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Barber discusses Gaza in prime-time TV interview, calls Southern Baptists to prayer

FARMERSVILLE, Texas (BP) — Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber addressed Gospel issues connected with the war in Gaza as well as those existing culturally in America during a prime-time interview Nov. 14.

The segment aired on NewsNation’s CUOMO, with host Chris Cuomo and was tagged with the title “Amid divisions, Southern Baptist Convention leader urges Americans to ‘rediscover’ love, confidence.” CUOMO airs weekday evenings at 7 p.m. Central.

Barber had returned from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting to the sanctuary where he preaches at First Baptist Farmersville just prior to the interview, which began with Cuomo relaying news from his senior producer that Israeli tanks had entered the hospital complex in Gaza.

“You know how divided we are on [the war in Gaza] … unusually so in this country,” Cuomo said to Barber. “How do you see that division?”

“Southern Baptists are not pacifists,” Barber responded. “It’s possible to care about the humanity of everyone involved and still have the moral clarity to identify an aggressor and someone who is making a justified response to aggression.”

He pointed out the decades-long ministry presence of Southern Baptists in Gaza and the work of Send Relief to provide trauma counseling, bomb shelters and basic needs such as food to the area.

“We want to love everybody and serve everybody, but also recognize that sometimes nations have to take violent action to prevent violence,” he said.

Call to prayer this Sunday

Cuomo asked Barber how he would respond if a member at First Baptist put forward that Israel’s response is overwhelming in scale. 

It hasn’t been asked at his church, said Barber, probably because “if you come to church a lot” one is well-acquainted with the conflict in that area and “there’s a lot of clarity” as to how the past affects the present. 

That said, he added that “Nobody [here] is writing a blank check … for Israel to do anything that they want to do. There are rules and ethics for conducting warfare.”

Israel’s actions, said Barber “seem to be … proportional to the threat that they face.”

In talking with Baptist Press this morning, Barber reiterated his call for Southern Baptists to remain prayerful over the events in Gaza and Israel.

“Even before the attacks of Oct. 7, Southern Baptists were praying for peace in Israel,” he said. “All the more so, we should be praying now. The hostages taken by Hamas have been in captivity for more than a month. This Sunday is a good time for Southern Baptists to take a moment to pray for their safe return and for a just and lasting peace in Israel.”

‘We don’t write people off’

Switching to topics in the U.S., Cuomo asked Barber about the state of addiction and homelessness in the country, presenting the position of those saying, “Gotta get rid of ‘em. They don’t have any right to put their addiction on the rest of us.”

“How do you see it?” Cuomo asked in the segment that wasn’t included in the edited clip shared online.

“Not that way at all,” Barber said, noting that the rule of law exists for a reason, and law enforcement have met challenges in preserving public safety, but compassion must be part of the equation.

“The fact of the matter is there are members of my congregation with family members caught up in addition,” he said. “I sit in the pastor’s office and weep with them over the struggles that their children are facing. [Addicts] get into it by their own choice, but a lot of times they really want to get out of it and it’s hard.”

Addiction treatment is difficult, he added, but has produced many who have gone on to lead healthy, productive lives.

“We don’t write people off,” Barber said, “because everybody was created in God’s image, and God cares about everybody.”

Rediscovering love, trust, confidence

Earlier in his show, Cuomo addressed the near-fight that occurred in a Senate hearing that day and the growing animosity among people. Such behaviors can even be seen among Christians. But, Barber said, the solution is always available.

“Following Jesus is a journey, and we all start out in a place where we’re not comfortable or familiar with it at all,” he said. “It takes a lifetime to follow Jesus and to grow and to mature as a Christian. So, it’s not surprising to me when I see people who are Christian who struggle to do the right thing.”

For all the advantages technology brings, there are still negative effects to the individual and families, he said.

“We’re in the adolescence of learning what to do with the internet, which is a medium so easily used to stoke people’s fears and pump up their anger,” said Barber, noting that 46 percent of young people report feelings of anxiety or consistent depression.

“That’s tinder ready to burn when somebody knows how to use it to create anger out of that fear,” he said, adding his hopes “that we come to a point of rediscovering love and trust and confidence.”