If you were wondering where I was the past 6 weeks, I was in Nashville, TN for an internship at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. As I have now returned to California, I thought that I would write a blog post on some reflections on my time spent there.
The Long Drive
It’s 2,013 miles from my home in La Mirada, CA to where I stayed in Franklin, TN. I took 4 days to drive out there and 3 days to drive back. The extra day going there was so that I could visit my Great Aunt Katie in Arkansas. I had heard stories about her many times from my grandma growing up. I was happy to have met her.
The United States is a very big country, full of beautiful scenery. Aside from the California desert along the I-40, the rest of the journey was pleasant to the eye. One of the more humorous things I used to entertain myself on my drive were these signs in New Mexico. They read, “Gusty Winds May Exist.”
Being the kind of person I am, I fixated on the choice of words of this sign. This is such peculiar language. Normally, I would think a sign would just say, “Gusty Winds Ahead.” But perhaps they didn’t want to give the impression that there will always be gusty winds. So, they came up with this nonsense. Gusty Winds May EXIST. They could have just said ‘Gusty Winds May Be Present,’ and I probably would not have found it quite so amusing. However, by using the word ‘exist,’ they have now made this a philosophical debate about whether gusty winds exist at all. For the record, I have concluded that gusty winds do, in fact, exist, but I digress.
Church As Family
God blessed me abundantly with a roof over my head during my 6-week internship. Literally, friends of friends of friends volunteered to graciously host me for free, feed me, and provide for me in so many other ways. I am eternally grateful to the Pinzur family and Trinity Baptist in Franklin, TN for giving me a home away from home.
This is a beautiful example of Church as Family. The Bible uses familial language to describe the relationship between Christians throughout the New Testament (i.e. 1 Timothy 5:1-2). I was treated like (and became) family to those out in TN. They shared with me their material and relational blessings with me. I tried to bless them by sharing my time and talents with them by serving on the worship team for a few weeks and teaching at their adult sunday school class.
Invaluable Experience and Training
I loved being in the environment of the ERLC. Everyone there genuinely cares about how the gospel works itself out in the public sphere. Every staff member has their own areas of interest and specialization, from human dignity to artificial intelligence. The interns also had varied interests. One intern was interested in housing policy and how that affected poverty; another was interested racial reconciliation; I was interested in gender and sexuality. Each of us valued the opinions of everyone else and sought to learn as much as we could from our training and from each other.
The day-to-day consisted of various tasks. Every week, we watched lectures given by Dr. Russell Moore at an ERLC Academy training for pastors and then had discussions either about those videos or another closely related topic. The weeks were also filled with less glorious tasks such as looking up contact info for top Southern Baptist Churches or leaders, making copies of books, cataloguing Dr. Moore’s library, etc. But even in those tasks, I was learning. I learned what books Dr. Moore was reading (or had read) and what he found important about them. I learned how to work the copier really well. But more than anything else from my internship, I learned about the Southern Baptist Convention, how it’s organized, who the big names are, etc. I have gained a lot of respect for the SBC and appreciate how they operate as a denomination.
Highs and Lows
There were two major high points for me in the internship.
The first was being able to write an article on singleness and celibacy, which they published on their website. If the article looks familiar, that’s because I based it on one of my blog posts. I had to cut it down from 3000 words to roughly 800-1000, which was a challenge in and of itself. This was the first time I’ve been published on a website outside my blog. As someone who aspires to write in the future, this was a huge accomplishment for me.
The second was working on my presentation. All the interns were assigned to do a presentation on a topic that is in the ERLC’s wheelhouse. I chose to do mine on how the church should relate to ethics and politics. While at first, I was worried this topic would be overly broad, it actually turned into a presentation that I think will be very useful for my future ministry. I spent a few weeks agonizing over how I wanted to answer this question, drawing and redrawing venn diagrams in Microsoft Paint for how the gospel, ethics, politics, and opinion all overlap. Don’t worry, this will be turned into an article in the near future, but for now, I’ll whet your appetite by inserting my diagram that I arrived at after many revisions.
The lows I experienced in Tennessee were 1) Missing my friends and family in California and 2) The interns didn’t get as much time with Dr. Moore as I had hoped going in.
Nevertheless, the overall experience was fantastic. I wish I could have stayed longer and worked on more projects. Thankfully, there may be more opportunities to write in the future.
My Calling and Vocation
I went into this internship hoping to gain clarity into what the Lord would have for me do in the future. Thankfully, he did not disappoint. Through my internship, I realized that I truly do have something to contribute to the areas of political theology, ethics, and theology of gender/sexuality. The diversity of interests among the staff and interns helped the analogy of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 become more vivid to me in a way that it hadn’t before. My own interests, skills, and life experience have prepared me to be able to uniquely contribute to these fields. I now have a greater sense of peace in pursuing these subjects more intentionally as an academic pursuit.
This was also made clearer during my trip that I took to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I loved being on the campus and meeting the people who worked there.
As a result, I am highly considering applying to SBTS to pursue a PhD in Ethics and Public Policy or perhaps in Systematic Theology. We’ll see how (or if) the Lord works that out.
Overall, I had a great time at my internship at the ERLC and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am so glad I took the time to go out there and grateful that God worked everything out for me in advance. He really knows what he’s doing.
One More Thing…
Also, every restroom I visited in the South did not have toilet seat covers, whether at restaurants or other institutions. Is this a thing? What’s up with that? Maybe I just had bad luck…