My Shared Journey and Dinner with Mark Sanford: Insight Into Our Changed Lives

In January of 2012 I had the opportunity to have dinner with Mark Sanford, the former Governor of South Carolina.

Besides our love for politics and more than a decade of success in the arena, Mark and I shared another common experience. In the summer of 2009 we were both embroiled in controversy and scandal when our extramarital affairs were exposed and made national headlines – his more so than mine.

I knew all-to-well what it was like to endure the public scrutiny and pressure that came with this exposure. While Mark stayed in office after his affair was exposed, I resigned my Senate seat, hoping to salvage a marriage that was already on life-support. His marriage had also hit a barrier when his wife took their four boys and moved out of the Governor’s residence shortly before she filed for divorce.

Mark Sanford on the campaigning in South Carolina.Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford campaigns for his return to Congress.

The commonalities we shared allowed us to develop a quick bond. We talked about our children, the challenges of parenting post divorce and our changing relationship with our former spouses. I felt some relief because outside of the occasional financial issues I still had to address with my ex-wife, our relationship is quite good compared to other divorced couples.

Over dinner I commented how some of his former constituents seemed friendly toward him along our walk to dinner. But what both of us had grown sensitive to was the occasional cold stare we got from people. It was hard to tell if we were catching the eyes of someone who was just having a bad day or if we were being tried, convicted, and executed behind some of those icy stares.

My intention was not to do most of the talking, but I ended up sharing about my journey and encouraging him to come out of his shell and get back into the public eye. Mark was curious about how I handled everything and I shared how my faith and a few friends had been the saving grace for me. I knew he felt secure in some of the valuable friends that were helping him in his journey.

We discussed how our mistakes had hurt our former spouses, our children and some of our colleagues and supporters. For that we were genuinely sorry.

We briefly talked about what future, if any, we had in politics. What we both knew was that we were good legislators and in his case, a good executive, and our affairs aside, worked hard for our constituents.

On our way back to the hotel, a young lady stopped us and asked to have her picture taken with Mark, to which he graciously agreed. After I snapped the photo and we walked away, Mark expressed concern that the young woman might post it on Facebook or other social media accounts.

“What if they do?” I asked. “You’re the former governor and you should comply with people’s request to pose with them. You can’t help it if anyone puts anything online but hold your head up and be proud of who your are.” It was advice I needed to hear myself too.

We chatted a handful of times after our dinner but it was nearly a year later that I learned that Mark was considering running for elected office again.

I sent him a message with three items I thought he needed to consider prior to making a final decision to run.

First, he needed to sit down with his ex-wife, Jenny, and make sure she wasn’t going to torpedo his race. This was not only critical for his chances of winning but for the welfare of their four boys.

Second, he needed to poll his sons on their thoughts on running and only run if all four boys said it was okay.

Finally, even though he was engaged to be married, I strongly recommended that Maria, the woman with whom he had the affair with and now his fiancée, not make an appearance at a campaign event, or for that matter, even set foot inside the state. If and when he won, that could change, but not now; it was too much of a risk and would draw unnecessary negative attention.

Mark indicated that the first two recommendations were successfully checked off his list and that he agreed with the third.

I also advised him that even though his opponents would continue to bring up his past mistakes, he needed to publicly apologize one time and one time only and then let the issue go. I think his first television ad did a good job in conveying that message.

As expected, he claimed the top spot in a crowded primary field with over a dozen candidates but had to face off against Curtis Bostic, a conservative evangelical who secured the endorsements of Dr. James Dobson and former Sen. Rick Santorum in a run-off.

Running a strong and disciplined campaign, Mark had little problem fending off Bostic. I understand Bostic is a good man and would have represented the district well if elected, but when Mark’s detractors say that the GOP needs to recruit a social conservative to run against in 2014, they must remember that is a hurdle Mark has already overcome and the voters were quite clear on Election Day.

However, it was on run-off election night that I feared the Sanford campaign took a dangerous turn.

His fiancée Maria showed up and appeared on stage during Mark’s victory speech. This should have never happened and had I been on his staff, I would have escorted her out of the building before anyone knew she was there.

The fact that she was first introduced to Mark’s son on stage was not only awkward, but also inappropriate.

Making matters worse, when news of the complaint his ex-wife, Jenny, filed against him surfaced, I was deeply concerned that a large segment of the district’s female voters would turn against him. This also demonstrated that the former first lady was not one of his supporters.

Mark Sanford won the general election because voters knew of his fiscal conservative roots and because his opponent, Democratic nominee, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, was a weak candidate. Voters forgave Mark for his marital indiscretions and I found that to be encouraging.

Mark and I learned some valuable lessons from our mistakes. We learned that serious mistakes often come with severe consequences. We learned to ask for and receive forgiveness, how to respond when forgiveness was not granted and how to get up and move on in life. It’s a lesson we all could learn.

Today we are both in great places.

I am a journalist and the political opinion editor for The Christian Post and my friend Mark Sanford is the new Congressman of South Carolina’s first congressional district. I am proud of him for picking himself up and getting back in the game. Now it’s up to him to conduct himself as a public servant should.

You may not agree with his past indiscretions and neither should you have agreed with mine. However, Mark genuinely asked for and received God forgiveness as did I, which changed us both for the better.

I’m sure Mark will focus on being the best Congressman he can possibly be – I know he is up for the challenges that being in Washington D.C. presents.

And I look forward to our next dinner together.

Phil Keaggy, Christian Music Artists Honored at 35th Annual ASCAP Awards Show

Franklin, Tenn. – The American Society of Composers, Artist and Publishers (ASCAP) recognized a star-studded lineup of top Christian music artists at their 35th annual Christian award show in downtown Franklin, Tennessee Monday night. Among those honored at the historic Franklin Theatre were guitarist extraordinaire Phil Keaggy, singer songwriter Matthew West and songwriter Ben Glover.

ASCAP’s Michael Martin and LeAnn Phelan, who co-head the group’s Nashville membership office, presented the most performed song awards to the writers and publishers on the stage of the newly renovated theater and in front of some of the industry’s most notable performers and executives. The list of honored songs included “Carry Me to the Cross” by Kutless, “Trust in Jesus” and “I Need a Miracle” by Third Day, “The Hurt and the Healer” by MercyMe, “The Light in Me” by Brandon Heath, “Good To Be Alive” by Jason Gray, “Love Come to Life,” and “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave.

Earning song of the year was “10,000 Reasons,” a song that won two Grammy Awards this year and was written and recorded by Matt Redman, who drew inspiration from Psalm 103. Redman was traveling and unable to attend the ceremony, but accepting on his behalf were representatives from publishers Sixsteps Music, Thankyou Music and Worshiptogether.com.

The songwriter-artist of the year award was presented to Grammy nominee Matthew West, who has penned such songs as “Jesus Friend of Sinners,” recorded by Casting Crowns, and “Forgiveness,” a track off his current CD and inspired by thousands of letters he received from fans across the globe.

West’s songwriting credits include four number one hits recorded by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Diamond Rio, among others.

“When I started my music program in college I looked around and noticed I had half the talent of most of my fellow students, but what I knew was that I had twice the drive to succeed,” said West. “And the half the talent part is still the case after looking around this room tonight. But I also know is none of this happens unless God lets it happen.”

 

Singer/Songwriter Matthew West, songwriter Ben Glover, guitarist Phil Keaggy and Capitol CMG Publishing’s Casey McGinty showcase their awards at the 35th Annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards in Franklin, TN. May 6, 2013

Singer/Songwriter Matthew West, songwriter Ben Glover, guitarist Phil Keaggy and Capitol CMG Publishing’s Casey McGinty showcase their awards at the 35th Annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards in Franklin, TN. May 6, 2013

 

 

West dedicated his award to the fans that sent him letters of their personal triumphs and tragedies.

Ben Glover, whose songs have been recorded by both Christian and Country artists, won ASCAP’s Christian songwriter of the year for the third time. Glover, a native of Loveland, Colo., dedicated his award to his mentor and best friend, Brad O’Donnell, who believed in Ben even when the young red-haired artist had doubts that he would make it in the rough-and-tumble music industry.

“Brad stuck with me and believed in me when no one else was there,” said Glover in accepting his award. “But most importantly, I want to thank God that He lets us all do this.”

Yet it was Keaggy who stole the show in front of a capacity crowd with his breathtaking performance and amazing guitar licks in “Salvation Army” prior to receiving the prestigious Golden Note Award, given to an artist who has achieved extraordinary career milestones. “I do love to do this,” a smiling Keaggy said before striking his first note.

“From now on my nickname for you will be ‘soul catcher,’ because you catch our souls,” noted ASCAP board chairman and fellow songwriter Paul Williams at the conclusion of his performance.

“Phil is one of the most admired guitarist in modern history and I am honored to salute him in this honor tonight.”

Keaggy, who has recorded over 50 albums in his career, found Jesus Christ in 1970 while in the early years of a career that would propel him to stardom. Soon afterward, he met and married his wife, Bernadette. The couple has since celebrated 40 years of marriage and the Dove Award-winning artist shows no sign of slowing down in his marriage or in his on-stage artistry.

“Thanks to God for the wonderful grace he has shown me through Jesus Christ,” Keaggy said in accepting his award.

In a red carpet interview with The Christian Post prior to the show, Keaggy recalled the beginning of his career as one of the early Christian instrumentalist and performers who would achieve international recognition.

“The bridge God provides between music and people is amazing,” Keaggy said. “I am truly honored to be receiving this award tonight.”

Joel Taylor with Bethel Music Publishing was one of those blown away by Keaggy’s performance. “He seems to keep getting better and better with time.”

Added relative and Christian music artist Cheri Keaggy, whose new top-ten single “There Will Be One Day” is currently climbing the Christian Music Weekly charts, “I was praying that Phil would feel loved tonight.” And loved he was.

Georgia-based band Find Favour opened the show with their song, “Slip on By,” penned after front man Blake NeeSmith’s emotional conversation with his grandfather. The group releases their self-titled project today, including their new single “Shake the World.”

Others performances included Daniel Bashta and Jon Egan, and another notable artist attending the show was Chris August, whose song “Center of It” and “He Said,” were honored. The Afters, a young group whose musical roots are Texas-based and who just released their new project “Life is Beautiful,” were also on the red carpet.

How Politicians ‘Evolve’ on Controversial Issues

Over the past several months several politicians have said that their views on certain hot button issues – namely gay marriage – have “evolved.” As a former State Senator, I suggest most of their views did not change or “evolve” over time, instead, they found a convenient time and place to jump on board when public opinion shifted in their favor or for their political gain.

Case in point is President Obama’s position on the issue of marriage.

As an Illinois State Senator, he signed a questionnaire saying he favored same-sex marriage, however, that statement was later denounced by a White House communications director who claimed in June 2011 that the questionnaire was “actually filled out by someone else.” Those who knew him well never questioned his support for same-sex marriage because they knew where Obama stood.

But during his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama conveniently reversed course and gave a definition of marriage – at least in part – to what Tony Perkins or James Dobson would give.

“What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Obama said in an interview with a Chicago public television station. “What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.”

However, he still found the words to massage his statement and hedged his position to not alienate himself from the gay community.

“That doesn’t mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we need to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place,” he said.

Obama, saying he had finally reached the end of his evolution, publically came out in support of gay marriage in May of 2012 – five months before winning a second term in the White House.

Fast-forward to the latter half of 2012 and early 2013.

Supporting gay marriage has become “in vogue” and is now being championed by former Vice President Dick Cheney who lobbied on behalf of Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill, former first lady Laura Bush and more recently, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State and possible 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Now let’s jump to the list of GOP elected leaders.

Former Bush White House aide and RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman gathered about 130 signatures for a letter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage by ruling against California’s Proposition 8. If this happens, same-sex marriage will be allowed in all 50 states, and the Court’s ruling will overturn constitutional bans mandated in the voting booth by citizens in over 40 states.

Added to the list of those evolving on the issue are GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Mark Kirk (IL).

My guess is the ones you will not see “evolving” are senators such as Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Pryor (AR) and Tim Johnson (S.D.).  Most voters in these states may favor civil unions but still hold firm to the traditional definition of marriage.

The one exception has been Democrat Sen. Kay Hagen (N.C.) who recently expressed her support for same-sex marriage after Portman did. Last year, the Tar Heel State voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman and that could present her with some challenges.

Regardless of any prior opposition to this or any other hot-button issue, in reality, I maintain there was little effort in “evolving” on the subject. Instead, these politicos either felt this way all along or they are conveniently jumping on board because doing so is “politically correct” and will gain them points with voters back home.

When I was a freshman in the Tennessee House of Representatives we had to grapple with whether or not to implement a state income tax. A handful of Democrats and Republicans who had ran on the issue of opposing this tax were talked into voting in favor of the tax. With one exception, each one was later defeated at the polls or chose not to seek reelection.

Voters can often tell when a politician expresses a real change of heart or changes his/her position for political expediency. At the end of the day, if the voters suspect the latter, there could be a price to pay on Election Day. We’ll see next year.

Easter at the Beach

This post deals with a story published in the Friday morning edition of The Christian Post entitled, Spontaneous Response in Florida Shows Faith Alive and Well, Even at the Beach on Easter. Make sure you read the story here.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/spontaneous-response-in-florida-shows-faith-alive-and-well-even-at-the-beach-on-easter-92785/#BbfQ4E37isV2VkzD.99

Several years ago my family began vacationing at the small resort community of Rosemary Beach, Fla. While the white sands and beautiful weather are the primary season families live and vacation at this architectural wonderland, what continues to draw me back is the church that meets at the town center on Sunday morning appropriately called Chapel at the Beach.

On our first visit in the fall of 2005, I stumbled upon a sign in the town’s picturesque square mentioning the service that would be held the following Sunday morning at 9:00 am.

I must admit, I didn’t expect much from the service. After all, it was a gorgeous beach community with several pools and restaurants and of course, a great beach. And I certainly didn’t expect much from the sermon since it would be easy for some pastor that attracts people from a variety of denominations and beliefs and to give a short talk taken from the prosperity gospel.

In all honestly, it would be ideal for a Unitarian congregation to worship at such a location.

Yet I was blown away by both the service and the sermon.

It’s too bad I can’t recall the topic Pastor Mike preached from so many years ago, but what I do remember was that his words were a wonderful sermon straight from scripture and proclaiming that Jesus Christ was the way and the only way to fantastic eternal life with our Lord and Savior. Most importantly, he spoke in a heartfelt manner of love and compassion for those who have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations.

In the many times I have visited since, I have gotten to know Pastor Mike and many of his leadership team such as Lee Sage, Jon LaPlante and Scott Steelman. I’ve experienced some of the best and most challenging times of my life at Rosemary Beach and Chapel at the Beach was there in both. I have especially thankful for the ministry they provide to the kingdom of Christ.

Earlier last week when the editors at The Christian Post were talking about what types of stories we needed to cover for Easter, I immediately thought of Pastor Mike and the Chapel at Rosemary Beach and suggested one of our reporters write a story on their Easter service.

Some who attend services this Easter Sunday will do so in their “Easter best;” those clothes especially purchased for the formal introduction to the spring fashion season. Others will be in flip-flops and shorts. The service at Rosemary Beach will be tilted heavily toward the latter.

But regardless of attire, one thing will remain constant. Pastor Mike will preach a message about the Good News, that Christ has Risen and is alive today. And I can think of no more beautiful place to hear this message.

I wish all of you a wonderful and happy Easter.

Meet Bethany Blankley

The most enjoyable part of my role at The Christian Post is discovering and recruiting talent to contribute to our new political opinion page, “The Wonk Room.”

Recently I ran across Bethany Blankley, a columnist and media personality who is making a name for herself by defending and advocating for Christian principles in an intelligent and articulate manner that often wins more people to Christ than beating them over the head with the skillet of righteousness.

After a brief conversation with Bethany on Wednesday, she penned this column for The Wonk Room about Rob Bell’s recent statement on marriage that I posted this morning. I would encourage you to read her column and also check out her website at www.bethanyblankley.com.

 

 

The Legal Arguments to Same-Sex Marriage

If you are tired of reading and hearing about the same-sex marriage debate and wish it would relegate itself to page 8 of the Metro section of your local paper, then join the crowd. I feel the same and I say this as a journalist whose biggest stories over the past 18 have centered on the issue.

But brace yourself because this issue is not going away any time soon. The pr0 same-sex marriage train is running down the track and on the surface their appears to be no one or group (including the evangelical church) willing to stop its momentum.

Still, I feel compelled to post an excellent op-ed penned titled by my new friend, Laura Hollis, who is an attorney and professor at Notre Dame. Laura researched and wrote the column with the high level of academic skill and diligence you would expect from someone at such a famed institution.

Laura’s column can be read here.

In addition, Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptists Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has written a two-part exclusive for The Christian Post that looks at how the U.S. Supreme Court will view California’s Proposition 8 and issues surrounding the Defense of Marriage Act passed under the Clinton administration in 1996.

Part one and part two of Dr. Land’s series can be found here.

Interestingly, it is no “accident” that both President Clinton and Hillary Clinton have now joined President Obama in embracing same-sex marriage. Expect to hear more on the marriage front from Mrs. Clinton as 2016 nears.

Now, back to reading about the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the upcoming MLB season.

 

Paul Stanley interviews Gov. Mike Huckabee at NRB Convention in Nashville

Below is the link to my taped interview with Gov. Mike Huckabee at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville earlier this month. I’ve also included a link to story I wrote based on a transcript of the interview.

http://video.christianpost.com/former-gov-mike-huckabee-at-2013-nrb-convention-full-interview-4666/

http://www.christianpost.com/news/huckabee-talks-about-career-nation-in-exclusive-nrb-interview-91330/

The Story Behind the Story of How the Boy Scouts Announced Their Decision to Consider Gay Scout Leaders

On Wednesday the Boy Scouts of America board of directors deferred action on allowing professed homosexuals to serve as troop leaders until their annual meeting in May. The lack of a decision is seen by many as merely a strategy to buy the organization more time to drum up support and possibly neutralize the opposition of religious and pro-family groups. But there is much more to how this story unfolded.

On Friday, January 25, one of our senior editors at The Christian Post informed me someone close to the issue knew that BSA chief Wayne Brock had called on the major religious groups such as the Mormons, Catholics and Southern Baptist to “inform” them they were going to change their policy to allow homosexual scout leaders. I use the word “inform” intentionally, because according to the head of one Christian organization, the Boy Scouts had no intention of having a dialogue about the subject and had already decided on a course of action. Or a least that’s what they thought.

After confirming the meetings had taken place with the spokesperson of one of the groups, I sent an email to the BSA at 1:13 p.m. that afternoon with the hopes of obtaining a direct statement from them. Within half-an-hour I received a reply from Lindsey in their public relations department asking about by timeline, or when I planned to publish the story. After a brief email discussion she asked if they could have until Monday morning to put a statement together and I agreed.

I should say I was surprised with what occurred on Monday morning but I’m not.

At around 10:00 a.m. and just as I received a statement from the BSA confirming their intent to change their policy, Pete Williams of NBC published an “exclusive” story and broke the news to America. Apparently someone connected to the BSA must have decided they wanted a more “mainstream” news outlet to break the story and not CP. Oh well, live and learn.

Yet after thousands of news stories and columns, combined with what seem to be hundreds of thousands of comments from engaged readers on both sides of the issue, the BSA adopted the strategy used by the White House and Congressional leaders and simply kicked the can down the road until May, hoping for a better day to make a tough decision.

Whether of not the BSA changes their policy (and I believe they ultimately will), the organization will never be the same. Even before the announcement, participation has dropped by over one-third in the last decade and now some religious groups such as the Southern Baptist will more than likely encourage their young men to join programs such as the Royal Ambassadors, leading to a more rapid decline.

The question I have is this; short of being “politically correct,” what advantage will the BSA see in adopting this new policy?

Will they reverse a ten-year trend and see an increase in participation? I don’t think so. Will they improve the quality of their instruction by allowing professed homosexuals to instruct young men on moral development? Not in my opinion.

While there are many factors involved in the BSA’s decision, I feel a, if not the driving force was pressure from board members such as AT&T’s Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young’s James Turley to implement the change.

What these gentlemen neglected to take into consideration is changing the policy of a non-profit dedicated to serving boys and young men is much different from their corporations choosing to provide benefits to same-sex partners or signing up as a corporate sponsor for the local rainbow parade.

How would people react to heterosexual men leading Girl Scout troops? Hopefully the same way given that is equally a terrible idea.

Over the next three months activist on both sides will continue to weigh in on the issue. But in the end, the Boy Scouts need to take a hard look at what they want their mission to be for the next 103 years.

The Story Behind the Story on Louie Giglio and President Obama

Many articles have been written on why Pastor Louie Giglio withdrew from giving the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration on Monday. Now the story on why Giglio may have pulled out and what might have happened between the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House is discussed.

My colleague at The Christian Post, Michelle Vu, has written an excellent article entitled Obama May Have Disagreed With Inaugural Committee’s Handling of Giglio Controversy, describing how the decision to scrub Giglio may not have sat well with the White House, but nevertheless, President Obama seemed reluctant to use his political capital to keep Giglio on the program.

The Atlanta based founder of the Passion Conference gave a sermon to his congregation in the mid-1990’s exclaiming what the Bible says about homosexuality. Like tens of thousands of other pastors who have done the same, he has since been labeled “vehemently anti-gay.”

Vu writes: “In Giglio’s mid-90s sermon, he also warned that gay activists were likely to seek to exclude Christians from the public forum for holding traditional biblical views of homosexuality. He said: “Underneath this issue is a very powerful and aggressive movement. That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family,” Vu wrote in the CP article.

Christians are now having to ask if they are now being relegated to the closet by those with a liberal agenda simply because they subscribe to God’s written word. My prayer is that Christians for all walks of life stand up in a loving, but forceful manner, on the basic truths of the Bible.

 

Chuck Hagel’s First Three Hurdles for Sec of Defense: Gays, GOP and Gaza

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was nominated by President Barack Obama on Monday as his new Secretary of Defense. Yet the three groups that appear likely to stand in the way of his nomination, not typically known for working together, include gay rights activists, Republicans and pro-Israeli organizations.

Hagel is not the first Republican lawmaker nominated by an incumbent Democratic president. In 1997, former President Bill Clinton nominated retired Sen. William Cohen of Maine to head up the Pentagon and he sailed through an easy nomination process.

However, it seems Hagel will not be afforded the same luxury and here are some of the more obvious reasons.

Gay activists on both sides of the political fence had taken shots at Hagel, mainly for his comments in 1998 when he called Clinton’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, “openly, aggressively gay.” Hagel has recently apologized, saying his remarks were “insensitive.”

Immediately after Obama made it official he was nominating Hagel, the Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP leaning gay-rights organization, took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post opposing the nomination.

The ad also blasts the former Nebraska senator on his support for the Defense of Marriage Act and for his opposition to the military’s 1999 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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