By / Feb 11

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public policy office of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) hosted an online event Tuesday, discussing oppression and the Olympics.”

Read the full article here.

By / Feb 4

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 20, 2022, the ERLC sent a letter to the CEO of NBC Universal, Jeff Shell, calling for accurate coverage during the Beijing Olympics of the Chinese Communist Party’s gross and ongoing human rights violations, particularly the genocide of the Uyghur people. In light of the opening ceremonies and coverage that has already been problematic, we urge NBC and other media outlets to tell the truth about the CCP and to help inform the wider public of these ongoing travesties. The CCP cannot be allowed to use the world stage to showcase a false version of itself and to cover up a genocide.

Dear Mr. Shell,

As you are no doubt aware, there is an ongoing genocide taking place in China. Countless stories have been written about the plight of the Uyghur people who are being brutally oppressed by the Chinese government. Unfortunately, as we have seen most recently with the callous comments from Mr. Chamath Palihapitiya, too many Americans are either unaware of the severity of the situation or indifferent about the treatment of a religious minority across the globe. I am writing to you today because I believe you have a unique opportunity to provide real-time information that could help reveal the truth to millions of people across the globe.

To do that, I would respectfully appeal that NBC use its unique position as a broadcaster of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses and genocide of the Uyghur people happening in China and firmly refuse to broadcast Chinese propaganda.

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systematic war of persecution against the Uyghur people, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Xinjiang. Uyghurs are subjected to totalitarian tactics that include pervasive surveillance, forced detainment and placement into internment camps for “political reeducation,” forced labor, forced birth control, sterilization or abortion, rape, physical and psychological torture, and forced organ harvesting. Estimates vary, but experts believe that China has detained between one million and three million Uyghur people in these facilities.

These actions have been labeled as an ongoing genocide by both the Trump and Biden administrations, respectively. In June 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 14.5 million members and a network of over 50,000 cooperating churches and congregations, unanimously passed a resolution rightly calling what’s happening to the Uyghurs a genocide. The SBC was the first denomination to pass such a resolution.

We should all be clear-eyed about this global event. The Chinese government would love nothing more than to use these Winter Games as an opportunity to hide these human rights abuses and lie to the world about the treatment of the Uyghurs. The Chinese Communist Party cannot be allowed to use the world stage to showcase a false version of itself and to cover up a genocide.

NBC has a unique opportunity and responsibility to correctly reframe what viewers are seeing and provide context to the ongoing abuses in China that are happening outside of the Games. Because NBC has its own cameras and crew, you alone are able to showcase protests that might be happening, cut away from Chinese propaganda that is being shown, and provide com- mentary that contextualizes and accurately reports on what viewers are seeing. In the moments that cannot be appropriately shown to viewers, NBC should broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses.

This will be especially important in the opening and closing ceremonies, where China will likely attempt to portray itself as a hospitable nation to all and inappropriately highlight the cultures of ethnic and religious minorities. It is in these moments that NBC must be prepared with the truth and be ready to make a bold stand for human rights.

Mr. Shell, you understand the importance of this global event. Millions of viewers will be tuned in to see world-class athletes compete against one another with the hope of earning a medal for their country. But, in the backdrop of these Games, is an ongoing atrocity the host government would rather be ignored. Resist those efforts. NBC should be on the side of truth and not allow itself to become the international propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

Respectfully,

Brent Leatherwood
Acting President
Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission               

Further resources:

By / Feb 4

On Tuesday, the ERLC hosted a special online event called “Oppression & The Olympics: A Discussion of China’s Human Rights Atrocities Ahead of the Winter Games.” During their time together, three panelists discussed China’s many human rights violations and why the Beijing Olympics is an occasion to spotlight the need for accountability.

In light of the upcoming American coverage of the Olympics by NBC Universal, some have urged the public to not engage in watching the games because of the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing human rights violations, in particular against the Uyghur ethnic minority. This raises the question of boycotts and how Christians should think about them. 

Thinking about boycotts

The term boycott refers to a refusal to buy, use, or participate in something as a means of expressing disapproval. A boycott can be either an act of protest or an act of coercion. In an act of protest, we are intentionally making purchasing decisions for the purpose of registering our disagreement or displeasure — regardless of whether it affects the behavior of anyone else. In contrast, an act of coercion is when we are intentionally making purchasing decisions for the primary purpose of changing someone else’s behavior.

In the case of the Olympics, we are either protesting or attempting to coerce a particular entity: either NBC Universal, the Chinese government, or both. We do not have a moral obligation to either watch the Olympics or buy products from China. The loss of one additional TV viewer or an individual consumer will also not cause much direct harm if we engage in a protest of refusing to watch the games or buy Chinese goods. We can merely make the decision to engage in such a protest based on our individual conscience without a concern about creating an moral conundrum.

However, if our goal is coercion, we are going beyond mere protest by attempting to wield our power in a way that brings about justice. Even though this is a nonviolent use of power, we should apply the similar principles and standards that we would use for violent use of power — which, for many Christians, would be just war principles.

Two principles associated with the just war tradition that would seem to apply to this situation are reasonable chance of success and discrimination. How those principles are applied is open to disagreement, of course, but here’s how we could frame the consideration. We can ask:

  1. Are our actions likely to have the intended effect on NBC Universal and the Chinese government, and
  2. Does the good of engaging in the boycott outweigh the economic destruction on innocent civilians, such as Chinese workers or employees of NBC?

How much economic harm should be allowed by our boycott depends on how likely our boycott is to lead to justice. If the boycott is likely to be effective, then a greater level of harm may be justifiable. However, if the boycott is likely to be ineffective, then the threshold for economic damage to innocents should be considerably less.

We can also be guided in our thinking about boycotts by the principle of proximate justice. As Steven Garber once explained the concept,

“Proximate justice realizes that something is better than nothing. It allows us to make peace with some justice, some mercy, all the while realizing that it will only be in the new heaven and new earth that we find all our longings finally fulfilled, that we will see all of God’s demands finally met. It is only then and there we will see all of the conditions for human flourishing finally in place, socially, economically, and politically.”

Here’s an example of how we might balance these factors in regard to our decision about a boycott:

  1. We can refuse to watch the Olympics on NBC since ​​viewership increases their advertising revenues. We can also refuse to buy any products made by slaves — which might include Olympic souvenirs — since this is the best way for me to apply proximate justice.
  2. However, we may decide we will not refuse to buy products merely because they are made in China since an individual boycott is almost assuredly going to be ineffective, and the most likely outcome would be that the only people hurt would not be the Chinese government but the poorest of Chinese workers (some of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ).
  3. We can use what power we have to take other steps that are most likely to affect the Chinese government and minimize the harm to innocent Chinese people. For example, we can use social media to raise awareness about Chinese atrocities and the treatment of the Uyghurs while the Olympics is ongoing. 

Whatever choice we make about the boycott, there are certain actions we can all take to promote justice. As the panelists noted during the ERLC event, we can contact our U.S. representatives and senators and encourage them to enact legislation that limits Chinese government power. We can also pray for world leaders to have courage to put an end to the Uyghur genocide and to rethink economic exchange with a communist government that disregards human rights. 

By / Feb 2

Where is Peng Shuai? Perhaps you have seen the social media posts asking this question. But, first, unless you are a hardcore tennis fan, you might need some clarity on about Peng Shuai. She is a Chinese professional tennis player with outstanding accomplishments in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She rose to world number 14 in singles (2011) and became world number 1 in doubles in 2014. Shuai became the first Chinese tennis player ever ranked world number 1 in doubles or singles and has won 25 titles on the WTA tour in singles and doubles.

What happened to Peng Shuai?

In a lengthy November post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter, 35-year-old Shuai alleged she was raped by one of China’s senior political leaders, former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. Her post almost immediately disappeared from Weibo, and then she suddenly disappeared from public view as well. Since that time, the Chinese government has censored any mention of Shuai or her accusation against Zhang Gaoli.

Concern about her well-being increased as friends and colleagues could not directly contact Shuai. The #WhereIsPengShuai hashtag took off on social media, and leaders in the tennis world began to voice concern. One of the loudest voices expressing concern is WTA chairman Steve Simon. A few weeks after Shuai’s disappearance, Simon received an email, which was also shared on American social media by Chinese-affiliated outlets, purportedly from Shuai, that said: “everything is fine.” She just did not want to be “bothered” right now. 

The email was almost universally mocked as fabricated or orchestrated by the Chinese government. Simon stated that the email “only increased his concerns.” A short time later, leaders of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) participated in a video call with Shuai and stated she appeared safe and well. Many were outraged by the IOC’s willingness to participate in a video call that was little more than propaganda on behalf of the Chinese government by IOC officials wanting to avoid a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. After pressure, the IOC now says it cannot provide any assurances about Shuai’s well-being. 

Since that time, Chinese state-affiliated media outlets have shown pictures of Shuai out eating dinner and as a celebrity at a couple of sporting events. She recently told a Chinese state-friendly Singaporean newspaper that she had been misunderstood, she had not been sexually assaulted, and she is free to move around as she wished. 

Of course, none of these videos, pictures, or statements offer any proof that Shuai can move and speak without coercion or censorship. China’s authoritarian government has a long history of disappearing people, and threatening them and their families, until they coerce a retraction of any unfavorable comments toward the Communist Party leadership.

The shame of looking away

Sadly, it seems the financial benefit of looking the other way at China’s human rights atrocities has proven too strong a temptation for many businesses, including sports leagues and entertainment companies. For example, the Australian Open tennis tournament, run by Tennis Australia, at one time decided to turn away all spectators wearing any clothing that asks, “Where is Peng Shuai?” Their actions were an apparent capitulation to the Chinese regime and the Chinese investors in the tournament. Thankfully, on Jan. 25, after public pressure, Tennis Australia reversed its policy.

Recently, Chamath Palihapitiya, a billionaire venture capitalist and part-owner of the Golden State Warriors, said out loud what is a reality for too many in positions of power and influence. He said in an interview, when the genocide of the Uyghurs in China was mentioned, “Let’s be honest, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs . . . .  I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, it is below my line.”

The danger in the Shuai situation is that the rest of the world just moves on and forgets about her condition over time. However, Simon has been one heroic figure who chosen to defend human rights over financial interests in this situation. He helped move a portion of the WTA season into China to take advantage of a lucrative emerging Chinese market. In 2018, the WTA signed a 10-year deal to move the WTA Finals to Shenzhen, China, with a guaranteed 14 million dollars in prize money. 

Nevertheless, Simon has put the well-being of Shuai over financial interests from the beginning of this saga. Simon said, “Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source,” and, “Her allegation must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.” He followed his words with actions by suspending all WTA events in China. The result of the WTA actions could be an estimated 1 billion dollar loss of revenue. 

Simon is unfazed, asserting, “The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players.” However, he also urges, “As we do so, I hope leaders around the world will continue to speak out so justice can be done for Peng, and all women, no matter the financial ramifications.” While Simon’s courage and clarity in facing down China’s authoritarian regime has been heartening, the fact that so few have joined him is disheartening. 

A Christian’s responsibility

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our voices should be the loudest on behalf of those persecuted and marginalized. We are to care about the lives of God’s image-bearers from conception until natural death. The writer of Proverbs commands, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9). 

Toward the end of the post where she made allegations of ongoing sexual abuse, Shuai asked a question that many persecuted, victimized, and dehumanized people have asked, “I thought, am I still a human?” May followers of Christ answer her question with a resounding, yes, by the way we speak up for her life and liberty. Tennis is a game; human rights are not. 

It has been right to ask, “Where is Peng Shuai?” But we must also ask, “Where are we?” Where are we when the opportunity comes to speak and act on behalf of the persecuted, suffering, and vulnerable? Let us be those who hear and heed the words of the Lord Almighty: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zech. 7:9).

By / Jan 31

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 31, 2022—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, will host a special online eventTuesday, Feb. 1 at 11:00 a.m. EST, to discuss China’s human rights atrocities ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Event panelists include:

  • Nury Turkel, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Rushan Abbas, Founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs
  • Brent Leatherwood, Acting President of the ERLC
  • Michael Sobolik, Fellow in Indo-Pacific Studies, American Foreign Policy Council

During the event, panelists will address questions and topics such as:

  • What do we know about the ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs in China?
  • What should Christians know as they prepare to watch the Winter Olympics?
  • How Christians can pray for the persecuted church and other vulnerable groups in China.

The ERLC has consistently advocated on behalf of the Uyghurs and condemned the CCP’s unconscionable human rights abuses against them and other ethnic minorities since 2019. The SBC was the first denomination to label the CCP’s heinous actions as a genocide of the Uyghur people. 

On Jan. 19, ERLC’s Leatherwood sent a letter today to the CEO of NBC Universal, Jeff Shell, calling for the network to use its unique position in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to highlight the human rights abuses and genocide of the Uyghur people happening in China and to firmly refuse to broadcast Chinese propaganda.

Below are ERLC past assets calling attention to the plight of the Uyghurs. 

Event registration is free and available online.

By / Dec 10

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss Carson v. Makin at the Supreme Court, the Olympics in China, and Biden confronting Putin over Ukraine. They also talk about biblical justice, friendship and the pro-life movement, and vaccine mandates. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Biden confronts Putin over Ukraine
  2. Carson v. Makin before the Supreme Court; ERLC filed brief
  3. China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit
  4. Democrats souring on vaccine mandates

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • The Dawn of Redeeming Grace // This episode was sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of The Dawn of Redeeming Grace .Join Sinclair Ferguson as he opens up the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel in these daily devotions for Advent. Each day’s reflection is full of insight and application and will help you to arrive at Christmas Day awed by God’s redeeming grace and refreshed by the hope of God’s promised King. Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com.
  • Outrageous Justice // God calls us to seek justice. But how should Christians respond? Outrageous Justice, a free small-group study from experts at Prison Fellowship, offers Christians a place to start. Explore the criminal justice system through a biblical lens and discover hands-on ways to pursue justice, hope, and restoration in your community. Get your free copy of Outrageous Justice, featuring a study guide, videos, and a companion book today! Visit prisonfellowship.org/outrageous-justice.
By / Aug 10

Every four years, the summer Olympic Games take center stage. And while impossible-to-believe feats of strength and athleticism, camaraderie, and sportsmanship regularly wow its global viewership, the Olympic platform has sometimes also thrust prevailing social and cultural issues to the foreground. In some ways, the Tokyo Olympics may have done so more than ever.

As a prime example, one of the cultural issues that took center stage this summer was the transgender debate, seen most notably in the participation of Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old weightlifter from New Zealand who competed in the women’s heavyweight competition. Though admittedly reluctant to be a mouthpiece for the transgender community, Hubbard, who formerly competed in the sport as a male, has garnered a great deal of attention and sparked significant controversy by participating in Tokyo’s games.

Much of the conversation on this particular controversy revolves around the question of fairness. Namely, is it fair for a person who has undergone a so-called gender transition, especially from male to female, to compete athletically in their “new” gender classification? But while the issue of fairness is critically important in sports and athletics, the truth is that fairness is downstream from the real crux of the issue. At root, the issue at hand is whether we, as a society, will continue to recognize and accept objective truth. 

A web of delusion

We are suffering from a self-deception of our own making. The widespread acceptance of transgenderism reflects the fact that our culture has traded objective truth for subjectivism. In effect, we have crowned the self the ruler of truth. And in the midst of this, Sir Walter Scott’s memorable line, “Oh what a tangled web we weave,” has become uncomfortably poignant. Our culture has woven a destructive web of delusion, allowing feelings to supplant facts and preferences to replace realities.

Human beings do not decree what is or is not true. We are not God or gods. As limited and finite beings, our duty is much more modest. We recognize truth. We share truth. We stand for truth. But we do not fashion or alter what is true. And in our culture today, perhaps our hubris and propensity for exceeding the boundaries of our own authority is nowhere better displayed than with regard to gender. 

Rejecting reality

In the case of Laurel Hubbard, we are witnessing the downstream consequences of our culture’s rejection of objective truth. Hubbard’s example demonstrates just how quickly we’re beginning to encounter the consequences of decades of emphasis on self-supremacy and self-actualization. 

Any rational person can acknowledge that it is generally unfair to ask biological females to compete against biological males in physical athletic competition. This is especially true when the activity is weightlifting. The reasons why are self-evident but bear repeating. Males and females are distinct. Among other things, males and females have different musculoskeletal makeups: “Muscle size and bulk is less in women, due to the effects of the normal sex hormones. Men, given their greater levels of testosterone, have larger and stronger muscles, with a greater potential for muscle development.” Importantly, these physiological distinctions are not able to be altered apart from serious medical intervention — and even then clear differences persist.

The decision to allow Hubbard to compete against biological females because of Hubbard’s current female “gender identity” reflects just how deeply we’ve imbibed this cultural delusion. There is no doubt that Hubbard, and many others, experience true feelings of gender dysphoria, “a condition where a person senses that their gender identity (how they feel about being male or female) may not align with their biological sex and experiences emotional distress as a result.” Indeed, such people deserve tremendous mercy and compassion. But validating an identity that is not merely flawed but antithetical to Hubbard’s true identity is neither merciful nor compassionate. It is a rejection of reality and a repudiation of the concept of objective truth.

Eroding the foundations

When it comes to sex and gender the answer is not to capitulate to the winds of culture. Instead, it is to affirm that which is apparent by observation, attested via biology, and most importantly revealed in Scripture. It is no accident that the first pages of our Bible clearly describe God’s pattern for human beings in the words “male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). And it is equally important for Christians to affirm that gender is inextricably linked to sex. Regardless of whether a person may “feel” like a man or a woman, their gender is not determined according to feeling but according to a fixed and objective reality. Only males are men; only females are women.

Athletic competition reveals these distinctions acutely. Men and women typically compete in separate categories to ensure a fair and equal playing field. One need not subscribe to the Bible’s view of anthropology to recognize this. We can recognize the injustice of allowing biological males to compete against biological females because alongside our innate sense of fairness is our perception of these biological distinctions. 

Beyond sports, we can only guess just how damaging the eradication of these boundaries will be for both individuals and our society as a whole. What we do know is that this widespread rejection of objective truth will continue to erode the foundations upon which our common life is built. As Christians, we must strive resist the tides of culture and hold fast to the truth about what it means that God creates human beings as either male or female. These distinctions are critical, not merely to preserve the wonder that captivates us at the Olympic Games but to honor the pattern of God’s design for those he created to reflect his image back into all creation.

By / Jul 30

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss news and updates from the Olympics, Simone Biles, bipartisanship in the U.S., how COVID-19 cases are on the rise and the new requirements we are starting to see, and how we can pray for an encourage pastors during this COVID-19 surge. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Chelsea Patterson Sobolik with “4 important SCOTUS cases for life and religious liberty: Looking back and looking ahead,” ERLC staff with “Explainer: What’s going on in Cuba with protests and new sanctions?,” and Josh Wester with “Why we need a comprehensive approach to ending abortion.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Simone Biles pulled out of the women’s gymnastics team final at the Tokyo Olympics.
  2. Bipartisanship in the US Senate
  3. Covid on the comeback
  4. New covid requirements
  5. Google offices to mandate vaccines
  6. Ronnie Parrott Tweet

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

Just Ask: The Joy of Confident, Bold, Patient, Relentless, Shameless, Dependent, Grateful, Powerful, Expectant Prayer by J.D. Greear | J.D. Greear shows us how prayer was a non-negotiable daily staple in Jesus’ life, more essential to him than eating or sleeping, and therefore why we need to pray as well. | Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com

By / Jul 23

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss John Leland, religious freedom, Jeff Bezos the astronaut, COVID-19 surging once again, the start of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the six new sports debuting in Tokyo, the Milwaukee Bucks winning the NBA championship, and USA stove pipe hats. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Nathan Finn with “3 reasons Baptists should look to John Leland: Religious liberty, evangelism, and biblical justice,” Ben Harbaugh with “Explainer: Biden administration to nominate Ambassador for International Freedom,” and Policy Staff with “Explainer: Federal court strikes down discrimination against religious student groups on college campus.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. The Blue Origin suborbital space flight
  2. Covid hits the Capitol amid visit from infected Texas lawmakers
  3. Texas Democrats to break quorum in special session over voting rights
  4. new infections surge to highest point in 5 months
  5. Delta variant now accounts for about 58% of COVID-19 cases in US, CDC says
  6. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics
  7. Six new sports makes Tokyo 2020 the biggest Olympics ever
  8. 2020 Olympics could still be cancelled
  9. U.S. soccer suffers stunning defeat to Sweden in Olympics opener
  10. The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions for the first time in 50 years as Antetokounmpo scores 50 points
  11. USA stove pipe hats

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Love your church: This engaging book by Tony Merida explores what church is, why it’s exciting to be a part of it, and why it’s worthy of our love and commitment. | Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com
By / Jul 9

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the assassination of Haiti’s president, how new deaths from covid remain from those who are unvaccinated, a summer Olympics without any spectators, and the winner of the national spelling bee. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Candice Watters with “Do you need a digital reset? A better approach to screen time after the pandemic,” Daniel Patterson with “Why and how reading shapes your soul,” and Hannah Anderson with “At what age should we baptize our children? A case for baptizing those who make a credible profession of faith.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Suspects arrested in assassination of Haitian president
  2. Nearly all deaths from Covid in US are among the unvaccinated
  3. In Maryland, all deaths from Covid in June were among unvaccinated
  4. More evidence suggests vaccines protect against delta variant
  5. An Olympic fiasco
  6. Zaila Avant-garde wins national spelling bee

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

Love your church: This engaging book by Tony Merida explores what church is, why it’s exciting to be a part of it, and why it’s worthy of our love and commitment. | Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com