Where Is Israel on Evangelical Christian Voters’ List of Priorities?

Note: I wrote this article for Jewish News Service with the help of my friend and fellow writer, Bethany Blankley, who I am indebted to for her knowledge and fearless research skills.

Seventeen Republican presidential candidates are vying for the support of evangelical Christian voters from the swing states of Ohio and Florida, to the cornfields of Iowa, to the small towns of the Deep South. Within the varied spectrum of 2016 election issues such as the economy, immigration, and health care, do evangelicals highly prioritize candidates’ positions on Israel and the Middle East?

Major evangelical leaders in America are saying, “Yes.”

“Studies show us there are approximately 90 million Christians in America who consider their beliefs to be evangelical,” Tony Perkins—president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian education and lobbying group—told JNS.org. “Of that number around 9-10 percent have what we call a ‘biblical worldview,’ in that they believe what the scriptures say pertaining to Israel. That’s a large number of voters who can definitely make a difference in a primary or general election.”

Perkins said, “Among core evangelical voters, Israel is easily one of the top 10, maybe even the top five issues when considering who to support in a presidential primary. The Old Testament tells us that whoever blesses Israel will be blessed and it’s certainly important to be on the right side of God’s word.”

The reference by Perkins is to Genesis 12:3, which states, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you.”

In August, former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders in Jerusalem. It was part of a decades-old ritual for Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister who has visited Israel about 40 times since the 1970s—far more than any other current presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican.

“Israel should be top-of-mind when evaluating GOP presidential candidates,” Huckabee told JNS.org.

“I have known Prime Minister Netanyahu for 20 years,” he said. “I went to Israel not to seek his endorsement, but to endorse him because his voice is so important. Netanyahu leads a people who are realists. They know what it’s like to have people threaten to kill them. They take it seriously when a government (Iran) for 36 years promises to wipe them off the face of the Earth.”

While Huckabee’s Israel trip was the latest to make headlines, the FRC is organizing a Holy Land visit in October for supporters who will be joined by two GOP candidates, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took his first trip to Israel in May.

Two-pronged strategy

Political operatives say that candidates’ trips to Israel are focused on securing campaign donations from influential Israeli government and business leaders who can infuse much-needed cash and hopefully help deliver the support of pro-Israel voters back in the U.S.

But ultimately, are these visits to the Jewish state more educational or political in nature?

“Both,” said Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, a Christian women’s activist group.

Nance, along with political strategist Ralph Reed and author Joel Rosenberg, penned an op-ed in The Christian Post about presidential contenders visiting Israel in the immediate aftermath of the November 2014 U.S. midterm elections. They posed seven questions that they argued candidates must answer to win the White House. The fifth question reads in part, “Does the candidate have a clear and coherent view of the U.S. vital interest in the Middle East, including a demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel and a solid understanding of why Israel matters to the U.S.?”

According to Nance, there are “a number of reasons those aspiring to win the GOP nomination need to understand and embrace Israel.”

“First, visiting Israel is an educational experience in understanding their economy, security challenges, and what’s important to their citizens,” she told JNS.org. “At the same time, you are telegraphing to evangelical voters why Israel is important and that you sincerely care about its future. Finally, you want to raise money and appeal to pro-Israel voters.”

‘Tremendous pool of potential pro-Israel advocates’

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) asserts that the evangelical Christian community plays a vital role in U.S.-Israel relations, the influential pro-Israel lobby’s core priority. As such, AIPAC enlists Christian clergy to garner nationwide support for Israel, stating on its “Your Church and AIPAC” webpage that polls consistently show how support for the Jewish state “is highly related to adherence to evangelical beliefs and frequency of church attendance.”

“As Christians, we should be Israel’s strongest supporters and friends and we need to translate that into political activism,” Rev. Philip C. Morris, Jr. argues in an AIPAC video.

AIPAC also notes the significance of evangelical support to the entire pro-Israel community by stating, “20-25 million Americans define themselves as evangelical Christians, representing a tremendous pool of potential pro-Israel advocates.”

Evangelical perspectives on Israel and the Middle East

According to February 2014 Pew Research Center findings, a plurality of Christians (29 percent) and Jews (31 percent) say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel. Nearly half of white evangelical Protestants (46 percent) claim America does not provide enough support for Israel.

Notably, when Pew polled Americans in 2012 about U.S. foreign policy—specifically, what actions America should take if Israel attacks Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear program—64 percent of white evangelicals answered, “support Israel,” compared to 39 percent of the general public.

In March 2013, LifeWay Research reported that 72 percent of white evangelicals support Israel in its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, compared to 49 percent of Americans overall. Fifty percent of white evangelicals claim Israel cannot peacefully coexist with an independent Palestinian state, compared to 33 percent of American Jews and 41 percent of the general public.

With the Iran nuclear deal garnering much public attention, most of the GOP contenders are quick to remind prospective voters of the ramifications of a country whose hostile intentions toward the U.S. and Israel are seen all too often.

“Radical Islam poses an imminent threat to national security, both in the United States and Israel,” Huckabee told JNS.org. “With Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, combined with ‘Death to America’ chants, and with a steady stream of global terrorist attacks, GOP voters understand that this toxic ideology must be defeated if we are to survive. While Russia, China, and North Korea have more firepower, they are considerably less likely to attack us than Iran, Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other hardline Islamists.”

Besides Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the presidential candidate who perhaps best personifies evangelical voters’ support of Israel. In Cruz’s candidacy announcement speech in March at Liberty University, the only remark to inspire a 30-second standing ovation was about Israel. Cruz declared, “Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel.”

Presidential candidates and evangelical voters not only care about Israel, but recognize its significance to their faith. A July poll by LifeWay reveals that 70 percent of evangelicals believe that the God of the Bible has a special relationship with the modern nation of Israel.

“No country is more intertwined with the ancient biblical narrative than Israel,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay, “and evangelical Americans see a contemporary connection with the nation.”

Removing the Confederate Flag May Solve Political Issues, But Removing ‘Hate’ and ‘Meanness’ Will Take the Body of Christ

The Confederate battle flag, honored by some who value their southern heritage and vilified by others who see it as nothing but a symbol of deep-seeded racism, finds itself once again at the center of a storm after Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people during a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina last week. But will lowering a flag be enough to penetrate the roots of hate and vile acts that cause death because of skin color or religious beliefs?

There’s a lot to tackle here and debating whether a flag carried by southern troops over 150 years ago should be removed from the capitol grounds in South Carolina or from the official state flags of Mississippi and Georgia is not an issue I’m concerned with addressing now. That issue will and should be decided by voters and elected leaders in their respective states. There have been two well-written pieces, one by Russell Moore and another by David French that make valid points on both sides and reading each should provide a better perspective from which to formulate your own opinion.

Yet the issue of a flag is keeping us from focusing on the larger and more repressive issue of hatred and how to harness its outcome.

The vicious and vile acts carried out by Roof and others that subscribe to ideals of racism and beliefs that certain groups of people should be eliminated are nothing new and most likely will escalate unless we as a nation and a great society act quickly. Tackling hatred is hard, messy work and spending quality time at its ugly core will detract some whose seemingly bigger goal is to hold press conferences and make the talk-show circuit laying blame on groups or political parties who detest the very acts that repeat themselves every week on the national stage.

Dylann Roof, gun and flagIn a photograph of Roof that is appearing online and in major publications, the murder suspect is shown holding the Confederate battle flag in one had and a semi-automatic handgun in the other. Needless to say, gun control advocates led by President Obama are calling for handguns to be more tightly controlled or in some cases, banned.

Removing a flag – any flag – and banning the sale and possession of a firearm – any firearm – will do nothing, I repeat nothing, to stop the Dylann Roof’s or this world. It will only be a matter of time before another young man will a bowl haircut and eyes that stare into space make front-page news by committing a senseless act; most likely with a handgun he obtained legally or illegally

I believe the reason you and I and those in positions of authority who could start the dialogue of how Roof and others get to the point of committing a heinous act is because we are afraid we can’t solve a problem created by a society that values divineness and turmoil above the practicality of turning back ugly layers of a nations core to expose our own fears and shortcomings.

Groups, namely churches and organizers of faith, should come together and find logical and pragmatic ways to tackle the issues in their respective communities. This is not merely accomplished by holding a joint worship service between black and white churches to honor and pray for those who suffered in Charleston although it’s not a bad place to start.

Moving forward, individuals in these communities who are respected and looked up to by all groups should step forward and assume leadership roles. Holding an elected office or being a senior pastor should not be the only qualifier for someone who can rise to the challenge and accept the responsibility of building bridges and opening lines of communication that will hopefully reach the likes of a Dylann Roof or someone who can impact such a life.

But don’t expect Roof and his simple-minded compatriots to show up these gatherings. Don’t expect to encounter his type on the street or any place outside of a website or message board where other idiots and racist congregate. Instead, search for someone who cares enough about their community to come forward but most likely holds views and opinions formed in a manner other than your own. These are the people who should replace the Jesse Jackson’s, Al Sharpton and David Duke’s of the world.

Lastly, pray to the loving God that allowed his creation to introduce sin and wickedness to this world for both judgments on those who commit and support acts of hatred and a change of heart from those like you and me who sometimes sit idle as it destroys our world.

Resurrection and Renewal: Why I Wish Easter and the Opening Day of Major League Baseball Were Always on the Same Day

The meaning of Easter brings renewed hope to Christians that through the resurrection of Jesus all is right in our fallen world. And you’re a baseball fan, the opening day of Major League Baseball gives even the most loyal Chicago Cubs fan hope there is a chance for a World Series Title in 2015. Oh how these two days are made for each other.

Before I go any further please don’t think I’m equating a man-made sport with the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. That’s impossible for many reasons, the first being that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a perfect and sinless life on Earth for 33 years and is the one and only path to eternal life. Since mankind fell in the Garden of Eden, Jesus has been the only glimpse of perfection our planet has ever seen.

Baseball, like all other sports is far from perfect, although a nine-inning no-hitter comes awful close.

For my friends who believe that football and basketball are the end-all-be-all, relax. I’m not discounting the excitement of SEC college football in the “Grove” as Alabama and Ole Miss take the field on a crisp Saturday afternoon, the magic of college basketball’s March Madness or three spectacular minutes of the Kentucky Derby.

But baseball is different. The official start of the Major League season coincides with the blooming of tulips and the rebirth of naked trees that have seemingly left me void of emotion since the last leaf fell on Black Friday. It’s not only Easter Sunday that makes me want to wear my favorite seersucker shorts and suits – it’s baseball.

While Easter Sunday may provide the opportunity to break out my seersucker suit and white bucks, the message of Christ resurrection makes me appreciate baseball and life’s other gifts even more.

For me, baseball provides me with a similar emotion, as does a sunrise Easter Service. I am reminded that regardless of what happened last season that I have another chance to start anew, change my lineup of friends and people I associate with or make an adjustment to my stance they can have an positive impact in my performance.

One of my favorite quotes about the game comes from the movie, “Field of Dreams.” James Earl Jones portrayed a fictional writer who like most everyone, thought Kevin Costner’s character “Ray” was insane for building a manicured baseball field in the middle of an Iowa corn crop.

“Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around”, you’ll say, “It’s only $20 per person”. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Jones spoke of baseball as the one constant of the last 160 plus years. But over the past two-thousand plus years the one constant that brings us hope now and forever more is Christ Jesus. And I am thankful he allows me to make changes, picks me up when I’m in a slump and offers me the ultimate assurance that he will never trade or cut me when my performance lags or I’ve passed my peak years.

As a Christian I want to remind others that when we offer people the hope of a perfect and eternal life and do so in a loving and gentle way, they too will come to know Jesus in a way they cannot fathom. And if its money you have and peace you’re seeking, then Jesus is the only answer.

I am excited about baseball and the experiences it will provide me this spring and summer by watching my son play Junior Varsity at Christian Brothers High School and catching an occasional Redbirds game in downtown Memphis.

More importantly, I crave the feeling of renewal and resurrection that Easter gives me and I am grateful of God’s promise of a perfect and eternal life through faith in Him.

Whatever Gerry Finney Has, I Want Lots of It

About two weeks ago while playing tennis on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon I met Gerry Finney. What happened as a chance meeting left me walking away from our encounter a few hours later wanting what this guy has – and lots of it.

Over the past few months I’ve heard Gerry’s name brought up many times.

“Gerry is a great guy,” said one mutual friend. “Have you heard Gerry and his band play around town? He’s a great musician,” remarked another. “Hey, did you hear the news? Gerry has cancer – again,” I heard yet another person say.

Cancer, that’s a bad word. Especially when the phrase “again” is used which means there has been a “before” and as cancer goes, that’s not good. Cancer is that scary word that stops most of us in our tracks. Cancer, yeah, that’s bad stuff; really bad when you hear the term “stage four” as a preface. Really freaking bad when you hear the word lymphoma attached to it.

You may be wondering why I want what Gerry Finney has. Do I long to have stage 4 lymphoma? No I don’t. I hope I never hear a doctor utter that phrase to me.

What I want is Gerry’s smile, attitude and outlook on life. I want it as bad as he wants his cancer gone.

Many of you reading this may have known him Gerry for many years. You could have grown up with him, went to school with him, played sports with him or heard him play music somewhere over the past twenty something years. Yes, you may know him quite well. Yet the contagious nature of his warm and engaging personality made me feel as if I’ve known him for years too. Some people are just like that but not enough people are like Gerry.

Our introduction came during a break in our match when a mutual friend went over to speak to him. Before I knew it we had talked our way into a doubles match on a neighboring court and Gerry came over to watch. There were quick introductions and within a few minutes Gerry was substituting when someone needed a quick break. That’s right. The guy with stage 4 cancer was subbing when someone else got a little winded. He was just happy to be there.

Gerry and Nick after a hard Monday night match. Photo courtesy of Michael J. Brennan.

Gerry and Nick after a hard Monday night match. Photo courtesy of Michael J. Brennan.

I enjoyed playing with and against Gerry that day. He’s a good level and a half above me as tennis skill is measured but he taught me a great deal simply by being on the court with him. Forehand, backhand, serve or volley, this guy has the complete tennis game. I suspect the same is true for other areas of his life too.

Yet it wasn’t his tennis game that impressed me the most. It was his smile and demeanor. “I heard his guy was going through chemotherapy. What in the heck is he doing out here?” I asked myself. “Isn’t he supposed to be in bed and in tons of pain?”

Maybe for some, but not Gerry. He was laughing and having a great time. Even when his ball sailed out of bounds or was prematurely captured by the net, Gerry never lost his stride and composure. Well, there were those two comments that “accidently” slipped from his lips when he doubled faulted, but hey, it’s tennis and we have to give him a break. With or without stage four lymphoma.

You never know what to say to someone who has a serious illness regardless of how well you know them so I did what any stranger might do as we interacted; I treated him like I would treat any other person I just met. It was even better that he made me feel like we had played together for years.

As our marathon match ended late that afternoon, some of us, including Gerry, had been playing hard for almost three hours. I casually walked toward Gerry and said it had been a pleasure to meet him and offered what remarks I felt were appropriate.

“Gerry I just wanted you to know we have several mutual friends who think highly of you and that I’m praying for you. I hope you get better soon.”

His smile never left his face. “Thanks man, I appreciate it,” he said. Never mind that he had just finished plummeting us with those amazing groundstrokes of his.

It was as if he was thanking me for saying how sorry I was he strained a calf muscle or tore his Achilles – something that would devastate most tennis players but could be easily repaired with surgery or rest. If only it were that simple of an injury. But this guy has stage four lymphoma – again.

Gerry and I exchanged numbers and I asked if he would be willing to hit with me sometime. I want to take my game to the next level and playing with someone like him would help me improve my groundstrokes and volley’s.

But’s there’s lots of guys who can do that. What I really wanted was to be around someone who displayed such an addicting smile and attitude in the midst of a treatment regimen I cannot even begin to comprehend.

Since then I’ve been on the court with Gerry a handful of times. After one match last week we headed over to Houston’s for dinner and a beer and ran into several guys who knew him well. Everyone offered encouragement but none I saw offered pity. Even if they did I don’t believe Gerry would have accepted it. In fact, I know he wouldn’t.

I played tennis with Gerry just yesterday, talking him into playing a set with my group after he had been playing with another friend for at least an hour. It wasn’t like I had to bribe or beg him. He was more than willing to play even knowing he would begin another round of chemo the following day.

“I’ve got time for one quick set Paul but then I’ve got to go,” he said. An hour and a half later I’m the one that left mid-set for my son’s baseball game and guess who was still playing? Yep, it was Gerry – in the middle of a third set.

As I finish this column Gerry is receiving the first of several treatments that will take him away from the tennis courts and his business for a while. I have no concept of what he is going through but find myself wanting to do something – anything to take away some of the pain he must endure. I bet many of you feel the same way.

So while I don’t long for cancer, I do long for what my friend Gerry has.

I want his smile, his attitude and his “can do” spirit. I want lots of it and I want it forever.

Am I as happy as Gerry Finney today? It’s a question I will now ask myself daily. And if the answer isn’t “yes” then I may need to reexamine my attitude and the many blessings God has extended to me.

I believe it would benefit us all who know Gerry if we asked ourselves that very question each day for the rest of our lives.

Get well Gerry and stay strong brother. There is lots of tennis and music to play. There are lots more memories to make with your long-time friends and there are lots more people like me that need to meet you and your attitude.

Forgiveness: A Lenten Reflection

Many of you know my son attends Christian Brother High School, an all-boys Catholic School in Memphis. As a protestant, it’s been an interesting experience for him and a blessing for our family too.

Each day during Lent the school sends out a daily reflection with commentary from teachers, staff, alumni and friends. All have been excellent but yesterday’s caught my attention given the topic was forgiveness. Ah, forgiveness. It’s what we encourage others to do and ask for from others when we’ve messed up or offended someone. It’s also that incredibly difficult process we struggle with when someone has done something to us of such major proportion that we justify our decision not to forgive as righteous.

It sounds and feels good but as I read scripture, that’s not what Jesus commands of us. In discussing this very issue over lunch with a friend yesterday they asked if we were expected to forgive even when the offending party has never asked for it or for that matter, believes they’ve done nothing wrong.

I encourage you to read the message below but in my interpretation of scripture, my response was “yes.” We are commanded to forgive even when forgiveness is not sought. It’s something we should all pray about and seek God’s guidance on. Thanks to Buddy Adams for this wonderful commentary.

Let Us Remember We Are In the Holy Presence of God

Tuesday, March 10

Matthew 18: 21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, 
”Lord, if my brother sins against me, 
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
 who decided to settle accounts with his servants.

When he began the accounting, 
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 
Since he had no way of paying it back,
 his master ordered him to be sold, 
along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
 ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
 Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan. 
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
 who owed him a much smaller amount. 
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 
’Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
 ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back. ‘
But he refused.

Instead, he had him put in prison
 until he paid back the debt. 
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, 
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair. 
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! 
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’

Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt. 
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Reflection

Whenever I listened to this gospel passage I always wondered about the Lord’s instruction to Peter to not forgive seven times but to forgive seventy-seven times. That seemed to be excessive but I believe it was the Lord’s way of getting his point across that we forgive and forget.   Forgiveness…you frequently read accounts in the newspaper or hear a story on radio or TV of someone forgiving another for an unspeakable act or crime. Do you wonder how they are truly able to forgive? Do you believe they have drawn upon the lesson in this gospel passage of the master forgiving the servant his debt?

Preparing to write this reflection on these verses from Matthew’s Gospel caused me to read and re-read them several times and to think about times in my life when I needed to forgive someone. Was I reluctant to do so?   Was their action that serious that forgiveness was difficult? When I look back now the instructions to Peter to forgive not seven times but seventy-seven times should be all the guidance we need.

Buddy Adams, CBHS Class of 1957

Alumni Board Member

St. John Baptist De Lasalle, pray for us. Live Jesus in our hearts forever.

3 Reasons Why I’m Glad My Protestant Son Attends a Catholic Boys School

CBHS logo

In this season of Lent I am reminded of the tremendous blessings we receive daily from God in an email sent from Christian Brothers High School, where my son is a student. It has also served as a reminder why as a Protestant I made the wise decision to send my son to an all-boys school steeped in Catholic tradition.

Prior to him entering high school, my son and his younger sister attended private and public schools and received a great education at both. My point here is not to debate the differences between the two. Both can prepare our kids for college and beyond and depending on a variety of factors, can be the right or wrong place for your child. I’m a product of public schools and I am thankful each child has the opportunity to go regardless of their status in life.

Here are three reasons I am thankful my son attends CBHS, a single sex Catholic School:

1) They help develop boys into young men.

When a 13 or 14-year old male walks into a high school for the first day they are still a boy regardless of the type of school they attended. All boys will eventually make the transition to young man and then manhood, but at CBHS they further encourage this development by pressing them academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I’m not opposed to co-ed schools in the least, but I can honestly say an all-boys school has been a blessing for my son. He has lots of good friends that are female and often has the chance to attend a dance or formal with a young lady friend. I truly believe an all male school has made him appreciate and respect young ladies more so than if he was in a co-ed environment. This will go a long way in how he relates to females and I believe make him a better man.

Yet from 8-3 each school day an all male environment has allowed him to focus on his studies and individual growth absent much drama or the need to compete for female attention. There’s ample time for that in the few social hours he has each weekend.

2) Regardless of their religion, the boys receive a religious education at CBHS.

In the fall of his eighth grade year we attended a “shadow day” where my son visited CBHS and spent time in mornings classes so he could get a feel for the day-to-day schedule.

After lunch the parents and boys gathered in the auditorium for a Q&A session. The first question Brother Chris asked was how many in the room were Catholic and how many were “other.” It just so happened the majority in the room that day were Protestant.

“Don’t worry,” he said calmly. “We’re not here to convert your boys to Catholicism. For our Catholic families we do owe their children a quality Catholic education and that’s what they will get. For the rest of you, you’re boys will attend an ethics class that is grounded in Scripture and religious teachings.”

My son loves his ethics class, especially his instructor who not only is teaching God’s word, but how to deal with life when tragic events occur in the lives of others or the school. For this I am truly grateful.

3) CBHS creates a “brotherhood” like no environment I have ever witnessed.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many organizations where I developed a bond with others who were in the same place. Whether it is an athletic team, fraternity, band, legislature or any number of other groups, there is a kinship you build with those around you that will never evaporate.

But the CBHS “brotherhood” is unique. You hear a lot about it from alumni and parents and even read about it in the school brochures, but until you’ve experienced or seen it first-hand it’s challenging to describe.

When my son and I attended the father-son banquet the weekend before his first freshman day, the principal gave a rousing speech about the importance of “brotherhood” that would be instilled at CBHS. But I still didn’t get it.

He asked families who were fourth generation to stand. Several in the room did. Third generation and then second generation were also asked to stand. Then he informed the young men about to begin their new journey that regardless of their family history, from this moment on they are CBHS “Brothers” and that no one – not another person or distance can ever take that away from them.

Joey Forcherio, a soon-to-be 2015 graduate said it best in a recent letter he wrote.

“That is what CBHS does to its students. It takes young naïve boys and unexplainably intertwines them into brothers. When your brothers hurt, you hurt; when your brothers rejoice, you rejoice.”

Now I’m beginning to understand what these boys are experiencing.

Any “brotherhood” is built and nurtured over time, but as each day passes and the mundane is interrupted by the occasional tragedy of losing someone or the exuberance of winning a state championship, it only strengthens the bond between their young men and will endure forever.

Some may question why I failed to mention academics in my three reasons. For me, that’s been a given. In the five months my son has been at CBHS he as learned better study habits and been pressed beyond his comfort zone by his instructors. He’s been fortunate to achieve second honors and I know the level of academic instruction, combined with the reasons above will mold him into the young man I long to see and experience. I trust you will find the right environment for your child. I know I have.

Thank you CBHS and Go Brothers!

Marty Duren: Three Reasons I am Not a Muslim

Note: This post if from my friend Marty Duren who writes a regular blog, Kingdom In the Midst. Marty is a prolific writer who often touches on issues important to our lives and culture. His review of “American Sniper” was excellent.

Contrary to the assertions of some all religions are not the same. All religions may be wrong, one right and the others wrong, but all cannot be right. Even if one holds the belief that all religions lead to God such a person must still answer “To which God do all religions lead? The God of Judaism, the of Christianity, of Islam, or the many gods of polytheistic religions?”

“All roads lead to God” is vacuousness.

Since 9/11 through this present time as ISIS/ISIL/IS fills the headlines much has been written about Islam. Islam is a dominant world religion one-third (with Christianity and Judaism) of the large Monotheistic religions of the world.

Although there are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and Islam dominates entire regions and peoples, here are 3 reasons I am not a Muslim.

1. The Koran contradicts the Bible.

Even a cursory review reveals contradictions of the major doctrines of Christianity. The Trinity, the deity of Christ, His atoning death, salvation through Jesus alone, the Holy Spirit, and grace are but a few. The Bible was complete hundreds of years before Muhammad lived and the Quran compiled. If the Bible is true, the Quran is not.

2. Jesus is the prophet, not Muhammad.

The most well known Islamic saying to non-Muslims is, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet.” One English translation of Quran 33 (Al-Ahzab):40 is, “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. And Allah is Every All-Aware of everything.” At least some Muslims believe Muhammad was the prophet spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18, 19.  However, Muhammad was neither the prophet spoken of by Moses, nor was he the last of the Prophets.

According to Jesus the last of the prophets was John the Baptist, as he was the prophet who heralded the Messiah’s arrival:

The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is strongly urged to enter it. (Luke 16:16, HCSB, emphasis mine)

The prophet spoken of by Moses was not Muhammad, but was Jesus Himself. This was the conclusion reached by many of Jesus’ own day (John 6:14).  I cannot be a Muslim since the offices claimed for Muhammad are already filled by others.

3. Jesus, not Muhammad, died for my sins.

Read the remainder of Marty’s post here.

Student Pens Moving Letter to Deceased Classmate He Never Met

Editors Note: Joey Forcherio, a senior at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, TN, wrote this letter to a classmate he had never met who was one of two students recently killed in a tragic automobile accident. I wrote a column about the two young men who lost their lives and how their parents and classmates must deal with their passing and others have written powerful testimonies to their lives. I believe Joey’s letter speaks volumes from classmates who were touched by their deaths. His writing is beautiful and the manner in which he exposes his emotions is powerful. 

Dear Colin,

I don’t remember ever talking to you before. We never played on a team together. We never had a class together. I am not even sure if you knew my name. That is what is so confounding to me about my mourning; we never met, but yet I am deeply, penetratingly hurt by your death.

That is what CBHS does to its students. It takes young naïve boys and unexplainably intertwines them into brothers. When your brothers hurt, you hurt; when your brothers rejoice, you rejoice.

At no point in my life have I or will I ever have the same type of brotherhood as what I have been blessed enough to have cherished for four years. From the outside, people would call us strangers. From the inside, you are my brother.

“He who dies with me on this battlefield today shall be my brother.” Shakespeare

You brother beyond life,

Joey Forcherio

Class of 2015, CK2

The Size of Your ‘Family’ Can Be Larger Than You Imagine

If I asked the size of your family how would you respond? Would you say large, small or nonexistent? A friend recently told me she had 40 first cousins. Someone I knew a few years ago has no one; not a single living relative.

I have one living brother and three siblings I hope to meet in Heaven some day. There are a few first cousins who I can count on both hands. Some of my closet relatives are second and third cousins but those are relatively few in number too. I find it interesting a handful of my Catholic friends have trouble with the first names of relatives once they surpass the triple-digit mark.

While the number will vary for each of us, I realized yesterday I was standing in the midst of a few hundred people I could call family for seventy short minutes.

The dictionary app I have on my phone provides eight definitions for the word “family.” Number four may be the most common, defining family as “people descended from a common ancestor.” But the one that I felt best defined my family on Thursday was “a collection of people sharing a common attribute.”

It was a gathering where I didn’t know many people. I may have known 30 or 40 and recognized another couple of dozen. Some probably knew most everyone there and saw only 20 or 30 strangers.

When leaving it dawned on me those same people will never congregate under the same roof again; at least not for the same purpose. The few that are closest will stay in contact for the rest of their lives because the event that brought us together has welded itself in their soul. The rest of us will recall the tragic circumstances, and hopefully reflect on the emotion and gravity of the situation. My prayer is we find encouragement and hope as well.

If you ask me the size of my family next week my response will probably fall back to some small number. During this season of Lent let’s remember if we allow ourselves to be in God’s presence the size of our family is infinite and growing stronger each day.

Welcome to the family. I’m honored on be in yours too.

When Tragedy Strikes Let’s Remember, It’s Not About Us; It’s About the Families & Friends Who Remain

The recent and tragic deaths of Christian Brothers High School seniors Colin Kilgore and Christophe Kesterson has hit close to home for their friends, teammates, and teachers. Now that the impact of their deaths has started to bring our emotions to the surface, I believe it’s time we realize it’s not about how or what we feel, but rather the feelings of the relatives and close friends of these two young men.

On Monday I wrote a piece about my own experience of losing one of my best friends our senior year – almost to the day God called Colin and Christophe home. I can relate to the close friends and teammates of the boys, especially those who have spent so much time with them over their 17 years. That means I can sympathize with them.

On the other hand, I have no idea what Robert and Anna Kilgore and John Kesterson and Georgina Kesterson are going through at this moment. Honestly, I pray I never know that feeling and I’m confident any parent reading this would agree. The difference is unless we have shared the same or a similar experience, we can only empathize with them or try to understand their emotions. Therein lies the difference.

For those close to the families, it’s easy to show your support in words, with a hug or with another personal display of sympathy. Showing up at the family’s home, dropping by the visitation and going to the funeral are no-brainers.

But what about those of us who didn’t know the boys or their family’s well or at all? What should we do? How should we act?

I’ve never sat at the ballpark in 98-degree heat or during a gusty windstorm with the parents when Colin and Christophe were trying to hit a new pitcher or make a goal. I never had the privilege of throwing Colin in my backyard pool or fist bumping Christophe when he walked in my garage to visit my son and grab a Coke from my frig. Maybe I can do both when we meet in Heaven one day.

So what about the rest of us?

It’s no longer about Colin or Christophe. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to honor their memories. We always will. I believe the focus now is showing our love and support for those closest to them.

I bring this up because I’ve heard some of the parents and boys say they feel uncomfortable going to a visitation or service because they didn’t know either well or at all. I both sympathize and empathize with them.

I’ve thought about this a lot and rehearsed what I might say if the opportunity presents itself. I may never meet the parents of Colin and Christophe and they would not know me from Adam. I’m simply going to show my support because my heart bleeds for them. If the line is not too long I’ll walk by, shake their hand and tell them I’m praying for them. Nothing else matters, especially a name.

If I were a classmate or teammate, I would consider going to show my fellow “brothers” or other friends that I feel for them. Even if I had never met an upperclassman on the lacrosse or baseball team or someone they knew from childhood, I would shake their hand, pat them on the back or shoulder when I walked by or maybe simply nob their way. They’ll know what you mean and they’ll appreciate the gesture more than you will ever know.

Lot’s of people are going to be hurting for a long time. I know I did and it took me years to reconcile my emotions. That’s okay. In the meantime, let’s wrap Colin and Christophe’s family and friends around our hearts and let them know we are there for them today and tomorrow. We may need the favor returned one day.

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