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SBC DIGEST: New book conveys Gospel-shaped human dignity; LifeWay offers shared office space; Bob Smietana to lead RNS

New book sets forth Gospel-shaped view of human dignity

NASHVILLE (BP) — Daniel Darling seeks to unite “two seemingly disparate strands of the Christian life” in a new book, “The Dignity Revolution: Reclaiming God’s Rich Vision for Humanity,” released by The Good Book Co. on Aug. 14.

Darling, vice president for communications of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, writes that a Gospel-shaped view of human dignity “reminds us that personal salvation without neighbor love is an incomplete gospel, and it reminds us that social justice without individual transformation is powerless.”

The biblical view of humanity created in God’s image is not limited to certain people or certain issues, Darling told Baptist Press in an email interview.

“I think every Christian is tempted to ignore vulnerable people based on our tribes or political instincts,” he said. “And we create false dichotomies [as] most conservatives such as myself are rightly working on behalf of the unborn and the elderly, and many progressives speak up for immigrants and refugees and for racial justice.

“And there is a fallacy that we can’t do both, that we can’t be pro-life and pro-justice, as if advocating for one group of image-bearers means we can’t advocate for another group of image-bearers. A robust, biblical vision of human dignity allows us to do both.”

In his book, Darling urges young evangelicals focused on social justice not to be silent about “the most vulnerable among us” — unborn children. “We should work toward a public witness that is both pro-life when it comes to life in the womb, and pro-life when it comes to these other issues,” he writes.

In addressing this full view of human dignity, Darling’s book includes chapters on race, unborn life, the criminal justice system and immigration, disease and death, work and poverty, marriage and sexuality, technology, religious freedom and politics.

Describing Scripture’s view of humanity as “one of the best gifts Christianity gives to the world,” Darling writes in the book, “Yet at the same time, we must admit that, when it comes to treating all people as being made in God’s image, the behavior of some Christians and churches has been far from perfect.”

Tragically, some Christians have used the Bible “to either justify or ignore” such sinful practices as racism and slavery, he writes.

His greatest concern regarding the evangelical view of human dignity “is that we allow our politics to shape our faith instead of letting our faith shape our politics,” Darling told BP, “that we are tempted, as in every age, to find clever-sounding arguments why we should pass by the man on the Jericho road instead of seeing his humanity.

“However, the church is at its best, when it has a robust, holistic, biblical view of human dignity. Historically, it has been the church that has stood alongside the most vulnerable in society, building hospitals, helping the poor, defending the unborn and the infirm and the elderly.”

Churches should “embody an other-worldly view of dignity in the way we conduct ourselves as a body,” he writes in the book. “It means we resist the world’s definitions of worth and power.

“Those who are disabled, those who are poor, those who might not neatly fit into our modern notions of success should have a prominent place” in our churches, Darling writes.

While concerns exist, he also finds encouragement in the evangelical response to human dignity, he told BP.

“I’m encouraged by the way that evangelicals have so courageously embraced the pro-life movement, which has worked and marched on behalf of the unborn, introducing the moral vocabulary of human dignity, pointing to the unborn and saying, ‘There is a human being there,'” Darling said. “And I’m encouraged by ways that our movement is thinking about how we engage politics and ways we can and should be standing up for other vulnerable people groups.

“I’m also encouraged by the way that evangelicals are also often the first to come to the aid of those affected by natural disaster and tragedy. And Southern Baptists in particular are often the first ones on the ground after disaster strikes.”

Darling writes near the close of the book, “[M]ay it be that when the last chapter of our generation is written — when the history is told of what we did in our time on this earth — it will be said that of all people, it was those Christians — those people who believed in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior — who uniquely stood up for the human dignity of those who could not speak up for themselves.”

“The Dignity Revolution” is available at LifeWay Christian Stores, among other booksellers, and Amazon.


LifeWay offers Christian professionals shared office space

NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Resources has launched a faith-based coworking and shared office space, FaithWorks, to provide workspaces and services for Christian entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses.

“We’re looking to attract individuals or small business owners who share LifeWay’s values,” said Amy Thompson, LifeWay’s director of corporate affairs.

The idea of hosting a coworking space came from LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer.

“As more people work for themselves rather than employers, many need a place to work beyond the traditional office lease and structure,” Rainer said. “When we completed our new facility, I saw a perfect opportunity for LifeWay to move into the coworking world with a first-class facility and a faith-based environment.”

LifeWay moved to its new downtown location in Nashville’s Capitol View development last November, with proximity to Interstate 65/40 providing easy access to the rest of metro area.

Competitively priced with similar service providers, FaithWorks offers the following with each membership level:

— Free WiFi
— Access to the LifeWay Café
— On-site fitness center membership
— Conference rooms

A variety of workspace choices are available, from open seating to dedicated desks and private offices.

FaithWorks members also will enjoy community-focused perks, such as invitations to attend LifeWay employee chapels — which often feature renowned Bible teachers and Christian artists — and opportunities to participate in employee events such as on-campus Bible studies and local service projects.

There is also an option for members to add onsite parking to their membership.

LifeWay’s Capitol View location offers FaithWorks members convenient access to restaurants and retail shops in a walkable neighborhood.

“Coworking spaces in Nashville are very popular right now,” Thompson said. “Having one in this growing area is great for the new and soon-to-come businesses. It’s a way for LifeWay to be a good neighbor by bringing potential new customers to the restaurants and shops and being a positive presence in Capitol View.”

The first step in securing a FaithWorks membership is booking a tour. The general public is also invited to an open house on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit FaithWorks.com.


Bob Smietana named RNS editor-in-chief

COLUMBIA, Mo. (BP) — Religion News Service, an independent news service on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, has appointed Bob Smietana as its editor-in-chief, effective Sept. 4.

Smietana has been a senior writer for Facts & Trends, a magazine and website of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a religion writer for The Tennessean daily newspaper in Nashville.

He has worked with Facts & Trends since January 2016 and, earlier, from September 2013 to March 2015.

Smietana also has been a longtime RNS correspondent, senior news editor with Christianity Today and features editor for the Evangelical Covenant Church’s magazine The Covenant Companion.

“Bob Smietana is one of the most respected religion journalists in the United States,” said Tom Gallagher, RNS CEO and publisher, said in a news release. “Bob is a deeply competent person of integrity, enthusiasm and generosity, and has mentored many of today’s top religion journalists. We’re delighted that he’s our new editor-in-chief.”

Smietana is a former president of RNS’ Board of Managers. He also is a former president of the Religion News Association, co-chairing its annual gathering of religion journalists in 2017. He has garnered numerous reporting awards from the Religion News Association, Evangelical Press Association, Associated Church Press and Tennessee Press Association.

“The American religious landscape is being transformed before our eyes,” Smietana said of the opportunity to lead the nonprofit organization, expand its footprint and mentor the next generation of religion journalists. “For more than 80 years, RNS has covered religion with accuracy, insight, empathy and independence. As a result, RNS is perfectly positioned to document that transformation and to help our readers navigate this new world.”

Smietana’s appointment concludes a national search, with more than 130 applicants, helmed by Nicole Neroulias Gupte, chair of the RNS Board of Managers.

“After considering many qualified candidates for this position, we were impressed by the breadth and depth of Bob Smietana’s religion journalism experience, his passion for this beat and commitment to our organization,” Gupte said. “We look forward to working with him as RNS grows its staff and coverage areas, including implementing our Global Religion Journalism Initiative and other exciting projects.”

    About the Author

  • ERLC, LifeWay & BP Staff
    Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Tom Strode of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Joy Allmond of LifeWay Christian Resources. Read All by ERLC, LifeWay & BP Staff ›