By / Apr 4

Healthy engagement in the public square can feel like a fond memory of past decades, but we believe that Christians can still engage the public square today in ways that bring hope where it is desperately needed.

On the ERLC Podcast, our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues. Today, we’re starting a new series on Christian political engagement.

Do you sense that American politics is in trouble? Are you frustrated by our inability, even as Christians, to dialogue and disagree across party lines and other differences? In 2019, the ERLC, the Fetzer Institute, and LifeWay Research conducted a study on civility in the public square. The study found that “the single most common adjective” evangelical leaders used to describe the current political discourse was “toxic.” Sadly, not much has changed over the last several years. 

At the ERLC, we feel the same tensions you feel. On the one hand, it’d be easy to throw up our hands and be done with politics altogether. On the other, we can be tempted to conform to the patterns of the world and adopt the same defensive posture in politics we see on social media and in the news. But, we, as Christians, believe there’s a better way and that Scripture guides us in our political engagement—maybe not in the specifics of voting on a certain policy, but certainly, in our speech, how we treat others, and the things we care about. 

Together, we want to be Southern Baptists who engage in politics and bring hope to the public square. On today’s episode, you’ll learn what this means from Brent Leatherwood, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He has extensive experience working in our nation’s capital and in Tennessee politics. He and his wife are committed members of their local church and have three children. 

By / Mar 28

Nashville, Tenn., March 28, 2024 —The Ethics & Religious Liberty of the Southern Baptist Convention, will host an event Tuesday, June 11, at 11:30 a.m. ET during the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, on, “Serving in the Public Square: A Conversation with Vice President Mike Pence.” 

The event will feature a conversation between Vice President Mike Pence and ERLC President Brent Leatherwood to discuss Pence’s journey into politics, how pastors can partner with elected officials, and how we can engage with hope in the public square. 

“It is an honor to welcome Vice President Pence to our event at the SBC for a candid discussion about Christian service in the public square,” said Leatherwood. “He is someone I personally admire because of his many faithful years of service and leadership to this country. My hope is that this conversation will bring encouragement and practical wisdom to attendees as they seek to engage the culture as ambassadors of Christ.”   

Members of the press are invited to attend by registering and presenting SBC annual meeting press credentials upon entry. To RSVP, email Elizabeth Bristow at [email protected] to receive a promo code for free attendance. There will be designated press tables. 

More information and further details about the event can be found here.

Who: Vice President Mike Pence, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood

What:  Discussion on Serving in the Public Square: A Conversation with Vice President Mike Pence

When: Tuesday, June 11 at 11:30 a.m. ET

Where: Indiana Ballroom located at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, 350 W Maryland St, Indianapolis, IN, 46225

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 13.6 million members and a network of over 47,000 cooperating churches and congregations. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

To request an interview contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected]

By / Mar 22

On Super Tuesday, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump officially secured the number of delegates needed to clinch their parties’ presidential nomination. This ensures that they will be facing one another ​in a rematch, the first to feature two U.S. presidents since 1956. Despite reaching this milestone, the candidates still face a long and complex process as they head toward the general election. The period between Super Tuesday and Election Day is particularly crucial, encompassing the:

  • remaining primaries and caucuses,
  • party conventions,
  • the development of political party platforms,
  • and the general election campaign. 

Here is an overview of what happens during this critical phase for both the Democratic and Republican parties.

After Super Tuesday

In most states, presidential candidates are awarded delegates based on the results of primaries and caucuses. Delegates are individuals who represent their states or districts at their party’s national convention and help choose the party’s nominee. The Democrats and Republicans use different approaches to allocating delegates and have differing thresholds:

  • a Republican candidate needs 1,215 delegates to win the nomination, 
  • while the Democratic candidate needs 1,869.

Super Tuesday, typically held in late February or early March, is a significant day in the primary election season when multiple states hold their primaries or caucuses simultaneously. The results can substantially impact the race for both parties’ nominations, as a large number of delegates are allocated based on the outcomes in each state. This year, Super Tuesday occurred on March 5.

Following Super Tuesday, a series of state primaries and caucuses continue according to a predetermined schedule. 

  • These contests are normally pivotal in accumulating the delegates needed to secure a party’s nomination. 
  • In most election years, key states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, and California, significantly influence the race due to their large number of delegates.
  • As the primaries progress, candidates aim to reach the required threshold of delegates. 
  • In some cases, a contested convention may occur if no single candidate reaches this required number.

Campaign strategies often pivot after Super Tuesday, as candidates assess their standings and target states more strategically. Those with fewer delegates may suspend their campaigns, turning the race into a clearer head-to-head between the frontrunners, as happened this year. In the Democratic Party, superdelegates—party officials with the freedom to support any candidate—play a unique role, especially in close races.

National conventions and party platforms

The Republican National Convention is July 15-18. 

The Democratic National Convention is Aug. 19-22. 

National conventions mark the official nomination of each party’s presidential candidate.

  • These events serve as a platform for key speakers, including party leaders and rising stars, to address the nation and rally support. 
  • The conventions are also a critical moment for displaying party unity, introducing the vice presidential candidates, and appealing to undecided voters.

Central to these conventions is the adoption of each party’s platform. Platform committees, composed of party members and stakeholders, draft a document outlining the party’s stance on various issues, such as the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, and social matters. The platform development process can highlight the internal dynamics and ideological spectrum within each party.

The race to Election Day

The end of the convention usually comes with the nominated candidates delivering their acceptance speeches, marking the true start of the general election campaign. Following this start: 

  • running mates take part in a single vice presidential debate to introduce themselves and showcase their qualifications; 
  • a series of presidential debates, typically three, take place in the weeks leading up to the election, providing candidates an opportunity to present their policies, challenge their opponents, and appeal to undecided voters.

On Election Day, held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, millions of Americans cast their ballots (154.6 million in 2020). 

The Electoral College, rather than the popular vote, ultimately decides the presidency, adding a layer of complexity to the final outcome. But on election night, as the votes are tallied, exit polls and early results provide insights into the potential outcome. Media outlets project the winner based on available data, and once the result is clear, the losing candidate traditionally concedes while the winner delivers an acceptance speech.

The period from Super Tuesday to Election Day is more than a series of political events; it’s a reflection of the democratic process in action. For all Americans, understanding this complex process is useful for appreciating the peaceful transition of power that defines American democracy. For Southern Baptists, engaging with this process is part of the stewardship of our civic duties, an opportunity to: 

  • reflect our convictions in the public sphere, 
  • pray for our leaders as part of our ongoing pursuit as citizens of a more perfect union,
  • and seek the flourishing of our neighbors by bringing the gospel to bear on the public square.
By / Feb 9

Here are 5 ways you can engage in politics taken from The Nations Belong to God: A Christian Guide to Political Engagement.

First, individuals should know their country’s governing documents. You would be shocked to learn how many citizens do not even know what their country’s governing documents say. Civic literacy is an absolute essential.

Second, individuals need to know who their governing officials are at every level. Most individuals cannot even name their local city officials, their state representative, or their state senator. It’s far more likely that individuals know who their federal officials are before they’re aware of their local officials.

Third, think globally, act locally. Before you think you can change the world, focus on cultivating a love and awareness of what is local to you. Instead of thinking, “The United States needs to change,” ask, “How can I help bring attention to an issue in my city or my county?”

Fourth, stay informed. In my experience, most people can tell you who their favorite athlete is or when the latest blockbuster movie is going to come out, but they cannot tell you what’s going on politically. Individuals need to be informed by reading a wide array of news sources and avoiding the tendency in our age to only read one particular news source. Additionally, Christians should get their news from a wide array of sources rather than from social media feeds alone, which tend to incentivize partisanship and extremism

Fifth, be immune to political hype. If individuals do not have a grasp of history, they can easily believe that our moment is unlike any other period in history and fall prey to over-zealous commentators who prey on fear and outrage. When someone says, “This is the most important election of our lifetime,” you should quickly realize that individuals say this about every election. That is not to relativize the importance of some elections over others (some elections do matter more!), but only to encourage you from getting caught in the moment’s frenzy.

A famous quote attributed to the theologian Karl Barth is good advice on how to begin your day: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

What might Christian political engagement look like, especially in a presidential election year? Download “The Nations Belong to God: A Christian Guide to Political Engagement” to find help and hope as you seek to bring the gospel to your community.

By / Jan 31

When things seem dark, we must remember that God is in control. That may sound like one of the most obvious and simple truths of Christianity. But oftentimes, we can forget it or overlook it, especially when it comes to the topic of politics. 

When we look around our world, it is easy to see why the Bible refers to Satan as the “god of this world” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Cor. 4:4). There are so many things we can point to in our society right now and think to ourselves, “This is not how things are supposed to be.” If we’re honest, pushing back against the darkness can seem futile.

But here’s what we must etch into the deepest recesses of our heart: God is in absolute control over everything—over this world, governments, candidates, platforms, and parties. Nothing is happening that God is not using in his sovereignty to bring about his will (Gen. 50:20).

God is in control of the nations. They belong to him. Why? Because the earth is the Lord’s (Psa. 24:1). No matter where we go, what happens, or who is ruling, everything is underneath God’s ultimate sovereignty.

What it means to be political

Consider Israel when it was exiled into Babylon. Israel could have feared that it would be overtaken and stamped out of existence. But what does God say to do while they are in exile? 

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:4–7).

God says for Israel to get rooted:to build houses, plant gardens, and build families. In other words, while in exile—in a state of things where they are not in control—God calls them back to his original plan and creation mandate. Israel’s seeking of Babylon’s welfare was going to look extremely ordinary. It was not going to be revolutionary. It was going to look like what God intended from the very beginning: be fruitful, multiply, steward the world around you. 

The picture in Jeremiah comes closer to what it means to be “political” than volunteering for your local political organization. As we’ll explore in this volume, politics is how we arrange ourselves in society for the sake of justice and mutual benefit. In this way, politics is very ordinary. It consists of the small, daily actions of citizens stewarding the parts of creation order that are meant to be honored: life, family, and engagement in society. Keep in mind that this command was given by Jeremiah to Israel while the Israelites were in exile, meaning they were not the ones in charge, politically speaking.

But in exile, guess what? Babylon still belonged to God, as all other nations do. Babylon exists in a world created by God, so the world or political systems cannot rewrite God’s creation order. In a way, Israel was to tell Babylon the truth of living in a world created by God. Babylon was not free to do whatever it wanted or to claim authority that did not belong to it. Jesus says the same thing in a different way in Matthew 22. He says to render to God what belongs to God and to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. The implication of this is that Caesar can claim some authority, but it cannot claim ultimate authority. Caesar is under God’s sovereign rule.

The same is true of the nations today. But that brings us to an important consideration: What are Christians to do while in their own earthly nations? Should we expect to always be on the losing side? Or the winning side? Christians are not promised total victory or total defeat as history progresses. We’re called to be faithful and to speak the truth, in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2).

We’re to be engaged. We’re to be citizens, but citizens who understand that their primary citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). In the same way that Jeremiah called Israel to seek the welfare of the city, we, too, are to seek the welfare of the United States, Tanzania, Uzbekistan, or any nation where we reside with the type of love that God meant for us to give—not an ultimate love, but a love born of gratitude for the place where God has providentially placed us (Acts 17:26). 

Metaphorically speaking, every country in the world is some type of Babylon. That is not meant to be a pejorative about our country; it is to recognize that while politics is not everything, it is not insignificant, either. We should be paying more attention to politics than we often are. Politics has real-life implications for the world we live in and the conditions of society that our neighbors encounter. If we are to love our neighbors, paying attention to and being involved in politics is just one way to do that. In doing so, we want to avoid the extremes of either political obsession or political apathy.

Politics is a calling to be engaged within a world that belongs to God, not ultimately to princes, presidents, or prime ministers.

What might Christian political engagement look like, especially in a presidential election year? Download “The Nations Belong to God: A Christian Guide to Political Engagement” to find help and hope as you seek to bring the gospel to your community. 

By / Jun 30

Here are five recent Supreme Court rulings you should know about. The decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court often directly affect Southern Baptist pastors and churches and the people they serve. That’s why every year the ERLC actively engages in the judicial process on issues that hold immense importance for our churches and the gospel.

But the court also issues rulings in cases that, while they aren’t directly related to the issues we work on, intersect with or are related to topics of concern for Southern Baptists. Here are five recent Supreme Court rulings from the most recent term. 

Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admission v. UNC 

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions, Inc (SFFA). The cases—SFFA v. UNC and SFFA v. President and Fellows of Harvardaddressed the consideration of race in college admissions. The court was asked to consider whether institutions of higher education can use race as a factor in admissions, and whether Harvard College was violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race, and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.

The court ruled that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as an express factor in admissions, a landmark decision that overturns long-standing precedent. In the 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the court considered a quota system in place at the University of California and established the constitutionality of affirmative action programs 

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that for too long universities have “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the only Black woman on the court, wrote that the majority had “detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences.” But Justice Clarence Thomas, the only Black man on the court, said, “While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law.”

United States v. Texas

In United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked Article III standing to challenge immigration-enforcement guidelines issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security. These guidelines were issued in a memorandum by the Department of Homeland Security to the Acting Director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instructing ICE officials to prioritize the removal of noncitizens who pose a threat to national security, public safety, or border security.

The purpose of these guidelines was to provide a framework for ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement and to promote consistency and transparency in the enforcement of immigration laws. The Biden administration also argued that these guidelines were necessary to prioritize limited resources and focus on individuals who pose a greater risk to the country. However, Texas and Louisiana challenged the legality of these guidelines, arguing that they restrained ICE agents from fully enforcing immigration laws. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked standing to challenge these rules, reinforcing the federal government’s unique role in setting immigration policy.

Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh 

On May 18, the Supreme Court issued opinions in two related cases, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh. In the Taamneh case, the court unanimously ruled that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to establish that the defendants (Twitter, Google, and Facebook) aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack. 

In both cases the plaintiffs made arguments related to the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act. Additionally, in the Gonzalez v. Google case, the plaintiffs argued that Google, through its subsidiary YouTube, aided, abetted, and conspired with ISIS by allowing the terrorist group to use its platform to spread propaganda and recruit members. The plaintiffs claimed that Google’s algorithms and revenue-sharing practices contributed to the spread of ISIS content on YouTube, and that Google should be held liable for the deaths of their family members in an ISIS attack in Jordan in 2016. In the Twitter v. Taamneh case, the plaintiffs alleged that Twitter, Google, and Facebook aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out an attack in Istanbul in 2017. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants provided material support to ISIS by allowing the group to use their platforms to spread propaganda and recruit members.

The court unanimously ruled in the Taamneh case that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to establish that the defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the attack. Based on that ruling, the court declined to address the issues raised about the application of Section 230 protection from liability for aiding terrorists in the Gonzalez v. Google case and remanded it back to the lower courts.

Haaland v. Brackeen 

In the case of Haaland v. Brackeen, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to reject challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal statute that aims to protect the future of Tribal Nations (i.e., the 574 federally recognized Indian Nations) and promote the best interests of Native American children. The case was brought by a birth mother, foster and adoptive parents, and the state of Texas, who claimed that the ICWA exceeds federal authority, infringes state sovereignty, and discriminates on the basis of race. 

The ICWA is a federal law that was passed in 1978 to protect the well-being and best interests of Native American children and families. The law aims to uphold family integrity and stability and to keep Native children connected to their community and culture. ICWA establishes minimum federal standards for the removal of Native children from their families and placement of such children in homes that reflect the unique values of Native culture.  

The Supreme Court rejected these challenges and upheld the ICWA, a victory for the Biden administration and several Native American tribes that defended the law. The majority opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the court “declines to disturb the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that ICWA is consistent with” Congress’s authority under the Constitution in Article I. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the only justices to dissent. 

Moore v. Harper 

The case of Moore v. Harper involved the controversial independent state legislature theory (ISL). This theory arose from the redistricting of North Carolina’s districts by the North Carolina legislature following the 2020 census, which the state courts found to be too artificial and partisan, and an extreme case of gerrymandering in favor of the Republican Party. ISL asserts that only the state legislature itself has the power to set the rules for making state laws that apply to federal elections, from drawing congressional district lines to determining the who-what-when-where of casting a ballot. 

The Supreme Court of North Carolina granted a rehearing in the underlying case, which prompted the justices to request additional briefing on whether they still had the power to rule in Moore. On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in a 6-3 decision, affirming the lower court’s ruling that the congressional map violated the state constitution and dismissing the plaintiffs’ lawsuits. The case was decided in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh filing a concurring opinion, and Justice Thomas dissenting. The case was one of the most high-profile cases the Supreme Court has taken up in recent years, with former federal judge Michael Luttig calling it the “single most important case on American democracy—and for American democracy—in the nation’s history.”