'Is Dan Crenshaw the Future of the GOP?' Let's see: Do people in pews matter in this equation?

'Is Dan Crenshaw the Future of the GOP?' Let's see: Do people in pews matter in this equation?

So, GetReligion readers: Are any of you among the dozen or so people interested in American life and political culture who has not seen the famous Weekend Update appearance by Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw on Saturday Night Live?

That face-to-face meeting with Pete Davidson included lots of memorable one-liners (and one really snarky cellphone ringtone), but one of Crenshaw’s first wisecracks carried the most political weight: “Thanks for making a Republican look good.”

No doubt about it: The new congressman’s popular culture debut has become a key part of his personal story and his high political potential.

Thus, that recent Politico headline: “Is Dan Crenshaw the Future of the GOP?”

The basic idea in this feature is that Crenshaw is a rising GOP star whose approach to politics is distinctly different than that of President Donald Trump and that the former Navy SEAL and Harvard guy is striving to maintain independence from the Trump machine. Then there is personal charisma. That SNL appearance is as much a part of his story as his eye patch.

Naturally, this means that more than half of the Politico article is about Trump and how Crenshaw is walking the fine line between #NeverTrump and #OccasionallyTrump.

Repeat after me: Politics is real. Politics is the only thing that is real.

However, since this is GetReligion I will once again note that certain facts of life remain important in this era of Republican politics. How do you write a major feature story about Crenshaw’s GOP political future without addressing his appeal to cultural and religious conservatives? As I wrote before:

… (It) is hard to run for office as a Republican in Texas (or even as a Democrat in large parts of Texas) without people asking you about your religious beliefs and your convictions on religious, moral and cultural issues. This is especially true when your life includes a very, very close encounter with death.

So let’s start here: If you were writing about Crenshaw and what makes him tick, would it help to know what he said, early in his campaign, during a church testimony that can be viewed on Facebook? The title is rather blunt: “How faith in God helped me never quit.” …

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Yakima, Wash., sheriff dying of Lou Gehrig's disease gets sympathetic treatment

Yakima, Wash., sheriff dying of Lou Gehrig's disease gets sympathetic treatment

I sure do appreciate it when smaller papers put out a good religion story and the Yakima Herald (out of central Washington) does not disappoint with its latest.

The theme, a dying sheriff who has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease -- is done with generous dollops of the 58-year-old officer’s faith . That is what's keeping him going after getting some very bad news.

I reported a few weeks ago about an imam who has the same disease. No matter where you are on the theological spectrum, the thought of this living death would test the strongest believer.

Early on, readers learn that he has three to five years to live and was diagnosed in December. He has been in the area much of his life, starting from when his father, a Grace Brethren pastor, was sent to a local church.

Fortunately, the reporter asked the sheriff what’s keeping him going.

Facing death is challenging but he believes God and friends will look after his family.
“You can throw your arms up and say oh my God ... You can quit and start blaming God, or you can try to live the way in accordance, in a way you’d want someone else to handle the challenge. I don’t want to be the guy who says you should handle it this way and then do something different,” Winter said.
“Even though from the human side of this it’s hard to see how anything good can come out of this, but I know God loves me and my family. I’m not worried about dying. I’m not worried about where I’m going.”

At present, he’s feeling fine but that may not last long. Interestingly, he’s not asking for healing --  but for light at the end of his tunnel.

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God-shaped hole: Christian soldier keeps risking his life to save others for some reason

God-shaped hole: Christian soldier keeps risking his life to save others for some reason

In the world of modern, short-attention-span journalism -- let's call it the post-USA Today era -- 1,300 words or more is a lot of room in which to explore the crucial details of a news story.

So I was pleased when the Army Times managed to drop several hints -- even in the lede -- about the role that religious faith has played in the life of a soldier who recently won a major medal for his bravery in tense, dangerous situations -- outside of combat. However, this was one of those stories that started out fine, when it comes to spotting the religion angle, and then never delivered the goods.

Like I said, the lede opened the door.

Staff Sgt. Bret Perry was raised to help those in need.
He keeps a tow rope in his truck (in case a motorist needs pulled out of a ditch), and he never hesitates to engage when encountering a dicey situation. It's a good thing, too. Bad things keeps happening to people in his vicinity, and he keeps saving the day.

Now, I realize that all kinds of people -- religious and secular -- can have all kinds of motivations for helping "those in need." That statement doesn't automatically point toward a religion hook. There doesn't have to be a God-shaped hole in the heart of this story.

No, what intrigued me was the reference to Perry's family history as part of his motivation for jumping into danger, over and over, in order to help people. I expected to see the story return to that theme and give readers some details. Like I said, this is a long story -- so there was room.

Of course, readers get the essential details of his heroic acts, and there are plenty. Perry, who works as a military recruiter in Iowa, broke into a burning house a year ago -- making three trips into the smoke and flames -- to save the residents. He saw smoke as he was making his morning commute into the office.

Perry once jumped into a bloody brawl in Italy to save some off-duty soldiers. He pulled a mother and her baby out of a "smoking overturned car."

Why does this stuff keep happening to this guy?

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Battlefield PTSD, the healing power of community and one giant religion ghost

Battlefield PTSD, the healing power of community and one giant religion ghost

Sebastian Junger is as fine a reporter specializing in war and conflict coverage as there is today. He shot to fame in 1997 with his book "The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea" (a non-military saga, of course) and ever since has been producing award-winning journalism for print and screen, most of it conflict related.

His work includes the extraordinary feature documentary "Restrepo," a 2010 Academy Award nominee. Restrepo resulted from his spending a full year embedded along with photojournalist Tim Hetherington with an Army airborne platoon manning a highly vulnerable forward position in the mountains of Afghanistan. Restrepo was the name of a platoon member KIA.

Junger's now produced an absorbing piece of long-form magazine journalism (more than 7,100 words) published in the June issue of Vanity Fair on the subject of battlefield PTSD, now more prevalent than it's ever been for U.S. military personnel. Junger writes that it's also probably the highest military PTSD rate in the world, following more than a decade of American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

(Exact PTSD rates are hard to determine for various reasons, including some fraud cases and some conflating of military PSTD with pre-existing conditions. Here's some numbers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

But Junger's piece is about way more than psychological battlefield wounds that often do not manifest until a soldier reenters civilian society.

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How do Christians — past and present — interpret 'You shall not murder'?

How do Christians — past and present — interpret 'You shall not murder'?


When are we as Christians allowed to fight back and protect our civilization?


George wonders whether Christians should work in police departments, whose conduct is much in the news, as well as the armed forces or other security vocations that  involve use of violence and possible  injury or death.

The Religion Guy previously addressed various religions’ views of military service in this post. But it’s a perennial and important topic worth another look, this time limited to Christianity. [Thus the following leaves aside the pressing problem of Islam's growing faction that applies religiously motivated terrorism against the innocent, fellow Muslims included.]

The Christian discussion involves especially two Bible passages. In the Ten Commandments, God proclaims, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13, repeated in Deuteronomy 5:17).  Or so say the familiar Douay, King James, and Revised Standard versions. However, most recent Christian translations instead follow the same word choice as the Jewish Publication Society editions of 1917 and 1985: “You shall not murder.”

Hebrew scholars tell us the verb here refers specifically to illegitimate taking of life, that is “murder,” as distinct from various other types of “killing.”

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Richard Ostling: Is military service sinful?

Richard Ostling: Is military service sinful?


Is killing as a protection of the United States, like going into the Army, a sin?


Adequate treatment of this classic issue would require thousands of words. But start with some venerable quotations: “Do not kill or injure living creatures” (typical wording from Buddhism’s Five Precepts). “You shall not kill” (from the Bible’s Ten Commandments). “Do not kill the living soul which Allah has forbidden you to kill, except for a just cause” (Islam’s Quran 6:151).

Very broad-brush, religions have generally accepted military service alongside those teachings, and the killing it inevitably involves, as justified for self-defense, protection of others, public safety, and other social values, although faiths usually also contain groups that favor total pacifism.

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Got news? Concerning Catholic priests, Mass and padlocks

Because of my background in church-state studies, for the past third of a century or so I have been interested in the many legal puzzles linked to the work of military chaplains.

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