Michael Vick, Redemption & a Fox News Gaffe
Let’s start the New Year by being fair and balanced.
Most of you know that I enjoy Fox News for its overall Judeo-Christian outlook on life and current events. Fox is a breath of fresh air in the media world where left wing ideologies and a secular view of reality usually prevail. In past columns, I have shown this is one reason that Fox has become the leading cable news station in America.
Nearly fifty percent of Americans watch Fox News.
Recently, however, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, made a huge gaffe on the Hannity Show. Let’s examine his blunder, and use the occasion to talk about about football star Michael Vick, redemption, and the truth as it applies to people and animals.
Tucker Carlson, a staunch conservative, is confused. Maybe some others are too.
Here’s what happened.
On Tuesday night, December 28, Tucker Carlson, a correspondent for the Fox News Channel, was substituting for Sean Hannity on the Hannity Show. While moderating a panel discussion, Carlson used the occasion to criticize President Obama who had recently commented on the outstanding play of NFL quarterback Michael Vick.
Here’s what Carlson said: “Now I’m a Christian, I make mistakes myself and I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs and he did it in a heartless and cruel way and I think personally he should have been executed for that. He wasn’t, but the idea that the President of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs?”
“Michael Vick should have been executed.” “Murdered dogs.”
What? Talk about a jumbled worldview.
But before we get to that, here’s a little background.
Vick was a football superstar who was sentenced to 23 months in prison in 2007 for running a cruel and inhumane dogfighting ring and lying about it. He lost his fortune, spent nearly two years in federal prison, and came out saying that he was sorry for his errors, had given his life to Christ, repented of his sins, and wanted to live a changed life.
Since that time, Vick has lived what appears to be a repentant life–even speaking to over sixty animal rights groups around the nation and profusely apologizing for his past behavior.
Besides that, Tony Dungy, a committed Christian and former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, began discipling Vick upon his release from prison, encouraging him in his faith. Vick then was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles and given a second chance by Roger Goodell the commissioner of the National Football League.
This year Vick had a monster season–leading the Eagles into the playoffs and earning Pro Bowl honors. President Obama commented on his success because it is an amazing story of failure, heart-break, repentance and redemption.
And Tucker Carlson said he should have been executed!
I’d call that the gaffe of the year.
To his credit, a week later he came back on the Hannity Show and back-tracked a little. Here’s what he said in a second go-round: “This is what happens when you get too emotional, and I did. I’m a dog lover … I love them and I know a lot about what Michael Vick did. … I overspoke. I’m uncomfortable with the death penalty under any circumstance. Of course I don’t think he should be executed, but I do think that what he did is truly appalling.”
That may be true–but it goes much deeper than that. I listened carefully to the second interview with Carlson. I was looking for a number of “rays of truth” that should have come our of his heart when given a second chance himself.
They did not come, and I was greatly disappointed.
Tucker Carlson, a professing Christian and visible news commentator, appears confused about some very basic and important concepts. And I have a feeling that he isn’t the only one. Let’s clarify those ideas and strengthen them in our own hearts and minds.
First, human beings are not animals. This is the lie of evolution that Mr. Carlson has at least tacitly bought into. It’s okay to love pets and enjoy them immensely. But they are not human beings and shouldn’t be treated as such. Pets do not have souls, are not morally accountable to God, and do not go to heaven or hell. That’s why killing an animal is vastly different than taking the life of a human being. Sane, biblically-based societies have always understood that difference.
In past time periods this truth was learned on the family farm. People took care of their animals for the meat, milk, eggs, or work they could provide, but when they died (or were killed for food) there were no funeral services and gravestones.
Animals are animals–a lower level of creation. It is wrong to abuse them. But it is equally wrong to elevate them to human status. Tucker Carlson has lost track of that reality.
I have a “farm boy” friend who once demonstrated this truth to me. We had two older dogs that we needed to get rid of because we were moving from the area. My friend offered to take them and simply shoot them. He had done it many times before. He told me it was quick, humane, and besides, “they were just animals.” It was just like a vet putting down a horse or dog.
He was right.
Animal lovers–don’t cast any stones! This is the truth: Only a secular society elevates animals above their God-given place in creation. On this particular point, Tucker Carlson needs to re-think.
Secondly, because animals are a lower, non-immortal order of the created world, you cannot murder them. Murder is the taking of innocent human life.
In my daily Bible reading this morning, I was reading in Genesis 9 where the Bible spells out both the difference between the human and animal worlds and the basis for capital punishment in the case of human murder. Following the global flood, God spoke these amazing words to Noah and his family:
“Multiply and fill the earth. All the wild animals large and small and all the birds and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat animals that still have their lifeblood in them. And murder is forbidden. Animals that kill people must die, and any person who murders must be killed. Yes, you must execute anyone who murders another person, for to kill a person is to kill a living being made in God’s image” (Genesis 9:1-6).
First notice that following the Flood, God allowed people in a fallen world to eat both animals and plants. Prior to the deluge it appears that human beings were vegans. But not after the Flood. Now human beings could eat cows, pigs, chickens, fish, and other animals.
This required killing them–not murdering them.
According to God, you can’t murder an animal. We must not mix up important concepts and words.
And God clearly tells us why. Only human beings are made “in the image of God”–which includes moral accountability and immortality of the human spirit.
The words of God also contain another important truth that Tucker Carlson needs to re-consider: capital punishment. Notice that in Genesis and many other places, the Author of justice and compassion says that murdering a human being is so bad, so unjust, that it deserves the penalty of taking the life of the aggressor.
It’s the right and humane thing to do. In fact, in Exodus 20 when God gives the Ten Commandments to Israel, twenty verses after God says “You shall not kill,” he inaugurated capital punishment for the sin of murder in the Hebrew nation (Exodus 20:13 and 21:12).
Man is a special creation. He is made in God’s form and likeness. His spirit and soul are eternal. If a human being destroys that life, he deserves to have his own life taken.
Tucker–re-think being “uncomfortable” with capital punishment.
Third and finally, the Michael Vick story is a wonderful, true-life tale of redemption. Michael Vick grossly messed up, was convicted by a human court for his cruelty to animals, and served two years in prison for his crime. It cost him millions of dollars, his career, his reputation, and two years of his life.
While in prison, he came to his senses, asked God and others to forgive him, and when he was released did everything possible to show his repentance. Looking at the evidence of a humbled and changed life, the National Football League re-instated him and gave him a second chance. So did millions of American football fans.
Michael Vick took advantage of that second chance and once again rose to greatness–this time a wiser, contrite man, aware of his failings and sins. We should forgivehim. We all need forgiveness and second chances in life. It’s true that forgiveness and trust are two different things. We are called to instantly forgive because God forgives us without reservation. Trust, however, takes time–where a person needs to prove whether they have really changed.
Right now Michael Vick deserves our forgiveness and is earning back our trust. President Obama was right to praise him. Tucker Carlson was wrong to say what he said.
And all of us need to anchor ourselves to God’s righteous and unchanging principles. Human beings are special; animals are animals; capital punishment is for human beings who commit murder; redemption is marvelous!
Let’s learn from the Fox gaffe. We all need a second chance.
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