SPEECH:Just Remember Who You Are
Christians:Just Remember who you Are
Speech 3/19/06 Gainesville FL
By Karen Horst Cobb
When fascism comes to American it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. Sinclair Lewis 1935 (from- It Can't Happen Here)
When I was a child I wondered if I would have been brave enough to hide Anne Frank in my attic but, I never considered I could some day be the one needing to be hidden.
Lindsey Graham (R. SC) recently appealed to the attorney General:
“The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements,” (Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6. 2006)
Radio personalities have suggested that all the war demonstrators and “liberals who hate America” are giving “aid and comfort to the enemy “and should be rounded up. It looks like those who refuse to believe that all Muslims are extremists, or who want the US to follow the Geneva Convention, or want to preserve the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. or want the Red Cross to visit our prisons, or want the U.S. to adhere to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, all might fall within the definition of the 5th column.
Just weeks before, KBR was awarded a $365 million contract by Homeland Security to build new detention camps for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space.”
-This artist needs to know-Do FEMA camps have arts and crafts?-
I don’t know if I have quite risen to the 5th column status but I have written a few things that have gained some attention. Someone once warned that I have “risen above the media radar and I will never be able to go back “ So be it. My message is simple and clear. Just remember who you are.
My father used to say that when I was ready to leave the house. “Just remember who you are!” I knew exactly what that meant. It meant remember what you’ve been taught, Be bold and have courage to resist peer pressure, and don’t bring shame to my name.
Remembering right from wrong
Many of us do remember what we’ve been taught in Sunday School. Exodus 20- the law given to Moses -gives a checklist of what is right. We know the 10 commandments. Not long ago the battle to allow a giant block of stone with the 10 laws in the center of the Alabama Courthouse caused quite a stir. Political Christians demanded it was their right while constitutional scholars said it violated Article Six of the constitution -barring religious tests for public office.
The Christian- reconstructionists want to establish a government ruled by God- a theocracy. Some of them seek to hold all of culture to the letter of Old Testament law. Dr. James Kennedy says in his book "Christians did not start the culture war but...we are going to end it. That is a fact, and the Bible assures us of victory." Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony with ties to the forming of the Rutherford Institute have gone as far are to call for public executions and public participation in stoning homosexuals, disobedient children adulterers and many others. They suggest stoning is a good way to enforce the law. Many people love the law just as rich religious leaders did during Jesus time. It makes them feel good to check off the list and make sure their not sinful or evil.
The religious power brokers never argue about the fruits of the spirit which result from the law of the New Testament- the New covenant-the New Promise! The New Contract. Now, that would be a contract with America. Imagine a monument constructed with the character traits of a a follower of Jesus- the fruit of the spirit. They are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control-imagine that- in our publics buildings. Jesus said “against such things there is no law” Better yet, imagine if all those who sat in judgment in our courts demonstrated the fruit of the spirit.
It would be hard to punish poor women who believed they can’t care for another child or sentence the retarded to lethal injection. It would be impossible to rule that inflicting pain to get information is not torture until it reaches the point of organ failure (that is the current ruling of the attorney general- anything short of organ failure is not legally torture.) It would be impossible to take hostages, hold innocent people prisoner, inflict economic sanctions which deny people food, water and medicine to coerce them into doing what is in our best interests.
Jesus said all the laws are summed up in just two. Love the lord your God with all you heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbor as your self. He then went on and told the story of the good Samaritan just so there would never be any question . We are to love everyone on the planet. The good Samaritan had a different language, skin color, and religion. Samaria and Galilee were in constant battle. Their citizens were considered enemies of one another.
The religious men of the day were not willing help. They were afraid of being defiled because they feared he was dead and the law insisted that they not touch a dead person. Their adherence to the letter of the law kept them from having compassion and taking a risk. It was the “heathen” the one considered to be spiritually inferior who was moved to compassion.
Those who love the law gaze lovingly at their own glory and righteousness. These are the ones who want to punish people severely for sexual sins and identify who is deserving of God’s love, protection and support. Many say the bible is unclear about war but is very clear about sexual sin. They say that there are “just wars” that killing evil people is a Christian duty and sexual sins are an abomination to god.
The same people who take many other things literally disregard Jesus command to , “Love your enemies, Bless those who curse you, Pray for those who despitefully use you“. You know -the hard stuff! The stuff that involves personal sacrifice. They disregard Jesus commandment and warnings about even harming the hair on the head of a little child. These Followers of the old covenant actually use the name of Christ -Christ-ians to not only harm the hairs of little children but to use daisy bombs, depleted uranium weapons, rocket launchers and white phosphorous to blow off arms and legs and faces and burn the flesh until there is nothing left but blackened bones lying in the desert. Jesus said don’t harm a hair on their head. It was very clear!
Many today who use the name of Jesus use it in vain. (remember that was something we were commanded not to do) Most of our political leaders identify themselves as followers of Christ. They have judged who is good (that would be them) and who is evil (that would be anyone who does not cooperate with them) Our enemies were told by a “christian” that “the American lifestyle is not negotionable” At that point followers of Jesus should have taken to the streets, sent letters and e-mails and loudly proclaimed to the world that American Christians are willing to negotiate our life style if it means that others could live. Sadly perhaps this might not be true. As a nation we have not been the good Samaritan in the world today. I was willing to negotiate. I could give up one car, coordinate my trips to town. Wear more sweaters this winter, put solar panels on my house…..I would have done anything to prevent the “shock and awe” and the harming of the hairs on the heads of little Arab children.
Those who disregard Jesus’ very clear statements are saying that Jesus did not mean what he said or that he wasn’t a very clear communicator. He meant what he said! He was very clear! and THEN just in case his words weren’t enough he demonstrated what it looks like to love us to death. There is no way to miss what he is saying unless one wants to miss it. -Being a follower of Christ requires sacrifice of lifestyle, being willing to endure hardship, taking personal risks and responding to terror with love. That is what it means to be a Christ-ian. It is understandable that a president or government leader would feel a need at times to defend a country or to go to war but it should never be blamed on Jesus or attributed to his desire.
I wish the name of Jesus had not been dragged onto the bloodied battle field. I wish I did not have to speak publicly against the defaming of Jesus name. I wish I didn’t have to take a political stand but since his name has been dragged onto the battle field, his character defamed, his name taken in vain, I’m compelled His name is now associated with death and destruction of men women and children, communities and culture. I have no choice but to take a stand.
We do know right from wrong because Jesus gave everything he had to communicate it to us. We have his words, we have his stories we have his example of unconditional love and forgiveness. We had the old law written in stone but we have the new law written on our hearts. We had the old law which is enforced with stoning and animal sacrifices and the new law which is encouraged with love, compassion and Jesus’ death. We have the old law which condemns and we have the new law which sets us free. We have the old law which has passed away and the new law which will remain forever. It is simple, it is clear, it demands taking a risk and loving in the face of fear. It takes not going along with the crowd.
Be bold and couragous
Be angry and sin not! What a challenge. Jesus’ clearing the money changer from the temple is often used to support Christian’s use of violent force to intimidate and bring fear. -to terrorize. When I read this scripture I see a much different picture. It encourages me to be bold.
Imagine the temple-no doubt built of bricks -perhaps like adobe buildings in New Mexico. Usually buildings in desert regions have very few windows, thick walls and stone floors a heavy door which is opened in the afternoon. There is little ventilation and high temperatures. Imagine a courtyard close to the entrance filled with goats and sheep and foul, hundreds of temple sacrifices each day.- day in and day out. -The humid pungent smell and stains of fresh blood and burnt and burning flesh. The bleating sheep and goats, the squeaking foul all facing eminent death. Fresh manure baking on the stone pavement and bird droppings mingling with the smell of burning sins. The commoners standing in line spending hard earned money to buy the animals so they can kill them and become free from the guilt the rich pious merchants rabbis loaded them down with as they added on to the torah and created the Talmud of impossible laws to observe. The senseless killing of animals while hungry worshipers who go home feeling only a little less guilty.
Imagine the heart of Christ.- Knowing he was to be the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He the -once and for all- sacrificial lamb. No more needless animal sacrifices to assuage the guilt inflicted by impossible laws. No more standing in line, giving ones last dime to the golden coffers of the temple. The manipulations of the Sadducees and Pharisees would be over, their religious empires would be toppled. The people and the animals would be set free for noble purposes.
I’ve read this passage in several bibles. Depending on the translation or version one gets a different picture. In my grandpas Self-pronouncing ss teachers combination bible (showing in simple form all changes, additions, and omission made by the revisers in the king James Version - copyrighted in 1895) It looks like Jesus just picked up a few cords (I suspect used to transport the animals or tied around the legs of the foul) It just says cords laying near by. He tied a knot in the end of each and chased out the animals then he came back and over turned the tables of the money changers. I can’t see that he whipped any people. We have to realize that many things we just take for granted are really a result of the imaginations of renaissance painters. who came out of a very dark time. I remember the pictures in bible story books showing the money changers with terror in their eyes and their fore arms extended to protect their faces from a mighty whip. Some even show bloodied victims of Jesus wrath or Jesus with hate filled eyes. I find no evidence he committed any act of violence.
If God sees the sparrow fall, if he leaves the 99 to look for the little lost sheep how could it be possible he would inflict violence on other human beings. And if I can feel compassion and empathy for the people who stood in line and the animals whose death was certain I am sure that the source of all love and compassion -Jesus himself- was responding out of love.
Here is a little aside concerning animals: I am an animal lover and since I have goats and chickens (and a few pigeons who came to live with them,) And, I’ve been around sheep and will soon be caring for several alpacas - I sit up and pay attention when animals are mentioned in the bible. Goats and sheep especially are part of desert culture and used as metaphor to explain spiritual principles. Jesus is the good Shepard and his sheep know his voice (they know whose they are).
I have to admit I am always bothered to read that the sheep and goats will be separated and the sheep will go to the right hand of God and the goats will “burn in hell when Christ returns.” I always thought that sheep were identified as more virtuous than goats because they just follow along and don’t cause trouble. This doesn’t seem right to me as a follower of Christ because I seem to be getting into a lot of trouble these days just by repeating his words. So last time I went to visit Tammy the rancher who has herds of both sheep and goats (and admits she knows nothing about the bible) I asked her what she saw as the main difference between the herds. She quickly responded that Sheep are much more peaceful but goats are always competing for dominance. I suspect this is the reason Jesus uses the sheep analogy -they are peaceful and live in community well - they know his voice. But sheep are not easily startled and fearful.
How do we find the courage to stand against the religious money changers of our time? How do we love so much that we are compelled to speak out? To set the captives free from the weight of religious fundamentalism which demands seed faith money, sells magic cloths, and rugs and fancy boxed sets of books and tapes and cartoons and Jesus junk. Or those who tell people that God is punishing them for their sins in hurricanes and heart disease and is calling for assignations.
Following my recent article America‘s moral Decline and the Rise of False Christianity in which I identified the overflowing coffers of today’s megachruches someone responded saying it is necessary to have big budgets and elaborate electronics and studios because they are competing for the minds of children for video games and cartoons. I hadn‘t thought much about it but I replied that one of the best ways to teach a bible story is while it is happening. When you stop to help the homeless man or give a ride to someone who is stranded. That makes an impression our children tell to their friend and they will never forget the principles.
How do we find courage in a world which loves to promise security. Financial security, social security, homeland security. We have used our fears to wall us off from loving, from community, from taking risks, from speaking truth to religious dominionists.
Even in our good deeds we are not bold. We take the safest way out. I have often thought that if Matthew 25 were written for 2006 it would read. I was hungry and you gave me a map to the food bank, I was thirsty and you gave me lemonade powder so if I find water I can really enjoy it. I was a stranger and you reported me to the nicest INS agent. I was sick and in prison and you called your minister to drop off a pamphlet to let me know that God cares.
It takes boldness and courage to follow the narrow path. The gate is narrow and the path is hard.-If you noticed that the gate you went through was massive and that there are a lots people traveling with you on the easy way it is a good Idea to turn around, go back and then -find that narrow gate. This path is not a path of safety or security just ask Tom Fox and Rachel Corrie. There are steep edges, stumbling blocks. low hanging branches, twists and turns, there are homeless people along the way, there are loud hate filled preachers who stand in your way. There are dieing people, there are starving people there are people with illness and disease, there are prisoners, detainees, Republicans and Democrats and government agents who try to deter you from the narrow path. Just remember whose you are! Don’t go along with the crowd and bring honor to my name.
Bring Honor to Christ’s name
For many of us (especially Mennonites) our last names are held in high regard. Who is you father, who is your mother, who are your brothers and sisters and uncles, aunts and cousins. What is your family legacy? Have you brought shame or honor to your family? This is the question followers of Christ need to ask.
How have our actions or lack of actions reflected on the name of Christ. What do people know about my heavenly father after having met me? What do people around the world think of those who say they are imitators of Christ? I wonder if Moslems are wanting to convert to Christianity these days? Is there really a war on Christians? (If there is -it is just getting started ).
It is not because America’s Christians are acting too much like Christ or loving too much that people hate them, or that they are too generous, or too empathetic. It is because they are not acting like Christ at all. They are using his name to condone greed and violence and hasten Armageddon. Why do they hate us? I wonder----
Let’s remember whose we are, discern right from wrong and take bold action! Then we will bring honor back to his name. I challenge you this week to read the words in red and be courageous for Christ. ………….“just remember who you are”