Thursday, July 24, 2014
It's a headline that broke the collective heart of our newsroom:
"Ancient Christian community in Iraq is no more"
For about 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians - a small but significant minority - have called Iraq home. Today, that group is being systematically targeted for annihilation.
The majority of Iraq's once-thriving Christian community in Mosul have abandoned their homes and belongings in a desperate attempt to save their lives after extremists with Islamic State gave them only three options: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face execution. The few who stayed behind likely will become martyrs.
One expert told CBN News some even had their fingers chopped off so insurgents could steal their wedding bands.
Their crime? While in some cultures the system of justice demands and eye for and eye or the loss of limb for theft, no such crime was committed here. They're simply guilty of professing a faith in Jesus Christ. And in some majority Muslim countries that can result in charges of apostasy or blasphemy.
For Christians in Iraq, who trace their biblical heritage to the Old Testament times of Abraham, the notion of apostasy is as absurd and as far-fetched as a desert without sand. Thriving as one of the world's oldest, continuously existing Christian communities, they were never Muslim adherents. So accusing them of renouncing Islam is a trumped-up charge. Furthermore, it's unlikely any Arab Christian in his or her right mind would disparage Islam or the prophet Muhammad given the close connection between culture, religion, and politics.
Christians in the West need to stand up for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We also need to acknowledge whatever forms of "persecution" or "injustice" we think we suffer grossly pales in comparison to what's happening in other countries like North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, and Sudan, where a young Christian mother had been imprisoned and sentenced to die for converting to Christianity. Fortunately, Meriam Irbrahim, along with her two young children, finally found freedom today. But there are many more, including Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, who remain shackled and silenced for their faith.
What's happening in Iran, Sudan, and other places hostile to religious freedom should serve as a wake up call for the church and Christians worldwide.
Where is the outrage? Where are the rallies and demonstrations? Where are the 24-hour prayer vigils? Are we doing enough?
Whatever the answer, we can always do more. We need to channel the anger from the pain and suffering of fellow believers and turn it into action.
First and foremost, we should always adopt a posture of prayer. Secondly, we should employ wisdom and join our voices in unison to encourage our leaders, both in the church and the political arena, to use their influence to shape attitudes and change policy.
It should not be overlooked that Meriam Ibrahim's release and consequent freedom came just one day after a congressional hearing specifically on her case.
As the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, it's time pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, and love -- and fight the good fight of faith. It's the cause for which our Savior died, and our persecuted brothers and sisters deserve no less.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Robin Bartlett Frazier, a two-term elected official in Carroll County, Maryland, isn't shy about her Christian faith.
It's what almost landed the granddaughter of a Methodist minister on the wrong side of the law in March 2014.
"Thinking of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I would not say his name because I might go to jail?" Frazier pondered. "I just couldn't do that."
Frazier shared more of her story with CBN News' John Jessup. Watch below:
Monday, June 16, 2014
A lot of people probably would jump at the chance to attend an event like the Congressional Correspondents' (RTCA) Dinner in Washington.
It's an opportunity to hob nob with nation's political and media elite and watch a Hollywood headliner poke fun of politics in DC, which honestly isn't too hard to do these days.
As a member of the RTCA, CBN News attends and invites guests to the annual event trying to remember Matthew 5:16: "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven."
Our guests this year were David and Jason Benham, twin brothers and business partners who were thrust into the headlines last month after their reality show was canceled because of their Biblically-held beliefs on marriage and abortion.
They've been pilloried, mocked, and lambasted for not backing down, and some have even accused them of simply attempting to soak up the media spotlight in an attempt to exhaust every ounce of their fifteen minutes of fame. But they've handled the attacks with grace, dignity, and integrity.
When the invitation was extended, the Benham brothers did not immediately jump at the offer.
Instead, they said they were waiting to see what God wanted them to do next and acknowledged opportunities like the dinner give them pause.
When they asked for feedback, I shared Matthew 5:16 and suggested that they'd likely meet a few of the people who interviewed them by satellite during the media fallout. It would give people a chance to see for themselves they're nothing more than two decent guys who love God, their families, and their country -- and, contrary to how they've been depicted by the media and leftist websites, they harbor no hatred for anyone.
Well wouldn't you know, one of the first people they met was a woman who had interviewed them by satellite. She introduced herself, and within minutes they became fast friends.
Watch the video below to see what they had to say about Christian persecution and being a bold witness for Christ.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Dubbed "America's Best Preacher" by Time Magazine, T.D. Jakes continues to take America by storm, extending his call to ministry to his congregation and well beyond.
As a man of the cloth, he consistently proves he's not cut from the same bolt of fabric as the traditional minister. He's anything but.
Jakes' life interests and vocational versatility are as vast as his insight and wisdom. And his influence transcends the four walls of his Dallas, Texas-based megachurch in a way few other preachers can appreciate.
Through books, films, and radio and TV appearances, Jakes' impact on American culture is both straightforward and obvious yet sometimes surreptitiously indiscernible.
His newest book, Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive, climbed to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list in its first week of release. Unlike his other works, Instinct isn't a book loaded with Bible verses or an overabundance of evangelical vocabulary. That's intentional.
During a recent interview with CBN News, Jakes confessed he wanted this book and this particular message to reach a wider audience.
The book tour brought him to the nation's capital, where I had the privilege to get his thoughts on politics, race, and the current state of religion in America.
Watch the video clips below
Bishop Jakes and John share a laugh during an interview at CBN's Washington, D.C., news bureau.
On a personal note, it was a privilege to meet a man who has been pouring so much into me spiritually and thank him for his ministry. I've been tuning in to Jakes' podcasts for the last several years, listening to his sermons during my short and long runs through Washington, D.C. (For anyone interested, my playlist also includes Craig Groeschel, Mark Batterson, Joel Osteen, and Ravi Zacharias.)
I've been inspired and deeply encouraged by many of the themes from Instinct, a subject Jakes has been preaching about since the start of 2014.
My prayer is that all who read his latest edition will find the keys to unlock some of life's most probing questions and discover a peace that surpasses all understanding in accepting and knowing the Creator and Giver of all life.
T.D. Jakes on Politics and Change
T.D. Jakes on Christianity and Culture Clash
T.D. Jakes on Race & Religion
In your book you mention intimate conversations that you've had with some of the biggest names in politics in America. You've had a chance to witness firsthand how some of those politicians have used their instincts to make decisions. How do you think those instincts have played out and shaped American policy today?
T.D. Jakes: Politics is a very unusual jungle, as it were. And I don't think that the policies are always a reflection of the leader's highest and best ideals and goals.
A lot of times in the process of getting things passed that you're trying to get passed, you end up owing somebody a favor or have to tack something on a bill that is not congruent with your ideas. It's very difficult to get through all of the menagerie that goes on in Washington and effect change in a positive way.
There's a lot of talk about Christian persecution these days -- not just what we hear about what's happening overseas with Christians being tortured, imprisoned, or even killed. Here in America, you have a lot of people saying religious liberties and freedoms are under attack. How would you encourage Christians to use their instincts to address issues of faith that are considered culturally controversial?
Jakes: First of all, I think some of the pain we incur right now we brought on ourselves. I think the language in which we approach people -- the whole narrative, sometimes was insensitive and angry. I think that sometimes we allowed our theology to become attached to politics, in a way that became unhealthy for both the theology and the politics.
And, so some of that we need to backtrack and adjust the language -- not the principle but the methodology with which you convey it. The other thing I’d like to say is when one of us comes up under persecution we're not nearly as vocal as we ought to be.
If we were on the phone making the phone calls, if we were calling the advertisers when injustices happens to our people, if we were writing letters and texting and tweeting, and raising a storm, things would turn the other way, because what really runs the country is green. And when advertisers sense that enough people are outraged either way, it's not the principle that they're after. It's the money.
And until we become -- the bible says the kingdom suffers violence and the violent take it by force -- until we become more forceful and supportive of people who reflect our values, then we become invisible when we complain outside the parameters of where people are listening who make the decisions.
Eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings have been described as the most segregated hour in America. Over the years as a pastor, do you feel as if things have improved racially? And, secondly, you pastor a multicultural church -- the Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas. How did you use instinct, intellect, and intuition to foster that?
Jakes: I still think we have a long ways to go to be the total reflection of what the kingdom ought to look like. I think it is reprehensible that Dr. King said that so many years ago and that we can still point at so many sanctuaries and congregations who do not reflect the diversity that is described for heaven.
But then when you get ready to untangle that … it is an overly simplistic view to say that it is all racism. I don' t think that it is all racism. I think it is a culture. I think it that it is a comfort. People draw comfort when they look up front and see somebody that looks like you. I think it is a distinction between the general populace has never had to fit in.
As a minority, I have had to fit in. I have had to wear the tie that you said was appropriate and listen to the music in the elevator that you like and clap to the beat you had. I had to assimilate. But the general populace has never been a minority and had to assimilate into another audience. And I think sometimes there is no model through which that is achieved.
We have some work to do in that regard, and we have some demons to face. Because while that is a problem and those considerations are important, there's still a silent subtle racism that is eating at the underbelly, even in the church that needs to be addressed. And it is not addressed enough because it's not preached enough; and it's not preached enough because it is not on the radar of all of those who have the mic.“
When you stand in front of your congregation and you see people from all different walks of life, what is that you try to do -- considering all these different factors at play -- how do you try to create an environment where everyone feels welcome?
Jakes: First of all, I try to learn what makes you comfortable: food, family. What makes you laugh? Who are you? I take the time to dignify you with attention.
Second of all, I am honestly fascinated by other people's culture. It's hard to be publicly what you are not privately.
So you can't put up Asian people and Korean people and black people as props -- like see? And then I go home, and you have none in your life. So until you wash cars with me or we go to the football game together, it's hard to manufacture on stage something that is not a reflection of the totality of who you are?
I’m a broad-based person. I love all kinds of people. [I] grew up in West Virginia where it's 5 percent black. And I’m used to being involved with all types: whites and blacks and whoever came along my path. And I’m fascinated by Spanish-speaking people and Asian people and people of all descents.
What do you like? What's it like to be you? If we'd become students of one another and then be able to have honest conversations about race and expectations. If we could ever talk -- if we could just talk to each other -- without the gloves on. And Christians are the world's worst for always saying the right things we're supposed to, like God is color blind. Ugh. I know you mean well by that, but why would God be colorblind and make lilies and lilacs all these different colors -- and people.
He doesn't have to go blind to love me. He loves me black. He loves you brown. He loves them white. God doesn't have to go blind to love me. Those sorts of things are things where we need to talk a little bit so I can help you have a language that incorporates a better reflection of the love of God.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Fast internet lanes from your Internet provider to your home for companies willing to coin up may soon be a reality.
In other words, if Netflix wants to pay, say Verizon, for faster service into your living room desktop, it can under a new proposed rule by the Federal Communications Commission.
It's the FCC's latest attempt to pass a rule regarding Internet providers that passes legal muster after two other attempts at net neutrality - efforts to treat all Internet traffic the same - were thrown out in court.
Advocates of the new rule compare it to the nation's highway system. Increasingly, in congested areas, motorists pay a toll to ride in "fast lanes" to avoid traffic congestions and get where they're going faster. Those advocates say "fast lanes" on the Internet will help prioritize traffic on the web.
However, not everyone thinks that's fair, but they like the fact that the FCC is also considering the possibility of defining Internet service providers as "common carriers."
That would put Internet providers in the same category as telephone companies giving the FCC greater authority to regulate them.
Meanwhile, the public has 120 days to comment on the "fast lanes" proposal before the FCC writes a final set of rules.
Here's a story that attempts to sort out the battle.
Friday, May 09, 2014
Hey white Americans, does the idea of an America where most people aren't white bother you? That's just one of the interesting questions posed by a new survey on racial attitudes of white Americans conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey reveals 13 percent of whites are bothered by the idea of an America in which they are the minority.
It also reveals 47 percent of all Americans and 71 percent of White Republicans believe discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.
Take a look at all of the results.
Monday, May 05, 2014
Washington is feeling a little sluggish following the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner Saturday.
The nation's top journalists, news makers, and celebrities walked the red carpet before having dinner and laughing at President Obama's jokes.
Comedian and actor Joel McHale followed the president at the podium and spent most of his time on stage making fun of embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who was seated in the audience.
Tweny-six hundred people packed the giant ballroom at the Washington Hilton for the most-talked about social event in the city.
CBN News had a great table and, more importantly, fantastic company!
Kirk Cousins, quarterback for the Washington Redskins and his sister Karalyne Cousins joined us along with Todd, Sonja and Colton Burpo, the family that inspired the hit movie "Heaven Is For Real."
CBN News Director Rob Allman and Washington Bureau Chief Robin Mazyck also joined me.
Each year CBN News invites celebrity guests who are striving to live out their Christian faith.
Friday, May 02, 2014
President Obama held a Rose Garden press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, but Washington was really focused on a different event. One that journalists, Washington's political elite, and general star-gazers look forward to all year: the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
Outside of a White House State Dinner, which is limited to far fewer people, the Correspondents' dinner is the biggest social event of the year in the nation's capital.
This year CBN News is excited to announce our special guests include Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Burpo family: Todd, Sonja and Colton of Heaven Is For Real Ministries and the subjects of the current hit movie "Heaven Is For Real."
This year marks 100 years since the founding of the White House Correspondents' Association and while reporters in 1914 had a lot more access to the president than the press corps does today, the association is constantly fighting for greater access to the commander- in- chief.
History Channel has chronicled our history in a video that will be shown at the dinner. One thing you may not realize is funds raised by ticket sales to the dinner allow the association to offer scholarships to deserving journalism students.
If you care to watch, C-SPAN is airing the festivities live Saturday night.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
It's a concern among many religious conservatives: the trampling on of religious liberty here in the United States. So much so that a spate of laws are springing up across the country to protect the fundamental right to freedom of religious expression.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is set to sign a bill designed to protect religious freedom in the Magnolia State passed by the legislature earlier this week. Similar bills have sparked controversy elsewhere. (Think Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer's ultimate and dramatic veto late February.)
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving Hobby Lobby stores and its challenge to the contraception mandate in Pres. Obama's signature health care law, Obamacare. Critics decry the mandate as an assault against religious liberty.
Such was the theme of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's recent speech at Liberty University.
He used the contraception mandate and the IRS's targeting of conservative non-profit groups as examples of the current erosion of religious liberty.
"These are troubled times. And religious liberty - the very first liberty in the bill of rights, the very first protection we have - has never been more imperiled than it is right now," Cruz said.
The potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate challenged the students to boldly fight for their fundamental freedoms.
"As believers, we are called to action," he implored. "Not to sitting quietly and hiding our faith under a bushel, but to stand and speak no matter what the consequence."
** Click here to watch Sen. Cruz's entire speech **
Cruz took the opportunity to cite examples of his own stand to defend religious liberty when he served as Texas's solicitor general.
While others out there might disagree with the premise, it should be more than clear that this is a very real and important issue among religious conservatives, particularly Evangelical Christians.
Take, for example, the case of Robin Frazier. She's a local commissioner in Carroll County, Md., and is at the center of a conflict that could land her in jail.
Frazier found herself on the receiving end of a court-ordered injunction that forbade the commission's opening prayers to include references to any deities linked to specific religions.
Frazier had been singled out for prayers in which she invoked the name of Jesus.
One day after the injunction, she wouldn't back down, declaring that she was willing to go to jail over her right to pray.
"This is an infringement on my First Amendment rights of free speech, and I think it is a wrong ruling," she said before the commission meeting.
However, instead of offering her own prayer, she recited one found in George Washington's personal prayer journal, saying "Let thy blessings guide this day and forever, through Jesus Christ."
It's the Beltway Buzz's position that America has taken a major detour (or perhaps a U-turn), if a prayer from one of America's preeminent founding fathers isn't seen as acceptable today.
However Frazier's case plays out will be a pretty good indication of whether there really is a war against religious liberty.
Friday, March 21, 2014
This weekend marks four years since the president signed the Affordable Care Act into law and time has done little to lessen the controversy surrounding the massive new health insurance system.
As the president watches the clock wind down on open enrollment, his administration is moving into a full court press in the White House's own version of March Madness.
The play is to win over as many young people as possible. After appearing on the Internet show "Between Two Ferns" with actor Zach Galifianakis where he was subjected to questions like, "how does it feel to be the last black president?" Mr. Obama has also appeared on "The Ellen Degeneres Show," called into pop music and sports radio shows, appealed to mothers and highlighted the frequency of sports injuries all in an effort to encourage more young people to sign up.
As the March 31 deadline approaches the administration is still well short of its revised goal of 6 million registrants in the first year. However, perhaps more important than the total number of registrants, for Obamacare to work, it needs more healthy young people to pay for the disproportionate number of sick and older people who've already signed up.
Without them the new system bleeds money. The administration has said it needs 40 percent of registrants to be young adults and so far, only about 25 percent of the people who've signed up fit the bill.
When the buzzer sounds, will the Obama administration meet its goal or will critics of the Affordable Care Act get to say "I told ya so?"