ARLINGTON?”I do not endorse candidates,” Richard Land told messengers to the 2007 SBTC annual meeting. “I don’t. I won’t.” But, what the SBC leader does endorse, he said, is a registered, well-informed electorate.
Land, reporting to the SBTC as president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, admonished Southern Baptists to be actively involved in the political process this coming election year.
Land spoke of a crisis in the American culture.
“We will not have the change we need in this country until we have revival,” he told the crowd to shouts of “Amen.” At the close of his report, the program was running ahead of time and presiding SBTC President Steve Swofford invited Land to linger at the podium to address the 2008 presidential elections.
Land said it is not the policy of the ERLC to pick a horse in any race but instead to encourage civic responsibility through voting.
“Then,” he added, “you need to vote your values, beliefs, and convictions.”
Those convictions need to be on display each day, Land told the messengers. Invoking the charge God gave Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15, Land said there is no great secret to revival. It will happen, he said, “when God’s people get right with God. When God’s Holy Spirit does a work in their souls.”
Land said he is grateful for the heritage he has as a life-long Southern Baptist, having been on the “cradle roll” of a Houston church; surviving “every mosquito-infested encampment on the Gulf Coast”; and accepting Jesus as Lord in a backyard Good News Club sponsored by his church.
Within the denomination, Land admitted there were disagreements through the years concerning “what was in the Bible but not what the Bible was.”
Even so, there was always a contingent of people who claimed SBC church members should only share the gospel and steer clear of controversy.
“The gospel, by its nature, is controversial. Sooner or later we’re going to make somebody mad ? [They will] be offended from time to time.”
But the vexing problems facing America today demand Christians stand more steadfast on Scripture and live out its mandates in view of all the world. Now is not the time to stand down, Land said.
He recounted the words of President Franklin Roosevelt on the night of the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. Just one night earlier the president had taken to the airwaves to report the fall of Rome to Allied Forces. The next day, June 6, would see more success but with a devastatingly high casualty count. With that knowledge on his heart (the public did not yet know, Land explained), Roosevelt called on the nation to join him in prayer.
Land read the prayer, a moving plea for God’s providence and provision for the armed forces, their families back home, and the nations who shared in the battle and the loss of life.
“We need a similar crisis as a nation and we need to renew our faith in him,” Land said.
He noted Roosevelt had taken office during the Great Depression, an economic problem from which Roosevelt contended the country would eventually recover.
“Would to God that an American president could say that today.”
The ills infecting the nation, he lamented, are of the heart, spirit, and soul. Only when Christians begin living like Christians instead of like everyone else, the country will notice.
To that end, Land said, the ERLC created a vision statement and a mission statement, tantamount to a goal charged to each Southern Baptist. The vision statement reads: “An American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority.”
The ERLC mission statement, Land explained, is a means to that end: “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.”
“It’s up to us to be the vision and let them see Jesus in us,” Land said.
With regard to the political nature of the country, Land stressed that it is not the government that changes society.
“[Politicians] do what you inspect, not what you expect,” Land said.
Borrowing from a phrase used by the late Ronald Reagan, Land said Southern Baptists need to be looking for candidates who endorse the Baptist’s individual beliefs, not the other way around.
For example, Land said, “I know God has a side when it comes to the sanctity of human life from conception to death and everywhere in between.”
Land urged voters not to wait until November 2008 to vote, thereby voting for the candidate they dislike the least. He noted that in 120 days, half of the population in half the states will decide who the candidates in the general election will be.
Now is the time, he emphasized. People need to register to vote, get informed, and make sure the people around them know the truth about the issues.
“You have a circle of friends. Use it.”
Voting is a privilege and responsibility. Land believes Christians will be held to an account with regard to how they used or abused the privilege. Land concluded his message with one final admonition to be involved.
“Vote your values, beliefs, convictions and pray God will give us godly leadership in this hour of crisis.”