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Land rejects call to ignore social issues

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land issued an emphatic rejection to the plea by some conservative Republican leaders that moral issues such as abortion and “same-sex marriage” not be a focus in an election year.

Speaking at a conference for conservatives Sept. 10 in Washington, D.C., Land said, “[L]et me say a word to some in the conservative movement who think that social issues need to take a back seat while we face economic consequences and economic emergencies: No, no, no. We will not.

“I mean, how many incumbent [Republican] senators do we have to beat [in primaries] for you to get the message here in Washington? … New kinds of folks are coming. You’re not going to win in the elections without an army, and we’re the army,” the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said of religious and social conservatives.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, both conservative Republicans, have called for Republicans to focus on fiscal, not social, issues during this year’s election campaigns. Incumbent GOP Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both have lost in primaries to more conservative opponents fueled by grassroots efforts.

At a televised, Sept. 12 “PRAY & ACT” event in the country’s capital calling for 40 days of prayer and fasting for America, Land dispelled the idea such a movement is partisan.

“This is not about politics,” he said. “Politics is a lagging indicator. Politics is a caboose. The people will change the country. When God’s people change the country, they’re the locomotive. The caboose will go right along behind.”

Speaking at the same event, Chuck Colson also denied partisan politics is the motivation.

“This is not a political act,” the founder of Prison Fellowship said, adding he is “not in anyone’s hip pocket. I do not put my faith in political parties.

“We’re broken,” Colson said. “We’re broken as a people. We’re broken as a church.”

Land called at both events for Christians to act courageously with the religious freedom they now have.

Religious liberty “is under dire, dire threat,” Land said at the Sept. 10 Faith and Freedom Conference. “Make no mistake about it.

“We must defend our religious freedom, and we must defend it now, or we will lose it,” he said. “And the best way to defend it is to practice it.”

Land cited the writings of Chai Feldblum, a former Georgetown University law professor and recess appointment by President Obama this year to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as an example of the threat to religious freedom. Feldblum has written that the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people should prevail when they clash with the religious liberty rights of others.

People of faith should not allow the warnings of liberal groups to prevent them from speaking out on moral issues, Land said.

“[T]he other side is terribly, terribly fearful that the sleeping giant that is the church in the United States is going to awaken,” he said. “And if it does, the other side is in big trouble. And so they spend a lot of time and a lot of energy trying to … intimidate faith groups into thinking that we have to stay on the sidelines, that it’s illegal for us to participate in the process.”

The admonition in Romans 13 for Christians to be subject to the government means they should not only obey the laws and pay taxes, but “it also means that we get involved as citizens, particularly in a participatory republic like the United States,” Land said. “And so we believe that it is a sin not to be registered to vote and it is a sin not to be an informed voter, and it is a sin not to vote.

“Probably the biggest disappointment to me in being involved in this process now for 22 years is the lack of courage that I have found in pulpits, too many pastors who just don’t want to offend anybody,” he said, adding there are many others who do act courageously.

Speaking with emcee Jim Garlow at the Sept. 12 event, Land said the Manhattan Declaration issued in 2009 by a host of religious conservatives was an important stand they needed to make. Its signers said they would defend the sanctity of human life, biblical marriage and religious freedom without compromise in the face of even government edict. In doing so, they followed in the steps of Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr., who was jailed because of his refusal to abide by an unjust law.

“[W]hat we’re saying in the Manhattan Declaration is: ‘You want to throw a million Protestant pastors and Catholic priests and dedicated laymen into jail for disobeying the law, go ahead. We’re not going to be coerced by the law beyond a certain point,'” he said.

“We don’t have to die. We have to be prepared to die. We don’t have to be arrested. We have to be prepared to be arrested. But if enough of us are prepared to be arrested, we won’t be arrested,” Land said

The PRAY & ACT event, which was televised on GOD TV, is a 40-day effort to pray and fast from Sept. 20 to Oct. 30 for the sanctity of human life, marriage and religious liberty. Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, Calif., is spearheading the effort.

PRAY & ACT will run parallel to a 40-day prayer vigil sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The 40/40 Prayer Vigil is calling for Christians to pray for spiritual revival and national renewal. The 40/40 prayer guide was adapted by the ERLC for use by PRAY & ACT in its effort.

The Faith and Freedom Conference was sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which is headed by former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.