ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Ungodly views of human life as well as dangerous social experiments are threatening America’s future and clouding the legacy of the Gospel handed down from giants of the faith, Richard Land told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 15 in Orlando, Fla.
In the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s report to the convention, Land said the ERLC seeks to call Southern Baptists and other people of faith to where the commission believes they should be based on “God’s holy and inerrant Word” on moral issues and public policy matters.
Land, the commission’s president, said the ERLC is faithful to share Southern Baptists’ concerns on the issues with those in authority in Washington, D.C.
He lamented the continuing slaughter of the country’s unborn citizens through abortion and the impact the mindset behind the killing of the innocent has had on the nation.
“I can’t think of a deeper and more basic ethical issue that any society can face than who and what is a human being,” Land said.
It is not news for Bible-believing Christians that life begins at conception, he said, citing Scripture passages as evidence of God’s personal involvement in the creation of each human being. He noted that among the early civilizations in the Mediterranean basin, only the Jews did not practice abortion and infanticide, a position stemming from their belief in the teachings of the one true God.
He said church leaders early in the second century A.D., who were overwhelmingly Gentile and had come out of the Greco-Roman societies where abortion was commonplace, abhorred the “killing of human life in the womb.”
“They bore eloquent testimony against abortion and eventually caused abortion to be put into the dark corners of the Roman Empire and there it stayed in Western civilization until the fall of the Christian consensus in Europe in the first half of the 20th century and in North America in the second half of the 20th century,” Land said.
“There is no question where God is on this issue; God is, has been and will forever be pro-life,” he said to sustained applause.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has packaged an extensive array of resources for pastors and others at its Issue at a Glance webpage on the life issue (erlc.com/life).
THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE
Land sought to correct misconceptions about his views on the contentious issue of immigration reform, emphasizing that he does not support amnesty.
“I support immigration reform policy that secures the border first. Everything must be predicated upon securing our borders. A sovereign nation has to have control of its borders,” he said, adding that it is well within the means of the U.S. government to do if it desires.
Land said that under both Democratic and Republican administrations for the past 24 years, it has been as if there were two signs up at the nation’s southern border: “No Trespassing” and “Help Wanted.” He said that explains in part why there are an estimated 12 to 14 million undocumented workers in the U.S.
“Yet they have broken the law. They should be punished,” Land said, outlining a rigorous and extended path to citizenship for such individuals, noting it is not realistic to expect the government to deport each undocumented worker and their family.
In remarks to the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches June 13, Land said immigration is an issue that has reached a “critical phase,” noting the issue is “rending the social fabric of the country.” Land met with President Obama’s advisers at the White House on the topic earlier in the month.
Land emphasized to the messengers that his plan to address the immigration crisis is not amnesty, pointing out that it was amnesty that President Carter extended to draft dodgers in January 1977. Carter imposed no fine, no penalty and no alternative service on those returning to the U.S. after fleeing the country to avoid the military draft, Land said.
He said he did not want to see a day when the Southern Baptist Convention determines it must apologize to Hispanics for its maltreatment of them, as the SBC did to African Americans in asking for such forgiveness 15 years ago.
“I don’t want our convention to come back 15 years from now and apologize to Hispanic Americans because we drove them away [from the convention] and treated them as less than brothers and sisters,” Land said.
He indicated he has been told that 30 to 40 percent of Hispanic Southern Baptists are in the country illegally. More information on Land’s position on illegal immigration is available at erlc.com/immigration.
Land said the ERLC filed an amicus brief in a California federal district court case on the same-sex “marriage” issue, explaining that those looking to expand the biblical definition of marriage are attempting to use the courts to undo the “clear word of the people of California.”
While the commission does not typically involve itself in a state level matter, Land said the ERLC made an exception in this case because Southern Baptist writings were expected to be a part of the deliberations.
On the case’s opening day, those seeking to overturn the will of California voters that marriage is between only one man and one woman read into evidence text from the Baptist Faith & Message section on marriage. Land said the plaintiffs’ attorneys ascribed the Southern Baptists’ position as the “product of centuries of hatred and prejudice.”
Land said the ERLC sought to correct the record, noting instead that the Baptist perspective on marriage was the “product of people of God being faithful to God’s Word and God’s definition of His institution of holy matrimony.”
Every civilization in world history has severely regulated marriage, Land said, noting that “marriage is the fundamental building block of human society and that it has an enormous impact on the next generation of citizens, namely children.”
Land said American society has conducted the equivalent of a 40-year experiment on whether fathers are optional in the rearing of healthy and productive children, and the nation appears to be expanding the “study” to determine if mothers are optional, citing the growing number of homosexual couples who are seeking to “have” children through adoption or other means.
Children born out of wedlock or whose parents are divorced are more likely to experience personal and social troubles than children who grew up in an intact family where their mother and father were in the home, Land said.
Despite these destructive ramifications, “Americans continue to practice this collective societal child abuse that we call divorce because we want to do what we think is best for us and it doesn’t matter what promises we have made to our spouses and to God,” Land said. “It is flat-out rebellion against God.”
Turning to the growing push to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Land said the effort is a sign of another misguided “social experiment,” promising messengers the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is doing all it can to forestall the policy’s repeal. He said if the policy was rescinded, it would “destroy the finest fighting force the world has ever known” –– the American military.
On another front, Land said the ERLC exerted a great deal of effort in pushing back against the White House’s plans for health care over the past year, bemoaning the fact that Congress “ignored the wishes of the people” in passing reform that will, if left unchecked, “bankrupt the nation” and ensure that most people “will live a shorter life.” He cited the experiences of patients under both the Canadian and British health care systems, particularly those dealing with “diseases of maturity,” such as prostate cancer.
“If we don’t put this genie back in the bottle,” Land said, “the same thing is going to happen in the United States.” He said the window to repeal the law is small, adding, “It can be done, but it must be done quickly.”
In closing, Land said America faces a fork in the road, suggesting it is not a fork that goes left and right but up and down.
American believers are a privileged and blessed people, he said, for “we stand in the shadow of giants, men and women of faith who have bequeathed to us such a marvelous heritage of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the freedom to preach it, to live it and to fulfill the Great Commission.”
“If we do not have revival among our people that leads to a tremendous change in our nation, we will be condemned to walking the streets of our neighborhood and driving the streets of our cities as strangers in an alien land that knows nothing of the faith of our fathers,” he warned.
Dwayne Hastings writes for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.