Dan Crenshaw and Pete Davidson shake hands at the conclusion of their appearance together on Saturday Night Live in 2018. YouTube screen grab/SNL
A Republican representative from Texas, 35-year-old Dan Crenshaw has become well known during his relatively short political career. Some of that notoriety came during his congressional run in the 2018 midterms when he joined a list of political candidates roasted during a bit on Saturday Night Live by comedian Pete Davidson.
All but one of those on the list were Republicans. Not a surprise. Crenshaw isn’t the first conservative to be caught in a comedian’s crosshairs. Also, not a surprise. What surprised many, though, was that Davidson’s dig at Crenshaw centered around the latter’s experiences of being in crosshairs much more literal than a joke.
After graduating from college in 2006, Crenshaw would go on to become a Navy SEAL for ten years and serve five tours of duty. During his third deployment in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2012, Crenshaw lost his right eye after an IED blast. Surgery saved the vision in his left eye. If you’re doing the math, you know this means he served two additional tours after the incident. Crenshaw medically retired from the military in 2016 as a lieutenant commander.
Fast forward a couple of years. Davidson is making a joke about Crenshaw looking like a hit man in an adult movie. The comedian made some kind of attempt at acknowledging the crassness of the joke, saying between laughs, “I’m sorry. I know he lost his eye in war … or whatever.”
People got upset, very upset. So, Davidson appeared again on SNL’s Weekend Update the following week to apologize alongside Crenshaw, making a surprise visit with some good-natured insults (I expect provided by SNL writers) toward Davidson.
Crenshaw, fresh off his electoral win, gave a speech about those on both sides of the political aisle being able to respect veterans. He also mentioned how Davidson had lost his father in the 9/11 attacks and that Americans are capable of forgiving each other. Cutting to commercial, Davidson leaned over to Crenshaw and said, “You’re a good man.” It was one of those moments that have become painfully more rare by the day in our current environment.
Davidson’s struggles with substance abuse have been well-chronicled. When later he posted on Instagram he didn’t “want to be on this earth anymore,” Crenshaw joined others in contacting him to offer support.
But this week, whatever relationship the two may have built took a severe hit when Davidson said on his Netflix special that he didn’t mean the apology back in 2018. He was essentially forced into it, he added.
Sometimes it can difficult to distinguish what is harder, extending grace or receiving it. The former requires us to get past our desire for the offending party to be punished. But in the latter case, we must accept the sin we committed in the first place.
Romans 5:15-17 talks about the effects of Adam’s sin on mankind and redemption offered through Christ. We should be willing to jump at the free gift of grace, but many don’t feel they deserve it. The math of one decision to trust Jesus as their Savior wiping out a lifetime of sin doesn’t compute. So, they continue to choose the effects of Adam’s sin. They ignore verse 17, which says that, “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
This morning on Fox & Friends Crenshaw talked about the time on the SNL set with Davidson. “We had a really good moment, you know, at that time in 2018. America liked it. The left and right liked it. So, you know, we don’t really want to ruin that. … I would like to remember the guy that I saw in person and hung out with that night. “
Rep. Crenshaw talks like someone who understands the need for grace because he’s received it. I’ve had a couple of situations this school year with teenagers who messed up and had to face me over it. While making sure they understood the severity of their mistake, I extended grace because, as I told them, “I was a dumb kid once, too.” From that point, I added, it was up to them on what they did with that forgiveness.
The weight of accepting grace can be just as heavy as the sin that got us there. Even not choosing to deal with it … is a choice. It’s a situation where no matter how hard we try, we can’t escape the crosshairs.
Scott Barkley serves as editor of The Christian Index.