Tuesday, August 26, 2014
One of Congress's most ardent defenders of human rights is on the "war path," so to speak.
The fight is over a potential humanitarian crisis. And the weapon he's choosing to do battle is the art of diplomacy.
Longtime Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf publicly released a letter he penned to former President George W. Bush earlier this month. Wolf is trying to prod President Bush to get involved in South Sudan, where there's a food crisis the United Nations described as the "worst in the world."
"The situation on the ground has grown more dire," Wolf explained in his letter. "Three-point-nine million people in South Sudan face 'dangerous levels of food insecurity' ... [and] UNICEF estimates 50,000 could die from malnutrition and a million children will require treatment for malnutrition."
Warring factions in South Sudan have been fighting since last December, resulting in tens of thousands of people being killed and more than a million displaced in the three years since the country was formed.
Tensions will presumably flare after a South Sudanese state governor accused a rebel commander of shooting down a U.N. cargo helicopter today. The incident comes one day after the two sides agreed to a ceasefire and to form a unity government, and it could thwart any attempt to find a path to peace.
Wolf acknowledged President Bush's preference to keep a low public profile. (Since leaving office, Bush has been extremely reluctant to weigh in on hot button issues or to criticize his successor, President Obama.)
However, Wolf believes Bush's connection to South Sudan is, in his words, "unique."
"He helped give birth to the nation and is probably the only person who can get the two sides to come together," Wolf said.
He concludes his plea for help by suggesting that the Texan's voice will serve as a bullhorn for those who have no voice, comparing his potential involvement to that of Esther in the Bible.
You can read the text of Rep. Wolf's letter here.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
'Productive' is an attribute most industrious, hardworking Americans strive to demonstrate in the workplace.
For Washington politicians, though, it seems to be a novel notion.
President Barack Obama is vacationing in Martha's Vineyard. His two-week White House summer escape comes in the middle of international crises from Iraq to Ukraine.
And Congress adjourned for its annual five-week recess without addressing one of the most critical national issues: the crisis at the border. (Republicans did, in fact, pass a border bill before leaving, but it didn't receive the light of day in the Senate. In fairness, the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill never a got a vote in the House either.)
At the end of the day it's a wash. And what have we to show for it? Not much.
The president's popularity continues to plunge, and polls suggest his sinking approval ratings may hurt Democrats in the midterm elections, giving Republicans an edge to potentially retake the Senate.
Yet people think even less favorably of the legislative branch, which has earned honorary labels like "do-nothing Congress" or the "least productive Congress in history." (It's a sad day when cockroaches are held in higher esteem than members of Congress.)
Perhaps it's unfair to judge productivity entirely on the number of bills Washington doles out. After all, there are bad bills, poorly written laws, and overly cumbersome regulations that burden both the American people and businesses.
However, voters send the president, senators, and members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats alike) to Washington to perform their jobs: to represent their interests, establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.
Yet, very little is getting done. Let's be honest, if your job evaluation was as poor as Washington's, you'd probably be unemployed.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are campaigning for re-election, asking for another term to keep up the "good work." And President Obama continues to host fundraisers to pull in money for candidates in the hopes of avoiding becoming a complete lame duck during his last two years in office.
Still, the issues facing the country -- nationally and abroad -- haven't faded away. From the economy to national security to defending human rights and everything in between, there are plenty of challenges that demand our attention and action. In a democracy and in this day and age, sometimes that requires making tough choices, hard-nosed negotiation, and the tenacity to get things done.
As people of faith, let's be in a posture of prayer for blessing, protection, and wisdom over our country as well as our present national leaders and those we elect this November and in future elections.
If anyone is in need of prayer, they need it ... we all do.
Friday, August 01, 2014
Freedom is not free.
Those words adorn a granite wall on one of my favorite memorials in Washington, D.C. - the Korean Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. The expression is used to pay respect to our fallen military heroes who fought to defend freedom around the world.
However, "freedom isn't free" took on new meaning this week with the safe arrival of Meriam Ibrahim and her family in the United States. She's the Sudanese mother who was imprisoned and sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ.
Meriam Ibrahim with husband, Daniel, arriving in Manchester, New Hampshire
Her first stop in the U.S. was a brief layover in Philadelphia, whose name is derived from the Greek words phileo (love) and adelphos (brother). The city's cultural heritage is rooted in what its founder coined "the Holy Experiment," a place where people of all religious expressions could coexist. Of course, Philadelphia would later become the birthplace of American democracy. So in many respects it was fitting that Philly was the site of Meriam Ibrahim's first footsteps in the land of the free.
Foremost among American values is the freedom to worship, enshrined as the first enumerated right in the Bill of Rights. It's something we too easily take for granted. But Meriam's plight reminds us why we shouldn't.
Under strict Sharia law in Sudan, she was jailed and sentenced to die for apostasy. Although, she insists she was never Muslim and was raised as an Orthodox Christian by her mother. (She claims her Muslim father abandoned the family when she was a child.) She also was accused of adultery under Sharia law for marrying a Christian, Daniel Wani, who is also a U.S. citizen.
After a private meeting in the airport, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter described Meriam as a "world freedom fighter." And he's right.
This is a woman who stared death in the face -- a courageous woman who was willing to die by hanging and suffer 100 lashes without flinching once for her Christian faith. This brave woman endured being confined in a cell while pregnant and caring for a young toddler, Martin. Eventually, she gave birth to a baby girl, Maya, while shackled to the prison floor. The young mother has expressed concern that the traumatic birth may have disabled her daughter.
For Meriam, who is now starting to settle in America with her husband and their two small children, freedom was not free. Yet freedom offers hope and a new beginning.
The sad truth is Meriam Ibrahim represents only one of many countless others who are harassed, persecuted, and/or marginalized because of their faith. While we celebrate her newfound freedom, we must pray that others will also receive their just reward, if not here - then certainly on the other side of eternity.
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 Ibrahim, 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.