A conservative Christian radio host has accused the media of misrepresenting and sensationalizing his comments on the Aurora, Colo., shooting and on heaven and hell.
"I would like to offer an apology to anyone who was offended by the way certain media outlets portrayed my comments over the last few days," Jerry Newcombe, co-host for Truth in Action Ministries, said in a statement Wednesday. "Unfortunately, organizations like the Huffington Post seize on the opportunities to vilify people of faith in order to sensationalize the story, supposedly revealing intolerance, in order to acquire more readers."
The Huffington Post wrote earlier this week that Newcombe linked last Friday's shooting at a movie theater that left 12 people dead to America's lack of fear of hell. Its headline also said: "Jerry Newcombe, Evangelical Leader, Says Only Christian Victims Of Colorado Shooting Going To Heaven."
"Perhaps more disturbing were Newcombe's comments on a segment on the American Family Association dedicated to understanding the shooting tragedy in Colorado," the online publication wrote. "In taking (sic) about the deaths, Newcombe separated the afterlife fate of those who died as Christians and those who did not:
"'If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place ... on the other hand, if a person doesn't know Jesus Christ ... if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place.'"
Newcombe urged readers to look at his comments in context.
The Christian commentator went on the AFA radio program last Friday, the day of the shooting, to respond to the question "Why does God allow bad things to happen in this world?"
His response: "Bottom line is that this is a fallen world and the Scriptures are very clear when it says that we're all sinners and this is why God sent His son Jesus who lived a perfect life and then died for us as a sacrifice for our sins."
He continued, "This life is not all there is."
This is where he made the "If a Christian dies early" remarks.
Newcombe also mentioned in a separate commentary that he feels "that to some extent, we're reaping what we've been sowing as a society. We said to God, 'Get out of the public arena.'"
"Tens of millions of young people in this culture seem to have no fear of God. It's becoming too commonplace that some frustrated person will go on a killing spree of random people. If they kill themselves, they think it's all over. But that's like going from the frying pan into the fire. Where's the fear of God in our society?" he wrote. "I don't think people would do those sorts of things if they truly understood the reality of hell."
Following that piece, The Huffington Post published a response from Kevin Miller, the producer of the upcoming film "Hellbound?"
Miller called the remarks "hurtful."
"[W]hy don't we all agree to stop using such shocking events to advance our theology? I understand the temptation. But right now what the victims of this tragedy need most is love, not arguments or condemnation," the filmmaker wrote.
Newcombe stressed on Wednesday that they are "all in mourning over the tragic deaths in Colorado" and that "many of us have not stopped praying for the shooting victims and their families in the wake of this massacre."
"The senselessness and pure evil intent of this act leaves all Americans asking many questions and looking for answers," he stated. "For Christians we turn to our faith for solace and understanding."