FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–Speakers urged Christians to continue to be “salt and light” in laying claim to America’s rich Christian heritage during the 10th annual Reclaiming America for Christ conference.
“We’ve got the Holy Spirit’s wind at our back,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told 900 attendees from 40 states who met Feb. 18-19 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “What we saw in 2004 is more and more Americans … rejecting the 1960s counterculture.”
Land was joined by 18 other speakers, including Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America; U.S. Rep. Katharine Harris, R.-Fla., Christian historian David Barton, author David Limbaugh, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R.-N.C., and Alliance Defense Fund President Alan Sears.
D. James Kennedy, founder and president of Coral Ridge Ministries was unable to attend the conference due to pneumonia in both lungs. In his place was Gary Cass, executive director of the Center for Reclaiming America, a Coral Ridge ministry.
Two unique symbols of America’s heritage of law and liberty were on display at the conference: former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s granite Ten Commandments monument and a life-size replica of the Liberty Bell, which was rung to open the conference.
In describing recent advances in the moral arena, Land said the 2004 election was “not a Republican win,” but rather a win for family, pro-life and Judeo-Christian values. Citing voter statistics from the November elections, Land said 66 percent of those who attended any kind of religious service more than once a week voted for President George W. Bush compared to the 80 percent of non-attendees who voted for Sen. John Kerry.
The next 10-15 years will decide whether America succumbs to a “neo-pagan triumph,” Land said, or if it returns to a Judeo-Christian moral consensus where rape and illegitimacy are rare, marriage and child-rearing are valued, and prisons are converted into museums.
Recalling a time when the legendary W.A. Criswell, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, shared his views on eschatology, Land said he took away from the conversation not a firm understanding of the second coming, but instead the admonition to “live as obedient servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, seeking to be the salt and the light.”
Land said he often thinks about Criswell and his advice when he considers his task as head of Southern Baptists’ moral concerns entity, which used to be called the Christian Life Commission, an entity Land said used to be “liberal.”
“God has worked in a wondrous way to bring our Southern Baptists back to its roots, founded and grounded in the inerrant Word of God,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.
Speaking of what he said is a conditional promise of God to bless America, if its people “humble themselves and pray and seek [God’s] face and turn from their wicked ways,” Land said God does not “negotiate, arbitrate or compromise.”
“We have to do it God’s way,” Land said. “It’s God’s way or no way.”
The people to whom God refers are, regardless of denomination, “those who are born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ — trusting Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation,” Land said.
Land told a reporter after his talk that Christians “have the responsibility to be salt and light,” although, he said, calling America a “Christian nation” is not accurate because, according to Baptist beliefs, “salvation is individual, not corporate.” In his speech, Land said he envisions “an American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian” values, “rooted in biblical Christianity.”
The conference featured displays of national ministries based in Florida, including Exodus International and Liberty Counsel, as well as groups such as the National Right to Life organization, various home-schooling networks, a creation science movement, and the new Liberty’s Voice, a Washington, D.C., initiative designed to lobby politicians on moral values.
THE ESAU SYNDROME
In introducing the conference’s reoccurring theme not to squander America’s birthright as a Christian nation — an idea which he deemed “the Esau Syndrome” — Gary Cass, executive director of the Center for Reclaiming America, said good theology will sustain Christian activism.
“We really do think it is possible to reclaim America for Christ,” he told the conference, likening people who cannot stay away from drugs, pornography or casinos to the foolish Esau, whom he characterized as an impulsive, weak man.
“There is a selfish, self-indulgent Esau in all of us,” Cass said. “We must subdue that by the Holy Spirit.”
Speaking of the 2004 election, Cass said: “We can’t sit back on these victories, but must prepare ourselves to reclaim America for Christ by leading for generations.”
He later told reporters, “We’re not going away. We’re not just sunshine warriors in the culture war, because there’s too much at stake for our children and grandchildren.”
Rick Scarborough, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, and founder of Vision America, underscored the need for people to stay informed and be politically active.
“All God is waiting for is the church to show up,” Scarborough said.
Acknowledging a great number of gray-haired individuals in the audience, Scarborough said the long-term strategy for revival in America requires reaching young people. “We’re losing the next generation,” he said.
Scarborough said he was compelled to get involved in being politically active after an AIDS foundation in Houston discussed “sex education” at his daughter’s high school. He said they were “talking about every sex act you can imagine and some you shouldn’t,” and they exaggerated the effectiveness of condoms in AIDS prevention. Scarborough later learned that 80 percent of parents didn’t even know the forum was going on.
This moved Scarborough to make public his secret recording of the discussion after consulting an attorney, which led to public hearings about sex education and gave him the platform to call for more abstinence-based education.
“We need to expose sin,” said Scarborough, whose ministry, including a website to stop judicial activism (www.stopactivistjudges.org), is dedicated to “calling pastors to stand in the moral arena for biblical reasons.”
With reporting by Joni B. Hannigan & John Aman. Story courtesy of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.