ARTCLE: No Longer a Christian:Part II
Published Tuesday, November 30, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
No Longer a Christian - Part II
by Karen Horst Cobb
Follow up from an article published October 25, 2004
For over a month my inbox has been filled with responses to my original article "No Longer a Christian." The total of emails is well over 2550. I have read them all and have responded to those with questions, or who wanted permission to reprint. The article has become part of some college curricula in the US and in Europe. It has been taped to refrigerators, copied and saved to give to grandchildren, sent to right wing relatives, placed on car windshields, posted on numerous sites, discussed in blogs, and read and preached from pulpits.
The backlash is also evident. I've been called a communist, a Marxist, a humanist, and a baby killer. I have been accused as one who has never attended church, never was born again, has no knowledge of the Bible, is naive, idealistic, immature and hateful. The most amazing of all was the person who responded saying that the leaders of his denomination say that Karen Horst Cobb does not exist and is merely an urban legend. Imagine my surprise.
The majority view my words in the spirit they were written, (a mixture of “love and sorrow”), and then others reading the same words reference my “hate filled rhetoric and judgmental attitude.” The condition of the heart interprets what we see and hear. This is why the scriptures say “Those who have ears to hear let them hear. ” We are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The majority of the responses were words of gratitude for having expressed what they had wanted to say or have been saying. There were also those who supported much of what I said but had specific questions concerning war. The article appeared on some Muslim websites and Muslims in the US, the Middle East and other countries commended me for speaking peace and recognized the creator in my words. The last category of responses is something that can only be identified as christian hate mail.
I am humbled beyond comparison and honored to give voice to the heartfelt cries of at over 2500 people who responded positively to the message I gave. There is a great movement that is forming behind the scenes, and the results can be a resurrection of the simple message of Christ that extends to all people. We can live and speak the message of love. We can proclaim publicly the morality of social justice, thoughtful environmental practices, racial equality, and economic justice. One can not be a Christian and worship mammon and the sword. It is Christ’s grace that allows us to extend that grace to others as humble servants. Jesus explained that where two or more agree, our humble prayers will be answered (Matt. 18:19) Many of us are in agreement concerning the misuse of Christ’s message in the world today. As we simply make our request to him we can know that our prayers are heard if they are with the sincerity of a child . It is the heart of the child who holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt: 18:2)
The second category of responses are those who agree with much of what I wrote but had questions which they could not reconcile. Many asked “But what about Hitler?” or “What if someone breaks into my home?” They mention the teachings of theologians who support violence. It is true that Hitler was an evil man who did evil things. The larger view of that situation is that if all the good people of his time had refused to give way to fear and had refused to believe that communists bombed the Reichstag or resisted the lies presented about their own Jewish neighbors, then Hitler could never have come to power. He would have been marginalized and scorned rather than looked to as their savior. Giving way to fear always leads to violence and oppression. When people keep their eyes on Christ and continue to follow His example they will not be so easily lead astray by political powers. St Augustine’s Just War Theory, Francis Shaffer’s recommendations of how we should live, and the modern day televangelist’s interpretation of the Book of Revelation are not my final authority. My authority is the example of Christ. The message is simple and His communication clear.
Many present the idea that those who believe in non-violence need the violent to protect them. I want to be very clear that I will never expect someone to kill or die for me. Some have suggested that the pacifist stance is helplessness, but pacifism is powerful, brave and just. Some make the mistake of thinking that one can only be a victim or a perpetrator. The reality is there are always many options in any situation. As a crisis therapist I have seen how force escalates violence whereas a calm presence addressing fear brings almost instant calm. I have had many life experiences where pacifism has been tested and it has never failed. In the end I would want my last act on earth to be an act of love and forgiveness (if God grants me that grace) rather than an act of violence.
Many question the right to defend themselves and their familes using violence and force. Each of us must answer that question for ourselves, and in the end must know that God’s grace is sufficient to heal and restore one in such a situation. This is a different thing than killing the innocent of another land because of a fear of what some of their fellow countryman might do in the future. Many have mentioned Jesus’ act of throwing the money changers out of the temple as a way to justify war. This can much better demonstrate the anger God has when money and power corrupt His message, and it is this same message that motivates me to speak His truth in a sea of deceit. Some of those who responded referred to the Old Testament accounts of battles as justification for the current war. This is a difference of theology. I believe the old Testament is a Divine history book showing how incapable humans are at keeping the law and living free of guilt. It also shows the linage of Christ (and also Mohammad Gen: 17:20). The New Testament presents itself in a better way. It is here that Jesus is the sacrifice once and for all. Humans are incapable of following all the laws. Human nature usurps authority while lording it over others with excessive man made laws. Jesus said the ten commandments can be summed up very simply: Love your neighbor as your self. (Galatians 5:14). Christ is the fulfillment of the law. The point was that the law said “an eye for an eye” but Jesus presented a better plan-- Love.
The third group of responses were from Muslims. One person said that they were living in a country where they were taught both the Christian faith and the Muslim faith. They chose to become Muslim because they understood it to be a message of peace but now they are in the Middle East and see beheadings on the nightly news. They see the destruction of the US bombing knowing that those in power are “christian”. In agony, this person asked me, “Where should I go for help, dear sister?" Other Muslims have said that the same article could be written about the evil that is done in the name of Allah. It is safe to say that in every culture there are leaders who seek to divide humanity for the purposes of money and power. The sincere follower of the prophet can gradually begin to believe in a justification that twists His teachings. It is interesting that those who keep their eyes on His example do not engage in violence against the innocent no matter what justification is given. The true message of Christ unites, but the false message of those who claim His name divides and destroys. It has become clear to me from the many responses from Muslims that this is also true of the prophet Mohommad. He teaches love and peace and denounces the killing of the innocent. It is the powers and principalities which seek to destroy.
The final group of responses are from people that are sure I missed the mark.. Some showed general concern for my soul but made many wrong assumptions about what I said rather than actually reading my words. I am born again. I am saved by grace through faith and the good deeds I might do in this life are not anything for me to boast about . I have not renounced Christ but the false religion of media christianity. There were several fine examples of christian hate mail which referred to my head being “chopped off” and making the clear statement that I do not have to worry because I am not a christian of any sort because I am a liberal and I will burn in hell where I belong. To the leader of the denomination who is saying that I do not exist, I want to say that the reports of my non-existence have been highly exaggerated and I will gladly accept his apology for bearing false witness against me if he chooses to do so. Some have mentioned that clearly I am quite young and idealistic, have not read my Bible, never belonged to a church, and am a “yellow dog democrat” So let me set the record straight: I am a grandmother. My beliefs have been well tested in life. I have read the Bible several times cover to cover, was a member of a church for 40 years, and for much of my life was a registered Republican. Some have suggested I am uninformed and have not studied the scriptures or read the works of various theologians. The truth is I have several letters after my name and have read more than most in the areas of Christian theology, philosophy, and ethics, but none of these facts have added to the very clear admonition of Christ to Love and shine His light in the darkness. To borrow from another writer, "Everything I needed to know I learned in Sunday School."
So the final question is "Where do we go from here?" I am now aware that there are many like me who have left the church or who have been asked to leave due to religious/political views that are in opposition to the “christian right” and government policies. For those who remain in the church, I urge you to continue to speak out against the false christianity which is seeping beneath the doors and sliding over the airwaves. Many have mentioned the desire to have a spiritual leader like Martin Luther King, Jr. However, the times we are living in might call for a different form of leadership. A figurehead or public voice can be easily silenced and an organization can be infiltrated and corrupted. I did receive several responses from people who desired to co-opt my message for their own purposes. I am sure that a public movement would be targeted. The tactics to which some of these people will go are surprising . A popular "christian" religious radio personality responded to me pretending to be a woman, but when I replied to what I thought was a woman’s a sincere question, the “undelivered mail “ message on my computer showed his real name and e-mail address. He is one of the main media personalities I was thinking of in the original article, and evidently he recognized himself in that first paragraph. We are dealing with many public personalities who call themselves Christian but will not hesitate to deceive. I was reminded by one reader that the wolves don’t even bother with sheep’s clothing anymore. In this case the sheep suit was at least partially in place but not well zipped.
So where do we go from here? We need a spiritual movement addressing the largest of moral issues. A spiritual movement of individuals living in community can not be stopped. Hierarchical groups can be manipulated and changed to do the bidding of the powerful, but the diffused power of a people committed to peace will be a sweet smelling gift pleasing to God. Just as there were house parties, and grass roots efforts on the political front I suggest that each person invite others to their home to meet this spiritual disenfranchisement or find un-compromised churches in their communities. My prayer is that those of faith would flee the churches that do not preach love. The Church is not a building; it is in the hearts of believers. Some suggest that liberal Christians should take to the airwaves in a battle of theology, and perhaps there are those who are being raised up for that purpose. Let us not, however, be scheming and plotting, but let us just boldly proclaim the truth in love. It is in this way we can address the individual needs of our communities and can encourage one another to follow the radical message of Christ. It is in a community such as this that we can find the power to resist the excesses of consumerism, gluttony, and personal gain that comes at the expense of others and our environment.
We can reclaim the message of Christ and show His face to the world. In this way we can gain strength and courage from one another and face what lies ahead. We are sure that there will be wars and rumors of wars, and we know that this is more true now than ever before. If the media Christians are the supporters of these wars then it will be more and more important that the true church of Christ’s love support, encourage, and enrich our spiritual understanding. The simple fact is that when it is darkest the light shines brightest. This can be our comfort. Let our homes be a haven of peace in this warring world.
Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise a serpents and harmless as doves. (Matt. 10:16 .) This verse is good to remember as we continue to reclaim the meaning of the life of Christ. The simple truth exists: Perfect love casts out fear.
Karen Horst Cobb is a freelance writer and artist and can be contacted at Cairnhcobb@msn.com.