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ERLC head says faith brings hope to America

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)—While the future of the nation looks bleak, hope is rising, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13 in Greensboro, N.C.

It is easy for Christians to get discouraged from being in an “atmosphere of bad behavior and irresponsible behavior,” Land said, in reference to the prevailing culture of America today. Still there is the transforming power of faith which brings hope, he said.

“Things are not too well in this country,” Land told messengers. “We see a lot of privileged people — people who get to live in the United States of America are among the most privileged people who have ever lived — often behaving badly.”

Yet underneath what Land called a “camouflage net of pagan behavior and irresponsible behavior,” a “genuine, heaven-sent, Spirit-led revival” is taking place, he said. Noting a recent report from the George Barna organization, Land said 51 percent of respondents indicated they have been “greatly transformed by their faith.”

Among these individuals are “revolutionaries,” Land said, some 20 million believers “sold out to lives of radical obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He said most of the Christians identified by Barna are in their 20s and 30s.

“They are going to revolutionize America,” Land said. “It is up to us to grab that spiritual energy and harness it within our churches.”

Noting that many of those people surveyed are seeking to follow Jesus through less traditional channels than the church, Land said people may not realize a great spiritual awakening has begun “disproportionately among young people” who are without a single spiritual leader like Billy Graham, D.L. Moody or Billy Sunday.

“It has been a grassroots movement,” Land said about the phenomena, noting it can be seen in voting patterns and on college campuses.

Recalling when he graduated from Princeton University in 1969, Land said it was a “hostilely secular place,” but times have changed, and now many Princeton students are active evangelicals.

The country is changing for the better, Land continued, because instead of having 31 percent of adult Americans who claim to be born-again Christians, there are 45 percent who make the same claim today as compared to what Barna says people claimed in the mid-1980s.

Another example of a positive change, Land said, is that as a result of people of faith voting their values, their beliefs and their convictions in recent elections, the Supreme Court is headed now by a strong conservative, John Roberts.

“Instead of having four liberal votes, three conservative votes, and two swing votes on the Supreme Court, we now have four conservative votes, four liberal votes, and one swing vote,” Land said, adding, “All we need is one more and you will see some changing going on at the Supreme Court level that you haven’t seen in your lifetime or mine.”

Land said elections have consequences and the election of a conservative president has changed the face of the U.S. Supreme Court and, he predicted, will soon secure a critical protection for unborn infants. While the partial-birth abortion ban became law, it was temporarily struck down by a federal appeals court, Land reminded messengers. Yet hope for the measure is not lost as U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts has asked for the case to be heard in the Supreme Court’s next term, he said.

Last time the partial-birth abortion measure was before the court it was voted down 5-4, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor providing the fifth vote, Land said, but times have changed and O’Connor has retired and been replaced by Samuel Alito — who Land said he believes will vote to save the ban.

“We are winning the struggle for hearts and minds when it comes to the issue of abortion, for the first time since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade a minority of the American people support the decision,” Land said. “Only 49 percent believe it was a rightly decided decision.”

Yet pro-life Americans have some work to do,” Land acknowledged, noting a majority of Americans don’t think the decision ought to be overturned, while two-thirds of Americans oppose the types of abortions Roe v. Wade allows. America, he reminded messengers, is one of the most abortive countries in the world.

“It is well past time that changed, the American people want it changed. We are going to insist that we have a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people,” Land said, adding Christians “must be ‘salt’ and ‘light.’”

The ERLC has been instrumental in gaining congressional passage of the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, Unborn Victims of Violence Act, North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004, the Sudan Peace Act, Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and legislation creating a cord blood-stem cell bank, among other measures, Land said.

“We are helping, Southern Baptists, and we are winning,” Land said, referencing also the Federal Marriage Amendment, which earlier in the month fell short in the U.S. Senate in a cloture vote.

“It is time for us to have some serious conversations with our senators,” Land said. “If we allow same-sex ‘marriage’ to become the law of the land, it will not expand the definition of marriage; it will shatter it.”

Land noted in Holland, where same-sex “marriages” have been recognized for more than a decade, the issue is less about the number of same-couples marrying; it is more about the number of heterosexual couples who are cohabiting instead of marrying.

The illegitimacy rates are approaching 70 percent in Holland, Land said, where the real cost is being paid by children.

“Are we going to continue to be what our forefathers fought and died for us to be? That is a country with a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Or are we going to acquiesce to and allow ourselves to become a government of the judges, by the judges and for the judges,” Land declared. “It is time for us to give the judiciary further instruction. It is called a marriage protection amendment that says nothing in this Constitution or any state constitution shall be construed as requiring that marriage be anything other than between a man and a woman.”

Land said while pressure needs to be placed upon Congress to act on this issue, Christians need to take stock of their own marriages. He called it a “shame and a disgrace” that Baptists divorce at relatively the same rate as the culture at large. Baptists run the risk of losing credibility on the marriage issue, he said.

“When we put Christ at the center of our marriage, then we have the kind of marriages God wants us to have and then we have credibility when we speak to the culture. We can win this struggle,” Land said, citing research by clinical psychologist David Stoop that reveals in homes where the husband and wife pray together every day, the divorce rate is 1 in 1,500.

“God has brought Southern Baptists to the Kingdom for this moment. I believe He tested us to see if we were going to be true to the infallibility and inerrancy of His Word and a preaching and understanding that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. Now that we have been tested, he desires to use us as one of His instruments to bring great spiritual awakening to America.

“We have a Great Commission to obey, we have a command to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ and we are to leave the results to Jesus Christ,” Land concluded.

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  • Dwayne Hastings