This week's edition of The 3 includes a story involving the approach of a large Christian denomination to public policy and a meeting between two denominational leaders. Also, North Carolina lawmakers are fighting back against two sports governance organizations that have pulled events from the state due to a piece of legislation. And, proposed Federal government cuts have resulted in responses from Christians about the role of tax dollars in aiding the poor.
3 - Southern Baptists debate public policy approach, principals meet
One could say it is a family squabble, but because of the way that the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm has made the rounds in public media, it becomes an important issue. And, for all Christians, how we approach matters of public policy is critical.
Christianity Today reported on a meeting between Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Frank Page and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore. Its headline
said, "Russell Moore Still Has a Job, Though 100 Churches Have Threatened to Pull SBC Funds." The article written by Jeremy Weber, referred to a Washington Post story written by former CT staffer Sarah Pulliam Bailey, which contained these words:
[Page] indicated that he would not rule out the possibility that he could ask Moore to resign. He said he hopes Moore and his opposition will agree to pursue efforts toward reconciliation.The story reports on a joint statement published by Baptist Press by Moore and Page following the meeting, which said: “We deepened our friendship and developed mutual understanding on ways we believe will move us forward as a network of churches..."
Page later clarified for Baptist Press that it was a private meeting to seek reconciliation, and that he had no authority over Moore. But the CT story also said that these churches who are rethinking their funding of the SBC Cooperative Program, "...represent the most complaints on any issue 'in recent memory,' according to the SBC’s Executive Committee, which is investigating the problem in search of 'redemptive solutions.'"
So, what's all the fuss about? Consider these words from the Christianity Today story:
Observers have wondered if it was too late to say sorry for Moore after the divisive 2016 election left him on the opposite side of many white evangelicals over how Christians should respond to President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Many evangelicals voted for Trump as a pragmatic bid for a conservative Supreme Court justice and more pro-life victories. (On that front, Trump already granted Moore one of his 2017 wishes.) But Moore argued, for CT and elsewhere, that voting for the lesser of two evils was not an ethical option.A Townhall.com article by Bethany Blankley from December of 2016 quoted former Arkansas Governor, former pastor, and Arkansas Baptist Convention president Mike Huckabee:
“I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them. Many of us have faithfully sought to stand for the Biblical definition of marriage, for the sanctity of life, and for meaningful and substantive efforts to help the poor with affordable housing, access to food and employment, and equal education opportunities for minorities. Where was Russell Moore when we were fighting those battles?Opposition to Moore goes far beyond his opposition to Trump and taking Christians to task for voting for him. An article on Georgia's Christian Index website, written by Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptist Message, stated:
David Hankins, executive director of this fellowship of about 1,650 churches, explained the matter to the Wall Street Journal in terms of Louisiana Baptist pastors’ “frustration” with Moore – growing concerns about policy positions Moore has stated and not just his lack of civility during the presidential election.2 - North Carolina lawmakers challenge sports bodies' involvement opposing transgender bathroom law
The Legislature in North Carolina, which only recently withstood an attempt to repeal its law upholding privacy in restroom facilities in state buildings, is fighting back against the NCAA, as well as the Atlantic Coast Conference, which pulled athletic championship events from the state. Baptist Press reports that, "Republican state legislators in North Carolina are alleging the NCAA and the ACC violated their federal tax-exempt status by attempting to provoke a repeal of the Tar Heel State's transgender restroom law."
The article quotes Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, who said the two sports bodies, "have given legislators numerous deadlines by which to repeal the people's privacy law, have engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions with legislators, including those at the highest levels, and have sought to harm the state economically by instituting a boycott of the state until [the transgender restroom law] is repealed."
And North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest was in Texas recently advocating for similar legislation in the Lone Star State. The Family Research Council website states that Forest...
...was also on hand to debunk the myth that their law -- HB 2 -- devastated the North Carolina economy. Despite the loss of the NBA All-Star Game and other college championships, Forest said the positive gains far outweighed the negative ones. Even if it hadn't, he argued, "I will never trade the privacy, safety, and security of a woman or a child for a basketball ticket. And neither should you."In another article, the FRC website also stated:
For the second consecutive year, the state was ranked #2 on Forbes’s top states for doing business. The ranking was given late last year, so there would have been ample time to assess the impact of the privacy law on the economy. In fact, more businesses seem to be moving to North Carolina than away from it. Still not convinced? Despite the NCAA and ACC pulling their championship games from the state, tourism was also up.1 - New open letter attracting high-profile Christians takes aim at Trump budget cuts in foreign aid
Around 100 Christian people, including some pastors and ministry leaders, some of them who could be considered high-profile Christians, have signed on to a letter, released just hours after the Trump Administration unveiled its budget for the next fiscal year, calling for Congress and President Trump not to support, as a Christian Headlines story put it, "drastic cuts to the U.S.’s budget for foreign aid."
The story, referencing a Christianity Today report, said: "The Trump administration released its new budget proposal on Thursday, included in which was a 28 percent cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development."
The letter stated, "As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill...'"
This really can challenge Christians to examine the role of government and how support of charitable work through taxation should be balanced with the willful giving of people who believe in the work of various ministries and other organizations. Stuart Shepard and I touched on that overall subject on the Friday, March 17 edition of The Meeting House.
You can find the topic of the respective responsibility for Christians to help the poor through taxation or through generosity being debated on social media. I have some quotes from the always-wise Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, from The Daily Signal website. He establishes that...
The government is not free to recreate the family. The government is not free to usurp the authority of parents over the education of their children or adult children over the care of their elderly parents.
The same is true for religious organizations, especially if you believe that your church has a divine origin and a divine creation. This means government is not at liberty to recreate your church, to recreate its authority structure, or to recreate its teaching authority—that your church is something that is entrusted with a stewardship.
As a result, the nature of religious authority places limits on political authority and places duties upon members of the church.Anderson, who was a speaker at this year's National Religious Broadcasters Convention, writes:
None of this, however, says that the state has no role to play in economic justice, just that it must respect the proper authority of society—a society of societies—as it does so. And this means that it must also respect the proper authority of economic societies—employees and employers, consumers and producers.
But while respecting their authority and the markets that allow them to interact and fulfill their duties, government can perform certain welfare activities, as Friedrich Hayek taught us, without distorting market signals and processes.
Insofar as government programs are intended to ameliorate the forces of globalization and new technologies distort markets, they are likely to simply make matters worse by prolonging the dying process of outdated industries and preventing the necessary transitions.
What a natural law account of social justice would suggest are policies that would empower more people to engage for themselves in the market and flourish.So, as I see it, government should be a facilitator in the delivery of certain goods and services to poor people, especially on the domestic front, but I believe the main economic engine for this delivery comes from Christians, or more broadly, religious people, who give from the heart and are not shackled by government from having the resources to perform what God has called Him to do. Ultimately, in His compassion, He can provide for all, but we ultimately depend on Him for provision, not government; similarly, God is the provider of rights, not government.
As Marvin Olasky writes on the WORLD Magazine website:
Some historians profile Christian missionaries who did more harm than good, but many others in British colonies ended some forms of forced labor, pursued the rule of law in British colonies, fought the opium trade, and built schools because they wanted people to read the Bible in their own language. In the United States, evangelicals in the 19th century not only built schools and hospitals but effectively fought poverty and abortion. This is the compassionate heritage of the evangelical church, and it's one to be proud of.