Monday, September 15, 2014
Christian fathers told to convert to Islam or watch their children lose their heads.
Christians fleeing their communities shot, their dead bodies lined up on the ground, then rolled over by a bulldozer as their loved ones watch.
These are just some of the stories Canon Andrew White and Dr. Sarah Ahmed shared at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Monday.
Ahmed is a Muslim woman who's organizing aid for Christian and other religious minorities fleeing for their lives in northern Iraq through the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
Canon White is president of the foundation. He's lived in Baghdad for 15 years serving as vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, and as chaplain to the U.S. Embassy.
"Now when I want to see my people I go to Chicago," he says in his British accent, referring to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled and are fleeing barbarian ISIS terrorists.
White recalled a recent phone call from one of his friends in northern Iraq. The man was hysterical. He told White ISIS fighters came to his house. They told him if he didn't recite the words to convert to Islam they would behead his children immediately.
He converted to save his children, and asked Canon White through sobs, "I'm a Christian, I live for Yeshua, does Yeshua still love me?"
When Dr. Ahmed visits Christians in refugee camps she asks what the ISIS fighters look like. They tell her they have long beards, intense eyes, and no hearts.
"I have no idea how the country (Iraq) will heal or how we will come out after this," she says.
Now the foundation is doing something unheard of. Ahmed and others are working to buy Iraqi Christian girls that ISIS has captured and is now selling as sex slaves.
"So many girls are being raped and sold everyday," she says, "and nobody is doing anything about it."
Their goal is to buy the women and reunite them with their families, but Ahmed says it's difficult because few people will talk.
How did this happen? Both White and Ahmed blame, in part, the U.S. and its allies for pulling out of Iraq before Iraq was ready. White also says Sunni Muslims were treated so poorly by Iraq's government he's not surprised so many turned to terrorism.
And as long as the religion of Islam is tied to the government of Iraq, Ahmed says her country will never enjoy a thriving pluralistic society.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
For those of us alive and old enough to remember, the world we knew would forever change 13 years ago today.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after brave passengers tried to regain control of the hijacked plane.
Those tragic events are the spark that launched America's longest war (Afghanistan) and its intractable campaign to defeat al Qaeda terrorists and thwart future acts of terrorism.
But 13 years later, nearly half of all Americans say they feel less safe now than they did before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Why? Because although more than a decade has passed, so much uncertainty remains.
The U.S. is still engaged in anti-terrorism operations, more complex and widespread than when President Bush announced the global war on terror.
A day before participating in remembrance ceremonies in Washington, President Obama announced his strategy to combat ISIS terrorists wreaking havoc in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq.
"Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL," Obama explained in his address to the nation. "We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
Clearly, the campaign to root out terrorism (and the intolerance that justifies the barbaric atrocities committed against innocents) is a long way from being declared victorious. But we hope and pray that day will come.
Until then, it serves as a reminder to never forget.
Most of us will never forget where we were on that fateful day. And many cannot forget the searing pain of loss they experienced when their loved ones' lives were cut short.
As we reflect and remember "those who died, those who served, and those who carry on" may we be encouraged by the wisdom of the Old Testament passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance
a time for war and a time for peace.
May we also grow stronger in our resolve to seek justice, liberty, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
Click here to watch CBN News video remembrances
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Here are President Obama's full remarks as prepared for delivery.
My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the “Islamic State.”
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.
Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.
First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work – and Iraq has formed a government – we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back – America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.
Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.
Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East – we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform – pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety – our own security – depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
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.