made us distinct in two ways. First, as mentioned above, mankind is made in God’s image. And from Genesis, we learn that human beings are distinct because we are the only part of God’s creation that he specifically made in his image. 

Second, God made us distinct in terms of biology. As Genesis 1:27 tells us, God designed us as either male and female. These distinctions in biological sex are apparent in many ways, including our DNA and external features. Each sex is unique, and various aspects of God’s nature are displayed in both men and women. Ultimately, these distinctions are an important part of the mystery of the gospel, particularly when they are on display in a one flesh union between a husband and a wife. 

As the New Testament explains, the male and female marriage relationship is a picture of Christ’s love for the church. Paul writes of the mysterious, holy complexity of the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:32: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church.” Long before Christ’s incarnation, God purposefully created humanity as male and female and designed the marriage union to display truths about himself. 

Biological sex in every individual is one aspect of God’s design that proclaims his creativity and gives us a clearer picture of his image. The distinct features each human bears remind us that no life is ever interchangeable, replaceable, or worthless.

3. Humans are commissioned

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). 

Every person has a designated role as a steward and cultivator over the earth. God gave Adam a job: to have children, to subdue the ground, and to rule over the other living creatures. Each of us can subdue, or tame, the earth through all kinds of vocations, but this command reveals that God has designed a place and a purpose for each of us (Eph. 2:10). God has included in our makeup the ability to procreate, desires and determination to care for and protect our families — with specific callings designed for husband and wife — to produce things that are good and useful, and to assert leadership in various settings. In order to preserve ourselves and care for loved ones, we employ different gifts and talents that add value to the world and subsequently seek the good of our neighbors. 

God sets his image-bearers above creation and other created beings in giving us vocations. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is widely taught and accepted, observing the phenomenon of trade as an obvious outlier from the way animals relate. Smith is merely observing what has been woven into creation — God has uniquely commissioned his image-bearers to work and care for his good creation, and even the marketplace puts his creative design on display.

Conclusion

The special care God took in setting humans apart from other created beings is why a Christian understanding of human dignity is important when considering issues of justice. Slavery, genocide, abortion, and exploitation of all kinds are tragic displays of treating other humans as utilities. But God’s unmistakable genius in each of our bodies, minds, hearts, and personalities denies any attempt to devalue a human’s worth. These practices are considered “inhumane” because they treat people as a means to an end, more like subordinate animals than respected brothers and sisters.

As Christians, we must defend the vulnerable on the grounds that humans are image-bearers; there is no amount of privilege or power that makes a man or woman more or less valuable. Physical distinctions are often a barrier to relationships and an excuse for sinful and exploitative uses of authority, but the Bible makes no distinction when it comes to a person’s value; every person bears the imago Dei, and every person matters.

When God finished creating heaven, earth, and us, he called his masterpiece “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Long ago, God defined our worth so sinful humans wouldn’t be responsible for determining the value of a life. From conception to death, humans have dignity, eminence, and significance because we are the only creatures God made in his image. We may not understand the full picture of the imago Dei until we are face to face with God in heaven, but we do see God’s image reflected in how humans are relational, distinct, and commissioned.

By / Mar 31

Mary has been a resident of West Valley Assisted Living Center for three years. She has a new caregiver named Harvey. Harvey visits Mary’s room every morning at 8:30 a.m. sharp. He says, “Hellllooo!” and slowly pushes open her door. Harvey brings Mary her morning medication, takes her blood pressure, and asks, “How are you feeling today, Mary?” Mary responds, “Just fine,” and Harvey gives her a big wink and replies with a very happy, “That’s what we like to hear.” 

Mary and Harvey always talk about her children who live in different states. Harvey always seems interested. Then Mary gets updates from Harvey on the weather forecast and a reminder of the day of the week. After a few minutes, Harvey pivots, offers a snappy, “Well, off to my next client!” and motors himself out of the room, carefully pushing the door closed behind him and exclaiming, “Toodle-oo Mary!” Harvey is West Valley’s newest technology, a service robot.

Robots and health care 

Although the story is fictional for the moment, robots are increasingly being called on to assist in health care. According to industry magazine, HealthTech, Adventist Health White Memorial in Los Angeles employs seven LightStrike robots from Xenex Disinfection Services to decontaminate rooms after patients leave. Each robot can emit multiple wavelengths of UV rays, sanitizing the room in as little as 10 to 15 minutes without human contact. 

A fleet of six Aethon TUG robots deliver linens and medicine across the 912-bed facility at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Each robot can execute hundreds of tasks daily (collectively, they traveled 2,974 miles and completed 26,574 stops last year, according to the hospital). At Hutchinson Health, a Level IV Trauma Center in Hutchinson, Minnesota, a Savioke Relay robot delivers blood samples between the main hospital lab and its onsite clinics. Named Spencer (as in dispenser), the robot can work 24/7 and averages nearly 400 in-house deliveries per month. The machine is more efficient and cost-effective than a human employee and never needs paid family leave.

Soon other aspects of caregiving will be delegated to medical robots. In a September 2020 story in the British newspaper, The Guardian, Robert Booth reported that robots will be deployed in British care homes (nursing homes) to help boost the residents’ mental and emotional health.  

The wheeled robots, called “Pepper”, move independently and gesture with robotic arms and hands and are designed to be “culturally competent”, which means that after some initial programming they learn about the interests and backgrounds of care home residents. This allows them to initiate rudimentary conversations, play residents’ favourite music, teach them languages, and offer practical help including medicine reminders.

Robots, persons, and human care 

Even if programmed by human beings, and even if very efficient, are robots appropriate for truly human care? Not in my view. Robots do not care. They cannot provide care. They do not have the capacity to do so either emotionally or existentially. That is not to say that robots cannot perform important tasks. And it is also not to say that they might not be able to do some tasks more efficiently, more frequently, and more accurately than some humans; but they cannot provide care. Human care is a uniquely human gift, just as human touch is a uniquely human experience.

Care is a person-centered virtue. For Christians, the Good Samaritan is the classic example. In the account in Luke 10:25-27, Jesus makes it clear that providing care for those who are hurting and vulnerable is a holy obligation, not an option. In contemporary conversations, being a good Samaritan is often described as going above and beyond the call of duty, but Jesus’ words at the end of the story, “Go and do likewise,” show that it is an imperative. What models are there for Christian person-centered care for senior adults?

Among some Christians, care for the sick, aged, poor, unloved, and dying is a religious vocation or calling. The Alexian Brothers, for instance, is a lay Catholic order that dates back to the Black Death in 14th century Europe. Their moto is Caritas Christus Urgent Nos (For the love of Christ Compels Us). Their articles of faith begin with the affirmation: “We believe that life is a sacred gift from God. Each person is created in the divine image with a right of conscience and from conception until death is called to eternal union with God.” The Alexian Brothers established hospitals, continuing care retirement communities, and other ministries in health care.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, an evangelical denomination, operates Shell Pointe Retirement Community, that provides independent living, assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation, skilled nursing care, a pharmacy, and two medical centers. Rather than warehousing senior adults, Shell Pointe is “dedicated to the service of God and the care of His people by providing a broad continuum of residential alternatives and services, designed to enhance the independence and dignity of its residents through spiritual, social, recreational, and physical programs.”

Through their state conventions or other nonprofit entities, Southern Baptists operate a number of senior adult and continuing care retirement communities, including communities in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, and other states. In Missouri, “For over 100 years, The Baptist Home has provided care for the aging by providing quality care driven by a biblical perspective. Missouri Baptists are committed to supporting the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. The Baptist Home serves this commitment through Christlike, compassionate care to our aging population.”

If Southern Baptists and other Christians are going to resist the robot revolution in health care, respect human dignity, and support the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, they will have to rededicate themselves to patient-centered care, including senior adult care, palliative care, and hospice. We must not allow human senior communities to devolve into old people factories.