Southern Baptists have a rich and storied history of looking to God's Word for a response to the pressing moral and ethical issues of the day.
In 1913, the Southern Baptist Convention established the Social Service Commission, which sought to address the rampant use of alcohol in American society. On the foundation of the Convention's prophetic stand for civic righteousness on this and other moral issues, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) continues to serve local Southern Baptist churches and speak to policy makers in the area of applied Christian ethics.
ERLC President Richard Land is known across the country, if not around the world, as a credible, authoritative voice on matters related to ethical issues, public policy and the Christian faith. Well before Time magazine identified him as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in the nation, Southern Baptists recognized Land as a reasoned and bold voice for biblical truth and righteousness in a culture sliding toward ruin.
Land's role as a commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) allows him to share his biblically informed perspective on religious liberty with those in the U.S. State Department and other decision makers in governments around the world.
When the news media seeks the perspective of a wise, well-spoken Bible-believer, they often call Richard Land. He represents Southern Baptist positions on dozens of topics each year in hundreds of interviews with international, national, and local media.
In addition to delivering a no-nonsense scriptural response to the moral and ethical issues of the day, the ERLC is promoting the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention at no cost via the national media.
Land and other ERLC staff were quoted or mentioned in over nine hundred media outlets over the past year. According to formulas that analyze media coverage, the ERLC's presence in print, television, radio, or Web news stories is the equivalent of nearly $43 million in free advertising for the SBC, not including the impact of ERLC's radio broadcasts.
With an office in Washington, D.C., Southern Baptists can be confident their beliefs are being well represented in their nation's capital. Commission staff advocate for policies that honor Christ, value human life, and defend God's design for marriage. Because of the ERLC's respect for the legislative process, even those who oppose their perspectives often grant them access to give Southern Baptists' stance on matters.
The ERLC's D.C. office focuses on education in addition to advocacy. Understanding an informed citizenry is a prepared citizenry, the ERLC is faithful to communicate news about issues that might impact the nation's well-being.
This mindset was behind the office's development of a white paper on health care reform, which offers a detailed analysis of the issue from a biblical perspective and with a focus on specific areas of concern to Bible-believing Christians, as well as the ERLC's support of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which for the first time authorizes the regulation of tobacco products, and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008, a law that enhances measures to monitor and combat human trafficking for sexual exploitation or other ends. The ERLC is vocal in its opposition to federal legislation that devalues human life and threatens freedom of speech or religious liberty.
The ERLC's broadcast ministries — For Faith & Family and Richard Land Live! — allow the entity's biblical message to be heard through inspirational and practical radio programming featuring Richard Land. The For Faith & Family program, which airs weekdays, features insightful interviews with guests who often have resources to benefit listeners' families and their faith. During his live, call-in Saturday radio program, Richard Land Live!, which is syndicated by the Salem Radio Network, it's no holds barred as Land wrestles with issues in the news and makes solid scriptural applications.
Using the Internet to present a biblical apologetic for moral and ethical issues of the day, erlc.com provides running commentary and news on these matters. The Web site now features Issues at a Glance pages, e.g., erlc.com/pornography, that provide an overview of a specific issue, including a Scripture index, links to relevant SBC resolutions, perspectives written by Richard Land, and a host of resources designed to educate, equip, and encourage Southern Baptists to act.
Each Issue at a Glance Web page features a downloadable information sheet (bulletin insert) entitled Impact, that is suitable for distribution within the church. The ERLC also provides resources addressing the moral imperative of care for the poor and needy at worldhungerfund.com.
During election season, the ERLC's iVoteValues.com Web site is a valuable guide to Southern Baptists, particularly through its listing of permitted and prohibited politicking activities for churches. During presidential election years, the ERLC develops a political party platform comparison guide.
The popular resource, which contains no partisan analysis or comment, contains side-by-side excerpts from the platforms of the two major parties on a wide range of issues of concern to American families. Given the guide's design, it can legally be distributed within churches.
Every week, the ERLC releases via e-mail a digital digest of news, analysis, and commentary to subscribers. The FFV contains links to articles and other features on its Web sites and provides timely news and commentary on policy developments in Washington, D.C., and the culture at large. This digital publication supplements the ERLC's Faith & Family Values magazine, which is mailed to every SBC pastor twice a year and focuses on broad ethical topics, such as integrity and the sanctity of human life.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission understands that the sanctity of human life ethic is the linchpin for a proper perspective on most other ethical issues.
In living out that belief, the ERLC's Psalm 139 Project (psalm139project.org) spotlights the reality that a woman in a crisis pregnancy who is considering abortion is likely to change her mind and allow her baby to live if she sees her child's image on an ultrasound screen. As the funds are available, the Psalm 139 Project assists Gospel-focused pregnancy care centers in securing ultrasound equipment.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the recipient of a percentage (1.65%) of Cooperative Program gifts that are received and distributed by the Convention's Executive Committee, so the ERLC staff are careful and grateful stewards of every dime.
As the most Cooperative Program dependent entity in the Southern Baptist Convention, the ERLC appreciates Southern Baptists' faithful support and understands that many Southern Baptists give sacrificially to support SBC endeavors. The ERLC will never take for granted Southern Baptists' investment in this crucial ministry.
Facing the Threats from Inside the Wall
by Richard Land
In the sixth chapter of Jeremiah, beginning in verse 17, God portrays His prophets as watchmen: I appointed watchmen over you and said: 'Listen for the sound of the ram's horn.' But they protested: 'We won't listen!' This was a metaphor that would have been extremely familiar to all the people who heard it.
In ancient times, a town of any size had a wall around it as the primary means of protecting the townspeople and their possessions. The walls were manned by watchmen day and night so that there would be constant surveillance in every direction.
At the first sign that anything was amiss, these sentinels would blow their shophars to rouse the people from their beds if it was night, or to call them in from the fields if it was day. With this primitive security system in place, the townspeople could go about their business confident the watchmen were in place to warn them of danger.
Yet this passage from Jeremiah speaks of a different kind of watchman — a spiritual watchman. When the watchmen-prophets had scanned the horizon and turned their gaze within the walls, what they saw happening within was of greatest concern to them. They blew the warning blast to alert the people of impending spiritual disaster because the danger was inside, rather than outside, the walls.
The situation of twenty-first-century America is very similar. We are facing a far greater peril from inside our country — from our own immorality, degradation, and degeneracy — than we have ever faced from the armed forces of another nation.
We've been trying to feed our spiritual need with material food, and we're suffering from spiritual and emotional malnutrition. We have made idols of our material well-being, and they have come back to haunt us.
While we must remain engaged in the public square, the truth is that whether or not America has a future worth having doesn't depend on what happens in Congress, or the Supreme Court, or anything else in Washington, D.C.
America's future depends on parents and keepers of Christian households, and on many, many thousands of others like you who refuse to turn loose of their faith. It depends on Christ-followers renewing their commitment to love Jesus more than anything else. And it depends upon the people of God not only reading God's Word, but also zealously living out its teachings.
Richard Land is a member of Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.