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Sen. Ben Sasse stands out politically, and religiously, in the post-election GOP

Sen. Ben Sasse stands out politically, and religiously, in the post-election GOP

When journalists have sifted through the tea leaves and the ashes left by campaign 2018, they'll doubtless be watching a singular Nebraskan, Sen. Ben Sasse, 46. He'll be the intellectual leader of Donald Trump-wary conservatives in Congress who embrace the Republicans' 1856-2015 heritage. Sasse will be up for re-election in 2020 (unless he retires).

Though a Republican or independent presidential run seems most unlikely, Sasse bids for a voice on the nation's future with his October book "Them," subtitled "Why We Hate Each Other -- and How to Heal" St. Martin's Press). Showing off his chops as a Yale Ph.D. in American history (his dissertation treated President Ronald Reagan and the "religious right"), Sasse analyzes massive disruptions in the economy and the culture that he says will continue to erode Americans' confidence and sense of shared purpose.

As a remedy, he proposes reviving old-fashioned local communities. He also wants Americans to shun destructive media and decries the partisan furies that characterize the Trump era, though the book barely mentions the president or their disagreements. He appeals for vigorous public policy debates that respect the dignity of opponents as fellow citizens. The book’s handling of religious liberty disputes is especially important.

Future media write-ups should emphasize that Sasse is also the most interesting evangelical Protestant in Congress. He previewed “Them” in a 2017 commencement address when The Guy’s daughter graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (for the good stuff, skip ahead to 9:40). Sasse also spoke that year to the Gospel Coalition and in 2016 at Westminster Seminary — California. And here’s what Sasse said on the Senate floor about #MeToo and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Journalists will want to peruse his religiously-pitched 2016 interview with World, a Christian newsmagazine. Secular outlets have portrayed Sasse as sort of impressive but lamentably conservative, as in Mother Jones just before the 2016 election when Sasse declined to vote for Trump, slate.com in 2017 and Vanity Fair last month.

“Them” barely mentions a theme The Guy considers essential for a Sasse interview: What’s the role for religion, especially local congregations, in the healthy restored culture Sasse yearns for?

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Evangelical voices persist: What about traditional believers who didn’t choose to be gay?

Evangelical voices persist: What about traditional believers who didn’t choose to be gay?

Here’s a remarkable book with news potential that no reputable evangelical publisher would have issued, say, five or 10 years ago: “Single Gay Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity” by Gregory Coles.

Significantly, New Testament scholar D.A. Carson, a staunch conservative, blurbs that the work “needs to be thoughtfully read by straight people, and by gay people, by unbelievers and by Christians” -- and read “with humility.”

The publisher is the book division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, long hassled by many colleges because its student officers are expected to uphold Christian tradition, including the limitation of sex to one-man- one-woman marriage. Last year, IVCF reaffirmed that policy for employees, sparking media coverage. (InterVarsity hires those of  “LGBTQI identity” if they support its orthodox stance on sexual morals.)

Coles is a church musician and active member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in State College, Pa. He’s solidly evangelical, thus takes seriously what the Bible teaches, carefully examined the arguments from liberal revisionists but concluded that scripture opposes same-sex marriages and sexual relationships.

What then? Though he has no idea why, since youth he’s been “unable to conjure even the slightest heterosexual desire,” and this is no “choice.” He prayed earnestly. He cried. He “felt dirty, worthless, irredeemable.” After long struggles he “stopped praying to be straight” and doesn’t see how that could ever occur. Thus, he’s concluded that he is “a thing that wasn’t supposed to exist: a single gay Christian.”    

The book is a heartfelt plea to fellow evangelicals to rethink their approach to this, the most divisive issue to face U.S. Protestantism since slavery.

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