ATLANTA — The Georgia Baptist Pastors Day schedule is always an information-driven, action-packed, God-inspired meeting that is designed to motivate the pastors and church leaders who attend to become politically active in matters that impact Georgia and Georgia Baptist churches in particular.
Mike Griffin, Georgia Baptist Public Affairs representative, hosted the meeting on Feb. 1 and provided a legislative update and lobby training for those present. He started his presentation by making reference to the Black Robed Regiment of the American Revolution. The Black Robed Regiment was the name that the British gave to the courageous and patriotic American clergy.
For two decades leading up to the American Revolution, these clergymen had been proclaiming with great enthusiasm the need for freedom of religion. A British periodical reported, “As a body of men, the clergy were pre-eminent in their attachment to liberty. The pulpits of the land rang with the notes of freedom.”
Historian B.F. Morris explained, “The ministers of the Revolution were, like their Puritan predecessors, bold and fearless in the cause of the country. No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers. By their prayers, patriotic sermons, and services they rendered the highest assistance to the civil government, the army, and the country.”
Griffin stated, “This country was established for the purpose of giving religious freedom to its citizens. (But there are those who want to silence the church). However, if there is one thing worse than going to jail for your faith, it is not sharing the Gospel with a lost and dying world.”
The need to be informed
Griffin carefully guided the Pastors Day attendees through the 16 steps that a legislative bill must make from its inception to it become a Georgia law. Thankfully, there are legislators who seek input from Griffin in order to make sure their bills are acceptable or in the best interest of the faith community. Georgia Baptists have strong advocates at the Capitol in our Public Affairs representatives Mike Griffin and his associate, Tom Rush.
Dr. John Kindt, professor emeritus of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois, was one of the primary speakers at the Pastors’ Day event. He talked about the evils of gambling, how gambling is not good economics, how slot machines create an addictive behavior, and how gambling is tied to organized crime.
Kindt cited the findings of the U.S. National Gambling Study Commission, which reported, “In 1998 people gambling in this country lost $50 billion in legal wagering, a figure that has increased every year for two decades.
“The most salient fact about gambling in America is that over the past 25 years, the United States has been transformed form a nation in which legalized gambling was a limited and a relatively rare phenomenon into one in which such activity is common and growing.”
The report states that with more and more states legalizing daily fantasy sports and a variety of gambling sites proliferate on the Internet and telephone the public can place a bet without ever leaving their home and “round-the-clock” gambling may soon be a reality.
The truth is that while gambling may create jobs, make depressed backwater towns become metropolises overnight, erect skyscrapers on the beaches of once-fading tourist areas, thrust Indian nations from prolong neglect into sudden prosperity, and make Las Vegas the fastest growing city in the United States, it also destroys families, transfers money from the poor to the wealthy, denigrates a Puritan work ethic into a pursuit of easy money, and destroys initiative and lives as well.
A stacked house
Any serious student of the gambling industry must conclude that the financial losses of the vulnerable, the broken homes, the distress caused by gambling addiction, the link to organized crime, the mental anguish caused by loosing significant money, and the suicides provoked by gambling far outweigh the benefits.
In fact, an article in Alternet by Chris wright reports that one in five problem gamblers try to kill themselves. The title of his article is “How Gambling Can Kill You Faster than Drug Abuse or Alcoholism.”
The conclusion that can be drawn from any lawmaker who tries to expand the legalization of gambling is that he/she is more interested in padding his/her bank account than in creating a better society. When you weigh the facts, there is no legitimate reason to promote pari-mutuel gambling, casinos, daily fantasy sports, slots or whatever means of gambling one wishes to devise. The cards are simply stacked in favor of the house.
Meeting criticism over sharing the gospel
Kevin Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Villa Rica, was another headliner for the Pastors’ Day gathering. He reminded his hearers that the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin protested a baptismal service he conducted on the Villa Rica High School football field in September 2015.
Williams explained, “A football coach and 18 of his players were saved in our church, but they decided to be baptized on the football field as a witness to other players. We thought we were abiding by the rules. It was not during school hours. It was not at the football practice. No one was forced to be there. However, the church posted a video of the event online. The video attracted thousands of viewers including someone from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin.
“Once the FFRF voiced their disapproval the video went viral from 27,000 viewers to over 3 million viewers in a short period of time. Suddenly the church was in the national spotlight. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times all publicized the baptismal.” Williams even got calls from Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty offering his support and Todd Starnes of FOX news.
Williams read Zephaniah 1:12, which describes God’s dissatisfaction with those in Jerusalem who had “settled on their lees.” The New American Standard Bible translates that passage as those “who are stagnant in spirit.” It speaks of those who are lethargic and indifferent.
Williams urge his audience to: (1) realize God is always watching, (2) Never settle for less than the best, and (3) Realize that God will punish those who become stupidly secure. He added, “If you settle on your lees, you get what the world has to offer.”
Wolves at the door, termites in the floor
Senator Marty Harbin, a member of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, reported on the Religious Liberty bill that currently is in the Rules Committee. So it is in the ninth step in the 16-step process to become law.
Harbin explained, “This is not a radical bill. It is already in 31 states. It is the same bill that Governor Nathan Deal signed into federal law in 1993 when he was a freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Harbin, always a champion for the cause of religious liberty, quoted some great patriots to support his appeal. He mentioned John F. Kennedy’s favorite quote based on Dante’s Inferno: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”
He also reinforced his point by quoting Theodore Roosevelt, who said: “To sit home, read one’s favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon good men doing.”
Harbin also quoted Os Guinness, who said, “In the end, the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. The future of the republic depends on whether Americans will rise to the challenge of living up to America’s unfulfilled potential for freedom, both for itself and for the world.”
Other legislators and activists spoke and challenged the group. It was an informative and challenging luncheon followed by a walk from the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd Building across the street to the Capitol where the group stopped at several strategic stations under the Gold Dome to pray for the elected officials and for God’s leadership to be upon them as they make important decisions.
The next Pastors’ Day at the Capitol will be on March 1. More information can be found here.