Sunday, August 07, 2011

Should your tithe go to a lobbyist? (Part 2)

Part 1 here.

The Southern Baptist Convention, of which I am a member, funds a parachurch organization called the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee (ERLC) which is:
"(D)edicated to addressing social and moral concerns and their implications on public policy issues from City Hall to Congress. With offices in Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C...the ERLC provides millions of Americans with information vital to preserving the soul and spirit that makes the United States the greatest nation in history."

The ERLC's mission: "To awaken, inform, energize, equip, and mobilize Christians to be the catalysts for the Biblically-based transformation of their families, churches, communities, and the nation."

The ERLC promotes fundraising for causes ranging from world hunger to sonographs for pregnancy counselors. ERLC contains a thinktank of Christian scholars to discuss issues of religion and ethics. It also issues statements urging voters to call congressmen about specific legislation. Prominent in ERLC actions (and on the website) is its long-time president, Dr. Richard Land. Land preaches, writes articles, meets with various legislators, and debates more liberal Christian activists like Jim Wallis.

A few weeks ago, I came across this piece written by Brian Kaylor, a professor at James Madision (who is an SBU alum and son-in-law of a co-worker). He takes Land to task for calling Obama a "playboy" and for spreading verifiable falsehoods. Land also has publicly called a Jewish senator a "schmuck" (which is Yiddish for "dick," which apparently Land didn't know),and used a lot of other derogatory terms for public figures (including comparing the Obama administration to Nazis. I encourage you to read through the various articles). To my knowledge, no Southern Baptist leader or member of the ERLC's board have criticized Land's comments, or called for him to step down or even apologize, even though the SBC recently passed a resolution to "denounce the speech or activities of any individual or group that brings shame upon the name of Christ and His gospel."

Land has become a rather offensive character, not for God's Word, which is offensive (Jer. 6:10), but for his own opinions and falsehoods.  That he represents Southern Baptists so prominently in the public eye is of great concern for me.

The ERLC is funded out of the Cooperative Program of the SBC, meaning that a portion of every donation that every SBC church collects goes to fund its work-- including Land. Am I the only Southern Baptist that finds this highly problematic or a gross misuse of resources?

Also problematic for me is the overreach of pastors into the realm of specific sciences, law, and economics. Land overreaches in discussing climate science and advocating voters to lobby for particular legislation, like Cut, Cap, and Balance.  It's not the role of pastors to be experts on all matters in the world. There are laypeople in the church that God has gifted for that.  I repeat C.S. Lewis' advice here: "“I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not. This is where we want the Christian economist.”

Does this also mean that the SBC implicitly endorses the view that "the United States is the greatest nation in history," as the ERLC statement says? (Even greater than Israel, wow).  Do other Christians around the world unite in this belief?  Am I supposed to support such nationalist rhetoric through my tithes?  Since Land represents the SBC and states that the earth is getting colder and not hotter, does that mean the SBC endorses his view?

Further, why is the SBC's convention filled with making resolutions and statements about legislation?  (Even more eerie from the article: why are some Southern Baptist pastors literally praying for Obama's death??)

The only answer I've so far gotten is from someone close to the ERLC who implies people are waiting for Land to retire so that others can move the ERLC "in a different direction."  Why not now?

Part 1 gave my understanding on what the role of the Church in society should be, which is rooted in Anabaptist thought. The SBC views and activities outlined above make it seem quite far from my views.  Can someone tell me where I'm wrong?

2 comments: said...

Great series! I agree Land is absurd and I cannot believe he still holds his position. Also I would love to know how much money goes to the ERLC because I think it is a waste!

JDTapp said...

Keith, I'd love to hear your take on dominion theology in Part 3.