This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to intern again with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). If you read my blog post last summer, I interned in their Nashville office. This time, I got to experience life with the Washington, D.C. staff in our nation’s capital.
What is the ERLC?
For those who don’t know, the ERLC is a Southern Baptist organization funded through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. They have two primary missions. First, they advocate on behalf of SBC churches to the government and elected officials. Second, they seek to both inform, educate, and edify SBC churches on issues relating to ethics, politics, and the Christian life. The issues they do the most work on consist of human dignity (which includes pro-life work), justice (such as criminal justice reform), marriage and family (like adoption and foster care work), and religious liberty (such as protecting conscience rights of people of faith).
They are constantly publishing new articles on these topics. If these kinds of topics interest you, follow them on social media or go to their website and sign up for a newsletter.
What did I do in Washington D.C.?
I had a blast being in Washington, D.C. If you are into politics like I am, then you’ll never be bored while you are there.
1. I ran into several famous politicians
During the two months I was in DC, I ran into several prominent politicians, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. In my goings to and fro, I also got to see Ben Carson (HUD Secretary); Senators James Lankford (OK), Joni Ernst (IA), and Steve Daines (MT); Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14); and many more.
2. I attended interesting and enriching lectures/events
Since there are so many think tanks, lobbying groups, and other organizations and interest groups that have offices in DC, there are always events being hosted that will bring in awesome guest speakers to talk about interesting issues. For example, it was really cool to see George will at AEI talk about his new book The Conservative Sensibility and Robert P. George at the Heritage Foundation talk about natural law.
I also got to attend a couple of hearings at the House of Representatives, one on Title X funding and abortion, another on the Do No Harm Act, which seeks to roll back protections granted by the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. Normally, as a citizen, you only see various clips of these hearings and not the whole thing. It was interesting seeing the different Congressional representatives interact with the witness and with one another.
3. I met with amazing people
I also had meetings with several other amazing people—some prominent, some not. Probably the most famous person I met was Senator Ted Cruz (TX). But there were other equally amazing meetings that I can’t give full details about, such as giving a car ride to a North Korean escapee for the ERLC’s event on religious freedom in North Korea, which was part of the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Another example would be meeting with a missionary from Africa and how American press affects her work as she tries to navigate the cultural tensions in the country she serves in.
I also got to meet with some awesome people from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. People who know me know that I love RZIM and the work that they do. RZIM was in town for a new initiative that they are launching called At the Table, which seeks to foster constructive political dialogue.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention being able to have dinner with the ERLC’s president Russell Moore. All the interns were able to ask him a question, which led to some really interesting dialogue. You’ll have to talk to me in person to find out what my question was.
4. I got to be around other great interns
Similar to last summer, I got to work with other interns who love the Lord and are interested in serving him in the area of ethics and public policy.
5. I got to make meaningful contributions to the ERLC’s work and mission.
From day one, the staff at the DC office gave the interns meaningful work to do, which provided us the opportunity to grow and develop our research and writing abilities. One such occasion for me was dealing with the issue of Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on China and how that would affect Christian ministries.
Ironically, almost all Bibles are printed in China. Over the years, as the printing industry has become more specialized, China has become the biggest producer of Bibles. They have the specific paper mills that can make the really thin paper that most Bibles use. As such, a tariff on all Chinese goods would subsequently raise prices on Bibles. This would negatively affect Christian ministries that rely on the low prices of Bibles to do their work such as the Gideons. Thus, we advocated for making exceptions for Bibles and other educational materials like textbooks to the tariffs.
I was able to write the first draft of the ERLC’s one-pager on this. (A “one-pager” is a one page document which outlines our position on the issue, why it is important, and what we would like to be done. They are easy to read and people can get a gist of what we are advocating for at just a glance.) I also got to see it through several edits and revisions and got to hand-deliver it to my boss at an important meeting where it would be given to an official in the Trump administration.
UPDATE (8/16/19): A few days ago, it was announced that Bibles were going to be exempted from the tariffs! https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/china-bibles-exemption-trump-tariffs.html
I also got to write several other things, most of them internal to the ERLC. However, I did write one article that was published on the ERLC’s website. It was on how the ERLC has been working to advance religious liberty.
6. There’s almost always something going on.
One example would be the Supreme Court. June is typically when the Supreme Court releases its decisions. That creates quite the media buzz outside the court, since no media is allowed inside when the decisions are released.
7. Some thank yous are in order
This summer was incredible. I have been incredibly blessed by so many people who made this experience possible or more enjoyable.
First, thank you to the ERLC staff in DC for giving me this opportunity and for investing in me all summer. Shout out to Travis Wussow, Jeff Pickering, Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, Steven Harris, Lauren Konkol, and Brooke Kramer. I greatly cherished all of the personal attention and time that I got to spend with everyone.
Second, thank you to my DC roommates Lan and Jon and Capitol Hill Baptist Church for giving me a home away from home. A special thank you is in order for my roommate Lan, who would graciously drive me to work and pick me up most days, saving me many hours, dollars, and much sweating from walking and taking the bus every day.
Third, thank you to the other interns for making this experience fun and enjoyable. I always looked forward to spending time with you each day and working alongside you.
Lastly, thank you for my friends and family back in California for your prayers and encouragement while I was away. I missed you all deeply and am happy to be back.
After my internship, I took a bus up to New York to spend a few days of quality time with some extended family. Then came the long flight home…
Proof that I finally made it back to California. Going to In-N-Out was literally the first thing I did once I left Ontario Airport.
There’s so many more stories I could tell, but this will have to suffice for this blog post. If you see me around, feel free to ask questions. Until next time…