Congressional Leaders Support Obama’s Airstrike in Iraq; Shouldn’t Christian Leaders Do the Same?

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have issued statements in support of President Obama’s decision on Thursday to provide “limited” airstrikes on Iraq. However politically popular the decision may prove to be with the Capitol Hill crowd and conservatives in particular, does it follow that Christians should also support the bombing?

Some Christians, particularly on the left, are struggling with the strategy.

Pentagon and Army officials have indicated the “limited” approach announced by the White House is meant to serve as a deterrent and if the military advances by ISIS stop, then the bombing would also be discontinued. Early Friday U.S. fighter jets targeted and hit artillery supplies belonging to ISIS, an extremist Muslim group that has been responsible for thousands of deaths, most notably Christians.

Religious and political differences aside, it’s important to note that the last four presidents – beginning with President George H.W. Bush – have either attacked or invaded Iraq.

For me, this confirms the fact that regardless of religious convictions or pressure from religious groups, conservatives and liberal administrations alike have decided that military action in Iraq has been in the best interest of the United States. Yet some Christians on the left dispel that notion, saying such action should be avoided at all cost.

In a column that appeared in The Huffington Post in June of this year and quoting from his book The Uncommon Good, Jim Wallis of Sojourners advocated that the U.S. adopt a strategy of giving the enemy food and other necessities as opposed to dropping bombs.

“Rather than making our enemies hungrier or angrier, we should feed them. Instead of embracing policies that cause our enemies’ loved ones to die of thirst, we should give them something to drink. This is not naïve pacifism, but a shrewd way to turn the tables and change the situation.”

Most Christians may agree that Wallis’ recommendations are commendable. But they are hardly effective in dealing with terrorists who are considered “extreme” by extremist standards. ISIS has reacted to the U.S. airstrike by using women as human shields in hopes it will deter the attacks or serve as a propaganda tool if civilians are killed or wounded. But I hear little of those in oppostion to military action asking ISIS leaders to curtail their barbaric actions.

What ISIS is doing should be reason enough for Christians to support such an attack for the cause of protecting religious liberty.

Wallis, like others on the “progressive” side of Christianity, have long encouraged administrations to avoid military action at all cost. I reached out to Wallis on Friday for his reaction but was told he was traveling in South Africa and has yet to release a statement on today’s bombings.

During his weekly radio address on Sunday, Pope Francis mentioned that recent actions in Iraq have left him “in dismay and disbelief.” Although he did not specifcially express his support for the U.S. airstrikes, he seemed to demostrate his support for the action saying, “I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish [the rule of] law.”

Foreign policy concerns already seem to be trumping religion on the left side of the aisle. For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) to go against the leader of his party would be political suicide given one of his top priorities is to try and keep a Democratic controlled Senate after the November elections. In short, Reid is not going to move too far away from President Obama on military action in Iraq.

Click here to read the remainder of this column.

Thad Cochran Gets a Taste of Unsweet Tea

Anyone who has spent time south of the Mason Dixon line, especially in the Deep South, knows that an order of iced tea at Three Sisters in Jackson, Mississippi, means one laced with a heavy dose of sugar. However, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, is most likely going to get a gallon of tart, unsweet tea poured on him if Tea Party favorite and State Senator Chris McDaniel defeats him on Tuesday, as most pundits predict.

Similar to Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat at the hands of an unknown tea party college professor, few saw Cochran’s defeat coming six months ago. Heck, most people didn’t see it coming six weeks ago. And while the mainstream D.C.–based media heavyweights were caught flat-footed by Cantor’s undoing, they are already predicting Cochran’s swan song speech.

Here’s why Cochran’s Tuesday won’t go his way:

Thad Cochran is out of touch with most Mississippians.

I spend the majority of my time in Tennessee about 10 miles from the Mississippi state line, so I see a lot of political ads aimed at the conservative political base of Northern Mississippi. More importantly, I hear from friends who are engaged with both campaigns. One friend who is connected with the Cochran campaign offered the following observation.

“I’ve known Thad all of my political life. He’s done more for Mississippi than most can conceive, but the grassroots don’t care because they are so tired of the gridlock in Washington,” my friend said on the condition of anonymity. “Two days before the primary Thad was at an elementary school during a campaign stop. Instead of talking to the parents in the carpool line about what concerns them, all he wanted to do was gather the kids around the flagpole for a photo. He doesn’t get and it’s sad.”

Thad Cochran is out of touch with Congress.

That doesn’t mean Cochran is not connected with the Beltway crowd in Washington. In fact it’s his life. It also doesn’t mean Cochran’s staff isn’t connected to Congress. If the truth were known they could most likely run his office without his presence, especially if they could cast votes for him in committee and on the Senate floor.

Why do I say Cochran is out of touch with Congress? He had no clue that Eric Cantor had been defeated. As a former legislator, I was intimately involved in our caucus elections and how my colleagues in both chambers were fairing at the polls. Cochran is clueless. The reason he’s not paying attention is, in part, due to his mental incompetence and the fact that he’s been in Washington so long it doesn’t matter to him who wins or loses. Besides, Cantor was in the House and most senators believe the lower chamber is just that – beneath them.

There are not enough Haley Barbour’s and Brett Favre’s to make a difference at this point.

Like a hearty glass of southern sweet tea on a hot summer day, former Gov. Haley Barbour and former professional football player Favre are extremely popular in Mississippi. But name ID and popularity aside, they are not enough to pull out a victory for Cochran. Now if Archie and Eli Manning were involved, that might be different.

Since departing the governor’s mansion, Barbour spends most of his time counting votes and his growing brokerage account at his D.C.–based lobbying firm.

Yes, he organized the state’s top GOP elected officials to rally around Cochran months ago, but that’s not what the average voter cares about. They can still appreciate the fact that Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are doing well in their respective roles, but a Cochran candidacy gives them little to no hope that Washington will change and Chris McDaniel does.

It’s not that McDaniel is not a good guy or a popular candidate; he just wasn’t someone who would have been picked to take Cochran’s place.

“I served alongside Chris in the legislature,” an unnamed former legislator said. “He’s a nice guy – a little squirrely – but a nice guy. If the top dogs were to make a list of the people they want to replace Thad, Chris would not have been in the top 50. Heck, he wouldn’t have even been thought of but here he is, most likely the next U.S. Senator from Mississippi.”

Cochran has his supporters, but they won’t come out in the numbers needed in a special election.

No doubt about it, Cochran has lots of old guard, old-south blue blood friends who are loyal to him, but they won’t come out in the numbers needed to win this election. They’re OK with Cochran and have no problems with his state and Washington staff carrying the water for Mississippi, but they’ve got appointments, business lunches at the club and tee-times to worry about instead of a guy they’ve had their picture taken with a hundred times.

McDaniel’s supporters are so close to victory they can taste it and they’re making phone calls and knocking on thousands of doors today to make sure people who think like they do are going to vote tomorrow.

And if I were McDaniel, I wouldn’t take too much time off the campaign trail because the Democrats know what sweet tea taste like, too, and they’ll want their chance to celebrate in November.

 

GOP Majority Leader Candidate Kevin McCarthy: My Years In the Trenches With Him

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has had a meteoric rise in politics and by early indications, will be the next Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. I had the privilege of knowing and working alongside McCarthy over twenty years ago as a Young Republican and saw first-hand how his raw political skills would bode well for him. If he is successful in being the next Majority Leader, those very skills may be put to their most important test yet.

But it’s how McCarthy will get there that is important.

The first time I recall meeting McCarthy was in 1993 in West Virginia at a national Young Republican convention. Wanting to run for office someday myself, I had recently joined the local YR club in Memphis, Tennessee and was recruited to attend their national convention, know nothing of the people involved nationally. It was at this very gathering I saw a competitive three-way race where the front-runner failed to secure the necessary votes in the first three ballots. Several ballots later the candidate who was third was elected Chairman and it was the art of counting votes that got them there. More on that later.

People often accuse YR’s of being little more than an overgrown fraternity or sorority that enjoys partying more than campaigning, but for a handful of political wannabes, that’s far from the truth. Remember, this is the same organization where former GOP strategist Lee Atwater honed his skills and the same place that was grooming McCarthy and others like myself for careers as elected officials and political operatives.

Over the next two years I got to know Kevin much better. He was an in-state staffer for former Rep. Bill Thomas (R-California) and I held a similar position for former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tennessee). He served as an officer under a fellow Tennessean who was elected national YR Chairman in 1995 and I served in the number three spot when McCarthy held the second position two years later. He was elected national YR chairman in 1999.

Moving forward, I was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2000 and McCarthy to the California Assembly in 2002 where he quickly became the Republican Minority Leader in a deep-blue state. He was elected to Congress in 2006 and became Majority Whip in 2010. Here are few of the qualities that make McCarthy hard to beat.

Personality

The moment you meet Kevin you notice his gigantic, welcoming smile and his ability to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room. This is an invaluable trait for a politician and McCarthy has “it,” if you can define “it.” I hesitate to compare many Republicans to former President Bill Clinton, but their one similarity between the two may be the ability to remember your name when they see you a year later and to make you feel as if they’ve known you for twenty years. You can bet McCarthy knows every single member of the GOP caucus, something about their family and most of their political past. Plus, if they were elected from ’08 on, he most likely had something to do with raising them money or getting them support in their district.

Counting Votes

It was during my involvement with the national YR’s that I learned the art of counting votes. I suspect the same was true for up and coming politico from California.

The art of voting counting is critical in intra-party political races. Let me take that back; its vital. Those who understand, learn and master this skill set win. Those who don’t come in either second or last but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter; because second is as good as last.

When McCarthy learned his Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) was defeated by a Tea Party unknown, he was in his Capitol Hill office (where he sleeps) with his staff where he immediately began making phone calls to solidify his support. This is one area where he excels.

McCarthy knows it is not enough to ask a colleague for their support. After all, they’re all politicians and are masters at using lots of words that mean nothing. In his charming manner, McCarthy was asking colleagues if they would fully commit to his candidacy; not if they thought he was a great guy or would make a great leader, but would they publically commit to him and would they support him on the first and subsequent ballots if needed. In other words, would they lay down their political future for him? In return he promised to do the same for them.

Does McCarthy have his detractors and shortcomings? Sure, but his political and personal skills more than make up for those. His biggest complaint is that he has failed to deliver the necessary votes on some of the biggest issues the current Congress has faced and that his skills of winning elections cannot easily be transferred to crafting public policy. But in this and future Congresses, that may not matter much.

McCarthy obviously never met former President Lyndon Johnson, but I can also guarantee you he has read his biography, Master of the Senate. He mirrors Johnson in the art of vote counting but McCarthy’s style is to use honey instead of the whip.

Knowing McCarty, I suspect he has the necessary votes plus some to make up for the colleagues who will lie to him to secure the leaders spot. His opponent and fellow GOP colleague, Rep. Raul Labrador (Idaho) may be giving it the ‘ole college try on behalf of the Tea Party caucus, but his intra-party skills are not even in the same class as McCarthy’s.

We’ll find out how good McCarthy’s vote counting skills are on June 19. We’ll find out how good a Majority Leader he is in November.

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson Is Under Attack from Liberals for…Quoting the Bible

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of Louisiana’s Duck Dynasty clan is being accused once again of making “anti-gay” remarks when he quoted Scripture during at sermon he delivered at his home church in West Monroe on Easter Sunday. Remarks not in a national magazine, nor on TV, nor in any other forum, but in church.

If America is not committed by its Constitution to protecting a speaker in the pulpit, then we must ask ourselves what is the status of every speaker in every pulpit of every church in the nation?

Who’s next?

Robertson delivered the second sermon at Whites Ferry Road Church on Easter Sunday, April 20. Referencing an interview published in the December 2013 issue of GQ magazine when asked if homosexuality was a sin, the family leader recalled giving the reporter a “list” of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Here is a portion of what Robertson said during the sermon.

“Are you waiting on Jesus? Or are you afraid to see that sky busting his skin coming? You’ve got two lists. I gave some guy one list.

You say were they mad at you about that list? They were mad at me. Why did they get mad at you? Because instead of acknowledging their sin like you had better do, they railed against me for giving them the truth about their sin.

Don’t deceive yourself. You want the verse? The news media didn’t even know it was a verse. They thought I was just mouthing off. Is homosexual behavior a sin? the guy asked me. I said, ‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor the idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ‘

I gave you the rest of the story. I gave you the bad news then I gave you the good news. I said the apostle Paul then said and that’s what some of you were. I was in that camp. I’ve been in that camp…We’ve all been there. The reason we’re here today is to remind you of the gospel that was preached.”

The verses’ Robertson is referencing comes from 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 (ESV). Paul is directing the church at Corinth (a city of devious sexual sin) to avoid lawsuits against one another and as a prelude to his instruction to avoid sexual sin he wrote:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, not thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God.”

So what’s all the fuss about? These verses are taught every week in churches across America. Robertson was preaching in his home church to followers of Christ on arguably the most important day in Christian history, quoting from a book written by the Apostle Paul, whom many argue is the most influential Christian teacher of biblical times.

The reality is that the left and those who do not believe in God are targeting Phil Robertson because he is a man who exerts considerable influence over a portion of Americans who like his show, his frankness and that he values family second only to God.

Yet this is not about Phil Robertson. This is an outright attack on Christianity. It is an attack on anyone who believes that adultery is a sin. Oh excuse me, that homosexuality is a sin. Or that sin is a sin.

Click here to read the remainder of this column.

A Letter to Ellen Page About Her ‘Coming Out’ and What I Wished that Weirdo Pastor on the Plane Would Have Said

Note: Over the past year and a half I’ve gotten to know Matt Moore. He is a guy in his early twenties who has struggled with same-sex attraction but has a true heart for Jesus. In addition to being a great guy, he is an incredible writer and I am anxious to see his story in print one day. In the meantime, I thought I would share a post Matt wrote yesterday.

 

Ellen Page—most commonly known as Juno, —burst out of the closet in her emotional speech at a Human Rights Campaign event supporting LGBTQ youth in February. I watched her speech a few days later. She was bold… yet vulnerable. It truly was emotionally stirring. For years Ellen lived in the spotlight of Hollywood, but made note to keep her attraction to women out of that spotlight. If I remember her speech correctly, she said she felt she needed to “be” a certain way in order to attain a successful acting career, etc. But over time hiding this part of herself grew to be a tiresome ordeal…. and on February 14th, in front of multitudes, she came out as gay.

I remember my own coming out. I remember the tremendous amount of freedom that came with the release of my biggest, darkest secret. The secret that I had always been so ashamed of. The secret that I had sworn to myself I would never let be discovered. Like Ellen Page, I eventually got to a point where I was just beyond done hiding this part of myself. I was done with pretending to like girls. I was done with trying to date girls. I was done with overanalyzing every conversation and interaction I had that I thought could lead to someone questioning my sexuality. Coming out was the best thing that I ever did in the first 20 years of my life. To this day, I am glad I came out. I believe I am where I am today in part, because I decided to be real with myself and everyone else about who I really was.

About a month after Ellen’s coming out speech, she shared on her twitter account that while on a plane, a pastor slipped her a little note. The note said, “While God thinks it’s lovely that you stood up for your beliefs, perhaps you’ve never had the loving arms of a father.” And then he signed it, “Your Heavenly Daddy.”…..lol. He really did.

Let’s all just go ahead and have a virtual vomit over that.

Ellen responded to the note, on twitter, saying “2 da pastor who wrote me-Being gay isn’t a belief. My soul isn’t struggling & I don’t want arms of Heavenly Father around me. A girls arms? Yes.”

I remember the ooey-gooey things I would hear from Christians after I came out. Things similar to what Ellen heard from the “Your Heavenly Daddy” weirdo she met on the plane. I was well aware that many religious people thought my life was wrong…. and thought that I, as a human being, was wrong. Wired wrongly. Or something. My perception of the Church was a group of people who wanted to diagnose me and then tell me to do something I couldn’t do—to stop being gay. I couldn’t do that. And it angered me that I would even be asked to attempt it.

So Ellen, if you ever read this – which I doubt you will – but whatever – I get where you are. I’ve been there. But I’m not there anymore. I am attracted to the same sex, yes, but I am a believer in Christ. I know the weirdo pastor on the plane had good intentions in giving you his note. But he was off. Way off. So please let me try to say what I wish he would have said.

Dear Ellen,

God loves you. You are created in his likeness, you bear his image, and He loves you. He really loves you.

Click here to read the rest of Matt’s letter.

What Would Jesus Do With Donald Sterling? Forgive and Tell Him to Sin No More

Donald Sterling, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, received a lifetime ban from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Tuesday for making racist remarks in a recording with an alleged mistress. Sterling was also fined $2.5 million and pressure for him to sell the team is intense. But I wonder, would Jesus have taken the same action as the NBA?

The latest round of racial troubles for the Clippers owner started last Friday when a recording surfaced on the celebrity website TMZ of a conversation where Sterling criticized his ex-girlfriend for associating with black people.

“The man whose voice is heard on the recording and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday is Mr. Sterling,” said Silver in his Tuesday press conference. “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful.”

To make matters worse, this is not the first time Sterling has been blamed for being racially insensitive. He has been sued for discriminating against black and Hispanic tenants in his real estate properties, and was sued by former African American NBA star Elgin Baylor for age discrimination with an undercurrent of racism.

At the same time, the NAACP also hailed him for his contributions.

Before I tackle the question at hand, let me say the remarks by Sterling were not only stupid and insensitive, but also damaging to professional basketball and society. In other words, he’s a bigot in the 10th degree. The outrage from players was warranted and a severe penalty was necessary.

Now, let’s examine Scripture and see if we can get a glimpse of how Jesus would have handled the matter.

Thankfully, the New Testament is not written like an EEOC handbook, but it contains all the information we need to figure out how to handle those who sin against their fellow man.

For starters, we are told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Granted, that’s a challenge for my scared human heart at times; however, Sterling should have shown the same respect and admiration for his neighbors of a different race. Although his past actions don’t bode well in this area, he still has time to repent and change his ways, albeit away from the spotlight of the NBA.

Matthew 6:9-15, teaches us the Lord’s Prayer and to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus goes on to say, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

What I would like to see most is a sincere and repentant (not remorseful) apology from Sterling. At the time of this writing he has not done so publically, but even if he never does, aren’t we still compelled to forgive? Yes we are.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery. When thrown in front of Jesus and asked what penalty she deserved, Jesus essentially gave permission for the Pharisees to stone her, but requested those without sin to throw the first one. There were no takers.

I can’t speak for you, but I can’t deny that I’ve had thoughts and said things that would have offended those of a different race. Maybe Adam Silver or some of the players and fans that were rightfully offended by Sterling haven’t, but I doubt it.

There is no shortage of professional athletes throwing stones at Sterling. Within an hour of the NBA Commissioner issuing the lifetime ban, social media is lit up with comments supporting the move.

“Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling,” Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, tweeted, “I agree 100 percent with Commissioner Silver’s findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling.”

But I haven’t seen one prominent athlete or celebrity mention the need to forgive Sterling. It might not be politically correct, but it may cause some to take notice of their own heart.

Sterling most definitely should offer a heart-felt and sincere apology, but even absent of one, Christians are called to forgive those most offended them. How many times should be forgive them? Scripture says 70×7. That means a lot.

Most, but not all, of the people I’ve spoken with support the lifetime suspension. After all, owning an NBA team is a privilege, not a right.

With all this said, forgiving someone does not mean you will trust them or that their actions will not produce negative consequences for years to come. I’m sure the woman caught in adultery had lots to deal with when she returned home.

But I also believe an opportunity was missed to take an action that was highly insensitive and wrong and turn it into an opportunity to find turn repentance and forgiveness. Now the precedent has been set that if anyone says, does or thinks something that is offensive to others, then banning them for life from their occupation or hobby is the only answer.

Banning Sterling for life from the NBA might satisfy many in the short-term, but other options may have produced a longer-lasting benefit to professional sports and mankind. I believe Scripture makes a great case for how Jesus would have handled Donald Sterling and the rest of us.

Now that action has been taken, let’s pray for Donald Sterling, forgive him and move on.

Ignoring an Inequality Culprit: Single-Parent Families

Note: This article was originally published in The Wall Street Journal.

Suppose a scientific conference on cancer prevention never addressed smoking, on the grounds that in a free society you can’t change private behavior, and anyway, maybe the statistical relationships between smoking and cancer are really caused by some other third variable. Wouldn’t some suspect that the scientists who raised these claims were driven by something—ideology, tobacco money—other than science?

Yet in the current discussions about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.

The two-parent family has declined rapidly in recent decades. In 1960, more than 76% of African-Americans and nearly 97% of whites were born to married couples. Today the percentage is 30% for blacks and 70% for whites. The out-of-wedlock birthrate for Hispanics surpassed 50% in 2006. This trend, coupled with high divorce rates, means that roughly 25% of American children now live in single-parent homes, twice the percentage in Europe (12%). Roughly a third of American children live apart from their fathers.

Does it matter? Yes, it does. From economist Susan Mayer’s 1997 book “What Money Can’t Buy” to Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” in 2012, clear-eyed studies of the modern family affirm the conventional wisdom that two parents work better than one.

“Americans have always thought that growing up with only one parent is bad for children,” Ms. Mayer wrote. “The rapid spread of single-parent families over the past generation does not seem to have altered this consensus much.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

What Was the Crucifixion Like?

Happy Easter Weekend. This is a column by Frank Turek. Interestingly, when he sent it to me I was watching The Passion of the Christ on TBN. And to think he endured all this for me!

What was the extent of the physical suffering Jesus endured at the crucifixion? Consider that the English word “excruciating” is from the Latin meaning “out of the crucifixion.” I’ve found that the best way to comprehend the magnitude of the Christ’s physical suffering on Good Friday is to read the following description that we’ve adapted from the work of medical doctor, C. Truman Davis (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 380-383).

Crucifixion of Jesus image

WARNING: THIS IS GRAPHIC (You may have a difficult time getting through it).

The whip the Roman soldiers use on Jesus has small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bones tied to it. Jesus is stripped of his clothing, and his hands are tied to an upright post. His back, buttocks, and legs are whipped either by one soldier or by two who alternate positions. The soldiers taunt their victim. As they repeatedly strike Jesus’ back with full force, the iron balls cause deep contusions, and the sheep bones cut into the skin and tissues. As the whipping continues, the lacerations tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss set the stage for circulatory shock.

When it is determined by the centurion in charge that Jesus is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They throw a robe across his shoulders and place a stick in his hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. A small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns are plaited into the shape of a crown, and this is pressed into his scalp. Again there is copious bleeding (the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body). After mocking him and striking him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from his hand and strike him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into his scalp.

Finally, when they tire of their sadistic sport, the robe is torn from his back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal-just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage-causes excruciating pain, almost as though he were being whipped again. The wounds again begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return his garments. The heavy horizontal beam of the cross is tied across his shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution party walk along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of his efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock.

The 650-yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed. Jesus is again stripped of his clothes except for a loin- cloth that is allowed the Jews. The crucifixion begins. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild pain-killing mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the cross beam on the ground, and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tight, but to allow some flexibility and movement. The beam is then lifted, and the title reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.

The victim Jesus is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain-the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed, and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It is undoubtedly during these periods that he utters the seven short sentences that are recorded.

Now begin hours of this limitless pain, cycles of cramping and twisting, partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep, crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over- the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally he can allow his body to die. With one last surge of strength, he once again presses his torn feet against the nail, straightens his legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters his seventh and last cry: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus went through all of that so you and I could be reconciled to him; so you and I could be saved from our sins by affirming, Father, into your hands I commit my life. If you haven’t done that, why not?

This column originally appeared in The Christian Post.

What Separates Louisiana’s David Vitter from Vance McAllister? Time and Politics

This column was originally published in The Christian Post.

Only days after Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) was caught kissing a staffer in his district office, Republicans in Louisiana were calling on the freshman congressman to immediately resign. One question that many in Louisiana and in Washington are asking is if McAllister is being asked to resign, what about the Bayou State’s own Sen. David Vitter?

In case your knowledge of political sex scandals has faded over the last decade or so, Vitter had his own troubles in 2007 when his name surfaced in the black book of an infamous D.C. Madam. Amazingly, Vitter got through the scandal by only acknowledging his involvement with the prostitution service as a “serious sin.”

“I asked for and received forgiveness form God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter said after the scandal broke.

Since then, Louisiana constituents not only reelected Vitter in 2010, he is now planning on running for the top executive spot in the Bayou State next year.

How did Vitter survive? Here are a handful of reasons.

  • Vitter had 3 ½ years remaining on a six-year senate term. There is no question voters don’t care for their elected officials going astray, but time heals all scars and voters are forgiving and grateful it wasn’t their own sin that made national headlines.
  • Vitter had a forgiving, not to mention a “very political” wife. Forget the CBS television series, The Good Wife. Vitter had a great wife – at least one who enjoyed the benefits of being a senator’s wife. In fact, she even introduced him at his post-sin press conference and took over when things got testy. “As David returns to work in Washington,” she continued, “we’re going to return to our life here. I would ask you very respectfully to let us continue our summer and our lives as we had planned.”
  • Vitter refused to discuss the scandal. No matter how hard reporters pressed him on the matter, he walked at a brisk pace and always had a phone to his ear. With no new information, voters tire quickly of the same ole, same ole begin reported each day.
  • Vitter held a seat that if vacated, would have most certainly led to a Democrat being appointed by then Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Regardless of any “sin” Vitter had committed, GOP leaders were not about to give up a seat in the U.S. Senate.
  • Vitter was a political animal. He may have had few political friends, but he had political acquaintances all over the state, many of whom owed him favors. Plus, he had a reputation of helping the other side get what they wanted if he got what he wanted.
  • Vitter never admitted what “sin” he had committed. His number may have been in the little black book, but no one knew what he did behind a closed door.

Here are a few reasons why McAllister might not survive his “kiss-gate”:

  • McAllister is a freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives and must run for reelection every two years, meaning he must seek his first full-term later this year. There’s not much time for voters to forget his misdeeds.
  • McAllister is not a political GOP insider. In fact, he’s an outsider. He defeated a Jindal and GOP machine backed candidate in 2013 and is no one’s favorite son.
  • McAllister may or may not have a wife willing to stand by his side, but if she does she’ll have to convince women voters why they can trust her husband.
  • McAllister apparently has a staff problem too. Several reliable sources have indidcated that a member of his own team leaked the kissing video.
  • McAllister will have a hard time finding any of the congressional leadership team or his colleagues willing to stand by him. This will make fundraising a chore given he has less than $100 in his campaign coffers.

Almost seven years later, Vitter is planning his strategy for governor and now has to relive his past “sins” by answering questions about McAllister kissing a staffer. Trust me, that wasn’t in his campaign plan.

Most striking is Louisiana’s top two GOPer’s, Governor Bobby Jindal and Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, have called on McAllister to step down. Jindal even went as far as calling the freshman congressman an “embarrassment.”

Last Friday I emailed Jindal’s press office and asked these three questions:

1) Gov. Jindal, you have called on Rep. Vance McAllister to resign from Congress, saying he was an embarrassment to the state. Given that Sen. Vitter also engaged in what many believe was adultery with one or more prostitutes, why would you not call on Sen. Vitter not to run for governor or even resign his senate seat?

2) Based on the facts known so far, do you consider Rep. McAllister’s actions more serious than those of Sen. Vitter?

3) Do you believe that any candidate is unfit for office if they have acted inappropriately with someone of the opposite sex at any time in their life?

I wish I could report the governor’s response here, but sadly, there was no reply.

However, Jindal did respond to a reporter’s question on the issue last Sunday and said, “I know there are folks, there are Democrats and others trying to link the two issues,” Jindal told WWL.com. “I’m not going to go down that path. I think the issue before us is the congressman’s actions.”

So, is Jindal a huge fan and supporter of Vitter’s.

“Not hardly,” said Robert Mann, an LSU professor and political columnist. “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jindal camp is excited about the idea of getting questions about Vitter in hopes that his negative numbers increase. They probably won’t answer them, but they do not want to see Vitter as the next governor.”

An interesting political strategy for sure, especially since Jindal has his eyes on the White House or being asked to play second fiddle as Vice President on the next GOP ticket.

Still, it’s the state’s junior senator that has some questions to answer.

Vitter was in Monroe, Louisiana on Tuesday and like Jindal, dodged questions and an interview request about McAllister. However, it’s hard to dodge the same issue all summer and Vitter’s best defense will be to address the subject sooner, rather than later. The only problem he has is there is not good answer.

Regardless of whether McAllister survives his kissing episode, this will be yet another test on how far voters are willing to be pushed on the moral shortcomings of those who represent them.

David Vitter knows this all too well.

Political and Pulpit Sex Scandals: Should Christians and Christian Journalists View Them Differently Than Non-Believers?

This week two sex scandals – one involving a national political figure and one a prominent pastor – are making national headlines. Sadly, it’s not the first time nor will it be the last we will see these types of stories surface. But as a Christian and a journalist, I am asking myself how I should view and report them.

As I write this column, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) and pastor Bob Coy of Florida both have stories on the main page of <em><a target=”_blank”>The Christian Post</a></em> and other national media sites highlighting their sins and moral failures. McAllister, a married congressman, for a leaked video of him kissing a staff member at a Christmas party and Coy has resigned because of past “moral failures” that appears to be a sexual affair.

In the interest of full disclosure, I understand exactly how these two men feel.

In 2009, while serving in the Tennessee State Senate, I had an affair with an intern in my office that was revealed after her boyfriend attempted to extort money from me. As a born-again Christian before, during and after my sin, the shame and embarrassment is and can be overwhelming for these men and their families. For someone who is a Christian, the stigma is even worse, especially from non-believers or opponents who are joyous in the fact that a Christian has fallen to the same sins they vowed to uphold.

Were they hypocritical in their actions given their professed Christian beliefs? Yes, and such criticism is fair and justified. But as Christians, we should try and help our fallen brothers find their way back.

Religious beliefs aside, these stories are worthy of news coverage. In fact, it is our duty as journalists to report the facts as we know and uncover them, be they Democrat or Republican, Christian or atheist.

The sad reality is: sex sells. For example, is it more enticing to read about a congressman in an inappropriate and sinful situation or about disagreements with the House budget plan? Is it more exciting to see a front-page story about a pastor having an affair than to read about the controversy surrounding building plans for a new youth center? I think you get my point. Sex sells and it sells big.

Secular media editors and reporters are hoping these stories will have a long shelf life so they can, in turn, get more hits and sell more papers, thus generating more advertising revenue to feed the bottom line. That’s simply the business of journalism.

But as Christian journalists, do we have a biblical responsibility to report these stories in a different manner? I believe we do.

We’ll obviously cover and write the scandalous and salacious headlines that will grab your attention. We will point out that adultery or sex outside of marriage is a sin (the same sin as homosexuality), but we also have the responsibility of addressing forgiveness, reconciliation and how these men can be redeemed in the eyes of God.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and former city councilman in Clarksville, Tenn., and understands the public scrutiny placed on both. In a phone conversation we had Wednesday, pastor Edmondson and I talked about the public pressure that both of these men will have to endure for the next few years, and even for the rest of their lives.

“What they need is time alone with their families and pastors, hopefully with no outside involvement, to work through the many issues they are faced with,” said Edmondson. “But unlike the average couple in my church, they won’t have that luxury.”

To read the rest of the column in The Christian Post, click here.

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