Racial tensions, the ongoing pandemic, and fierce political discord have left many Americans asking how the nation can move forward in unity. Bishop Garland Hunt seeks to answer that question in his new book, “Crisis in America: A Christian Response.”
Hunt, pastor of a nondenominational church in Atlanta, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain practical steps Americans can take to be voices of hope and truth.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about the fifth annual Medal of Honor Mail Call. For National Medal of Honor Day, which is March 25, you can say thank you to one or more of 69 Medal of Honor recipients by writing a letter of gratitude. To participate, visit here.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Rob Bluey: We are joined on “The Daily Signal Podcast” today by Bishop Garland Hunt. He is the senior pastor of The Father’s House in Metro Atlanta and co-founder of the One Race movement. Bishop Hunt, welcome to the show.
Bishop Garland Hunt: Thank you very much, Rob. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Bluey: You’ve written a new book called “Crisis in America: A Christian Response.” Can you tell our listeners about it?
Hunt: Oh, yes. I’ll tell you what, I looked at our nation, and it just seems to me that we really have a void in our nation of leadership. And then more specifically, what is a biblical response and a biblical worldview for the crisis that we face?
We’re challenged, actually, to issue a question to our nation, in terms of a mandate for a biblical worldview, biblical understanding, a Christian understanding.
So my motivation was that we just should not be echo chambers of what the news is saying or what social media is saying. What is the Lord sending out, what revelation is there, what should be the response of the church in the midst of a crisis that we have before us and our nation?
Bluey: We do certainly face many challenging times. In fact, I think many Americans probably have experienced some of the most challenging moments in their lifetime over the course of the past year, of course, talking about COVID, the riots, presidential election, which was highly divisive. How do you address these challenges in your book?
Hunt: Well, one of the things I do in the beginning of the book, first, I challenge all of us that read the book, the church and non-Christians alike, but first we have to evaluate ourselves.
I believe that God has called us to literally be a prophetic voice for the world, but to do so, first of all, we have to make sure that, even in ourselves, we’re clear with him.
So when it relates to racial issues and racial protests, as it relates to concerns about leadership, that the Bible actually says that judgment starts in the house of God.
So we first have to first make sure that, in our own selves, that we’re right with him, and therefore, once we have made sure that’s correct, then out of a lens of discernment, we can then begin to project what, biblically, would be an answer to the questions that the nation has.
I can use one example like justice. Justice is a huge issue. And people are crying out in the street for justice. People were talking about justice even with the elections. But the thing is, what is biblical justice? What is justice and righteousness together? So those things you don’t necessarily hear on CNN, maybe not even on Fox.
The question is how do we, as those that are Christians, have an understanding of the importance of the marriage of justice and righteousness? And how does that differentiate how we respond, or how the world would respond, to a leadership crisis or justice issue?
Bluey: That’s such an important point. Let me ask, in your time as a pastor, have you seen Americans as frustrated or angry and as divided as they are today? And what are you preaching to them on a weekly basis, or counseling them as they come to you?
Hunt: Oh, yeah. I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen so much division, actually, in the world and in our nation.
But I tell you what, what really breaks my heart is in the church. What we faced just this past year, this COVID epidemic, and maybe I should say pandemic, and it actually has divided the church. I mean, the church has left the building.
So some of us are meeting. I have meetings, but of course just with masks, and a lot of people can’t come. They don’t feel comfortable to come. They feel like they don’t want to put themselves in jeopardy to come.
The church has really had opportunity to look at itself and recognize that we really are not prepared for this hour the way we should be.
So my whole focus for encouraging people now is to prepare yourself for future challenges. The challenges are not going to stop. COVID was just a precursor. The challenges will not stop. So we have to gird ourselves up.
We have to prepare ourselves to be like the sons of Issachar, or we have to be those that will discern correctly what our hour is, so that we can be strong enough to provide leadership and not waiver like everyone else is.
Bluey: Thank you for talking about that. And as a follow-up to that, I’m curious how you and your church have overcome some of the challenges presented by COVID.
We’ve seen cases go to the Supreme Court, where government officials were telling churches that they could not gather in person and those congregations have taken their cases to the highest court in the land, and they’ve won in some cases.
So what is it that you’ve done to, obviously, be safe in this environment we’re in with COVID, while at the same time, providing a means for people to continue to worship?
Hunt: Yeah. Well, first of all, just in the natural, “we’ve taken every possible” precaution that we can. We started our services back in October, but we do require people to wear a mask. A lot of churches are not requiring that, but we do.
We’re also doing the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] requirements the best we can to spread people out. Our church is a smaller church, so we do our best to separate families and separate individuals.
But most of all, also, I’m encouraging people not to come in fear. Even though we have on a mask, we can’t trust the mask. Even though the fact that vaccination is coming around the corner, we can’t trust it. We have to still trust God to have faith, that God is going to protect us no matter what.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking the natural precautions.
So if people fellowship afterward and they talk, at least they will have a mask on, which I believe it has some limited help as it relates to protecting. But let me just say this very clearly, that our faith can’t be in a mask, and that’s what I tell our people. Our faith has to be in trusting God because he’ll get us through it.
But we cannot forsake the assembling of ourselves together just because of a fear of an unknown, potential virus that could separate us and keep us from doing the work of the ministry.
Bluey: Oh, I totally agree with that.
Again, we’re speaking to Bishop Garland Hunt. He’s the senior pastor of The Father’s House in Metro Atlanta and author of the book “Crisis in America: A Christian Response.”
Bishop Hunt, what is your message to those who have either lost loved ones or know people who are suffering from the virus today?
Hunt: One of the things that I have such a real concern about are people that have lost loved ones or the people that have been considerably impacted because of the virus, in terms of the health.
I have people at my church that literally have lost fathers, lost brothers and sisters to COVID. I have a personal friend, a lifelong friend that I’ve had, that passed away because of COVID.
I have various sensitive concerns about those kinds of issues. And I go through grief, and we all go through that time of loss when we have lost a loved one. But what I have to also say is that death and life are in the power of time, and the Lord says that we may have life, and have it more abundantly, we can’t lose hope.
We have to bring together a group of people … as the church that will still speak hope in the midst of whatever the challenge would be, and that’s one of the reasons why, again, I wrote the book.
I do refer to COVID in the book, but I didn’t really write it just because of COVID. But I do say that we have to stand. And it says, without faith, it’s impossible to please him.
So as the church, we have to rise up in faith, even though we’ve seen people that may have fallen. … I have friends in the midst of this that had a massive stroke, or a massive heart attack, and other reasons too that were taking people out.
The bottom line of it, in the midst of our crisis, we still have to stand in faith, and still move forward and consistently with what the Gospel message is.
… I’m sensitive on the context of people that have lost, but I’m also strong in the area of let’s move forward and continue to do what the Gospel has called us to do.
Bluey: You mentioned that issue of people losing hope or losing faith—I think, particularly, so many young people seem to be turning away from religion.
How can we change their hearts and minds? What’s some of the advice that you either provide in your book or on a day-to-day basis to make sure that the next generation sees that hope and faith in Jesus?
Hunt: Well, one of the things that’s so very prominent is, actually, when you look at the Scripture, and I do talk about this in the book, that the Lord actually said that, “Let them be one, even as I am the father of one.”
So there’s no doubt that there’s a oneness between Jesus and the Father. There’s no doubt about that. But he said, “Let them be one.” And he was referring to the church.
So one of the things I bring up in the book is that we still have to walk in a level of reconciliation for the world to know that Jesus is real and he came on this earth.
Young people are looking for something from the church that’s very practical, that’s pragmatic, that they can see that can help them in their lifestyle. But they look at a church that is so segmented—the silos of division, cultural divisions, racial divisions—they feel like the church is running behind the world.
You can look into sports media, you can look at the anchors on television. You can look at almost every area, and people are coming together in a major way, but when it comes to the church, we still see such divisiveness in the church.
So I say the church, one, has to meet this challenge, that we must be reconciled. We must come to racial healing. We must lead the way to model a difference in what being on one accord, welcome together, that we’re one race in Christ Jesus, and that we’re a kingdom race.
This is the type of message that I believe will engender an engagement from young people, because they see the church is moving forward, as opposed to giving into a cultural divide.
Bluey: Oh, I agree with you there. I think it’s so critically important. And as a father of three kids, it’s so important for myself, and our family, to make sure that they hear that message as well.
But what do you think is holding back the church from having a more active role with reconciliation and healing? Are there steps that you’ve seen some people take that are really positive and other things that you think that they could be doing to help advance this issue in a better way?
Hunt: Yeah. I think that, first, it starts off with our leadership. I mean, the black and white pastors and leaders and congregations ought to pray together. We have to cry out for revival together.
I mean, God said that he pours out his spirit upon our flesh, but even in the upper room, that came after those that were there for 10 days, and it says, “When they were on one accord.” He’s looking for us to take their step.
One of the things that I started as the founder of the One Race movement, and one of the first things we did before we could have a big event, was that we had to pray together. And these are pastors and leaders that came, got on our knees, and prayed together, so the congregation will follow their leadership.
So part of our problem, our leaders, like myself, that will be content with having a segregated environment, and not segregation in terms of just race, but just with we’re happy culturally where we are, but we have to make a strike to go and work together to solve the problems of our city. We have to work together with the Father to deal with the problems of our nation.
So when people begin to see the church model out a difference in reconciliation, healing, that they recognize the call to put forth another type of example of what the model should be, based on John 17, then, then they begin to see something differently.
The church must lead the way in this racial issue. See, we can protest in the street—and I was an activist. I’d given my testimony in this book. I was an activist. I came out a black community, I came out a black high school, black college. I went to even a dominantly-black law school.
But the key was that when God dealt with my heart, I went through a personal transformation, where I had to die to my cultural pride, and I said that we have to come together as a people.
So the grace message had to proceed the race message. And that was where the church has to be now. The church itself must come to a place where we’re willing to die to idolization of racial culture, and that we are willing to give over to the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God, and work together to solve the messages and the problems that are in our nation and in our cities.
Bluey: Well, Bishop Hunt, you have led such a remarkable life, and I don’t feel like we’re even touching on so many of the amazing things that you’ve done—from building a church from the ground up in North Carolina to coming to your hometown in Atlanta and having success at The Father’s House, to writing this book.
One of the things that I found interesting in the work that you’ve done is serving on the Board of Pardons and Paroles, serving as the chairman of the parole board for a time.
What did that experience teach you, also being part of the prison fellowship? So what did those experiences teach you and what message do you want to convey to our listeners today about that?
Hunt: Well, you know, I mentioned about justice. One of the theme messages that I have, and this is, again, of course, in the book too, it talks about my concerns with racial healing, my concern also is about religious liberty, but another one is about justice.
So coming into the prison system or criminal justice world as a parole board chairman, I recognize that in order to determine whether a person would get parole, we had to know more about what their experiences would be while they were in prison.
And then, when you talk about why they’re in prison, is there really rehabilitation or is this just nothing but punishment and punitive actions, related to what they did when they were out or were convicted?
Then you have to look at the criminal justice system. What are the real problems in the criminal justice system? Are there some systemic issues there that we have to face?
So when I begin to look at the criminal justice system and all, that begins to really deal with me in terms of, “Wow, we have a lot to do.” Even as it relates to bringing a person from prison to even into the communities.
I realized that, with parole, we realized that within those first 30 days, if the church doesn’t get involved, or someone that’s a Christian gets involved in their life as a different lifestyle, out of their frustration, they’ll go right back to the same peers. They go right back to the same community and they’ll start doing the same things, unless someone’s there at that gate to walk them through a transition.
So these are the kinds of things I recognize, that as it relates to criminal justice and overall, and even, of course, with prison fellowship, same thing, how do you bring the Gospel so they can really have a transformed life? Not just a jail house religion, but legitimately transform, so they can come out and literally be agents of change—not just they change, but they become an agent of change once they come out.
If you look at the whole criminal justice system, what I’ve found in being in those positions is that it’s very important to understand that the Christ, the kingdom of God must speak to all these issues, as it relates to transforming them from a criminal lifestyle to a productive life of Christianity, and also being an example in our world and our nation and their communities.
Bluey: That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you so much for sharing that and the efforts that you’ve made in your own personal life to do that.
Bishop Hunt, we’re now in the season of Lent, what is your message to our listeners on how they should spend this time before Easter?
Hunt: That’s a very good question. I was thinking about that myself. It’s always a good time to reflect. Certainly, some people decide that there are things that they’re going to deny themselves during this time.
We started off the year, actually, in a fast, a Daniel’s fast, where we’re denying ourselves food in that regard, certain types of foods, just vegetables and fruit.
There’s some people that need to, in this time, pull away from social media, maybe they want to pull away from certain things during this time, but most importantly, it’s a question of inspection and introspection.
I really wrote this book, actually, to challenge the church though, to really take a serious look at where we are as a people, because the Bible says clearly judgment starts in the house of God.
I will say, during this time, use this time more than ever to plant your feet on the rock, get into the word of God, connect with other people, don’t become isolated.
Don’t let COVID allow you to be isolated, connect with other people so that we can be a true family of God together. And we can, during this time, as we celebrate the resurrected Christ, we can also be a resurrected church, with resurrected individuals and a resurrected body. We can do this together.
So I just encourage us to look at ourselves, during this time, and allow the Lord to help us walk through this thing with true resurrection inside of us.
Bluey: Your book is called “Crisis in America: A Christian Response.” Bishop Hunt, any closing words you want to leave with our listeners today about it or the work you’re doing?
Hunt: Well, I don’t know. I can’t be shy about it. I believe this book is revolutionary. I do believe, if you get into it, and I know reading books now is hard to do because many people just don’t have time, but I believe if you allow yourself to walk through this book, it at least gives you a general challenge to look at ourselves, and I believe that, as a Christian, we need this.
So the book, of course, is available on Amazon, … at Barnes & Noble, and then you can actually get it through crisisinamerica.us. And we can provide that, I’ll give you an autographed copy.
The most important thing is transformation. If we’re not transformed right now, more than ever, we’re going to have an onslaught of challenges. So we have to now gird ourselves up, become that righteous room that God calls us to be, so anything that can help equip us is going to be beneficial. And I believe this book will help equip you to better deal with the challenges that are ahead.
Bluey: Bishop Hunt, thanks so much for writing the book and speaking to us about it on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” We appreciate the work you’re doing and wish you all the best, and to all of our listeners, encourage them to take a closer look at it as well.
Hunt: Thank you so much. Good to be with you, Rob.