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It turns out that the Facebook comments that led to congressional staffer Benjamin Cole’s resignation Thursday weren’t the only series of eyebrow-raising remarks from his past floating around online.
Back in 1999, Cole was featured in a documentary about Southern Baptists’ efforts to convert Jewish people. The hour-long film, which never aired but was eventually posted on YouTube, followed a Jewish New Yorker curious what it would take to be “saved.” Steve Manin, now a salesman at a Lexus car dealership, connected with Cole to be his “Christian mentor.”
Cole, at the time, had a high bar — his own mother, interviewed on screen, said she believed her son didn’t think even she would go to heaven.
“A Jew who comes to recognize Jesus as the Messiah is a fulfilled Jew,” Cole told Manin. “It doesn’t bring me any pleasure to say, but anyone who at the moment of death either ignorantly or willingly has rejected Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior will spend eternity in a Christless hell, a place of eternal torment and suffering.”
Cole, reached Friday, confirmed that it was him in the film. Cole worked as a senior adviser for Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) for just under a year, and previously had jobs on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Think Progress and Buzzfeed News unearthed Facebook comments written by Cole that included comparing black people in his neighborhood to zoo animals and suggesting a mosque be built at the White House so President Obama would have somewhere to pray.
Schock’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they knew about or had seen the film.
Manin, in an e-mail to the Loop, said the film shows “hints of the personality traits, even as a 23-year-old radical Christian fundamentalist, that he brought to bear in his recent posts.”
Early in the film, Cole said “abortion is nothing short of infanticide and murder.” And “I think homosexuality is an abomination…” Later, when discussing, with a group of sorority girls, what types of sex acts were off limits even after marriage, he said “some thing are just wicked, just pagan.” Asked if he meant anal sex, he said, “I don’t want to go into specifics.” In the film, Manin said Cole told him to put less gel in his hair “because it made me look like a Mexican.”
Cole also shared some thoughts on politics: “I could not with a good conscience be a member of the Democratic Party, and I don’t see how any good Christian can be.” And, taking Manin to a shooting range, he said, “We cannot become a communist state as long as the NRA is out there and Charlton Heston is passing out ammo.”