A Repudiation of Christ

 

I once preached a Sunday morning message at a church in Lumberton, North Carolina.  The pastor had reached out to me while I was working as an editorial writer at the FayObserver in Fayetteville. He had read my book – Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining How Fear Erodes Our Faith (Zondervan). 

Of all the books I’ve written, that remains my husband’s favorite. It’s really a treatise on how I moved away from fundamentalism and the Religion of Being Certain. The Religion of Certainosity, I called it. That book was published in 2008 by Zondervan whose leadership thought briefly about moving away from promoting fundamentalism themselves. The operative word here is “briefly.”

Here’s the thing you should know about Christian publishing companies – they are often headed up by people who are not kooks. They don’t believe in the God projected by a lot of the books they produce. Publishing is a business, first and foremost. They put out a lot of Apocalyptic literature because there’s a demand for it among the masses. It is those books that pay the bills and make it possible for Christian publishers to slip in a book or two about the Christian response to Climate Change or Racism. Feminism is still a topic Christian publishers shy away from because it upsets the whole paradigm of patriarchy upon which nearly every church in America is built. By default, Christian publishers encourage group think, and it is this group think that has helped create our current political climate.

But I digress. Sort of.

I was invited by the pastor in Lumberton to preach at a Sunday Morning worship service. You have to understand that giving a woman the power of the microphone is a huge deal in a church in Lumberton, North Carolina, where people still believe women should never teach men. Sigh.

The church was packed.

The other thing you need to know is that the reason I was invited by this particular pastor is because he had read my book, had read the section of the book where I talk about homosexuality and how the church had gotten it wrong:

“A person can go around claiming that homosexuals are responsible for all our nation’s ills, but that doesn’t make it true. It’s a big fat bold-faced lie that is confusing folks and making them forget the truth of the message of Christ, which is we are to love God with our whole heart, mind, body and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves, even our gay and lesbian neighbors.”

Over coffee in Fayetteville one day prior to my speaking, this pastor told me that he was fairly certain his 15-year-old son was gay. It was a hard thing for him to talk about, not because the truth of that made him love his son any less, but because his love for his son compelled him to want to protect him. And, let’s be honest, because having a gay son could cost him his job, his livelihood. If the church community found out, they quite possibly would require him to denounce his son or step down from the ministry.

His question to me was fairly straightforward: How can I help my son? Not, how can I protect my job?

I still remember the message I delivered that day in Lumberton. It was the message out of Luke 8: 22-25:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 

“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Stopping a storm might seem like a pretty major event, if one hadn’t already witnessed Jesus cast out demons, heal Peter’s mother-in-law, and heal a man on the Sabbath, a clear violation of religious law at the time. I don’t know about you, but I think Jesus would have had me at the cast out the demon point:

 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 

The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Yeah.

That’s the point where I’m going to believe this man is a wizard capable of calming a raging storm.

Yet, the question Jesus put to the frightened men in the storm seem as relevant today as ever: Where is your faith?

He might as well be asking: What is it you believe about me? About yourselves?

It’s clear from the photos out of Lumberton today, the answer for far too many is that Christ has simply become a icon through which they channel their bigotry and patriarchy, their racism and their xenophobia. Whatever message of love they once held dear has now turned to ashes upon the altar of fear.

They wholeheartedly believe that Trump will usher in the Kingdom of God. Not Jesus.

They are willing to sacrifice friendships, family, their money and even their very health in allegiance to a Anti-Christ.

Donald Trump is a man whose entire life is a repudiation of the life of Christ.

And they cannot or will not see it.

When Jesus asks of them, Where is your faith?

Their answer is in Donald Trump.

Years ago when my children were the ages my grandchildren are now, I had a dream in which I was in the midst of a raging storm. Before waking completely, I received a word I believed then and believe now was from God. The message was pretty straightforward: “In your life there will be many storms. There will be scary times, but as long as you stay by Jesus’s side, there will be calm in the midst of that storm.”

I awoke comforted by that message.

There are many things I was taught as a young woman in the name of religion than I no longer believe:

Homosexuality is a sin. Women don’t belong in the pulpit. A girl can get pregnant by swimming in the same water as boys. Men should be heads of a household. Women shouldn’t wear pants with a zipper in front. A woman’s body belongs to her husband. Black people shouldn’t marry white people.

But there are some things I hold steadfast to:

Perfect love cast out all fear. Love God with your whole heart, mind, body, and soul, and others just as much as you do yourself. If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I’m only a noise. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so that I could move mountains (or calm raging seas) but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, but have not love, I gain nothing.

So that’s what I told that pastor when he asked how he could best help his gay son: “Love him,” I said.

As we face these uncertain days ahead, let us not act out of fear, but let’s let love compel us.

Let’s vote in a way that reflects the love of God for all people.

Let’s vote in a way that honors people of all walks of life and not just those who think or act or look like us.

Let’s vote in a way that encourages a spirit of unity and goodness, not one of derision and hatefulness.

Let’s vote in a way that lifts of the hopeless, encourages the downtrodden, that heals the brokenhearted.

Let’s vote in a way that says to children, to the sick, to the poor, you matter to me.

Let’s vote in those who build up our faith and vote out those who incite our fears.

Let’s vote.

Karen Spears Zacharias is an author/journalist.

 

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

8 Comments

Rod Humphrey

about 4 weeks ago

You're still a fundamentalist, only you've abandoned the Bible as your standard of measure. You now judge based upon your own standard. (Judges 17:16, 21:25) The focus of judgement needs to be repentance to God's standard. If not, you're enabling and that IS NOT LOVE. There is much more to say face to face. If you get the chance..... RH

Reply

Karen Spears Zacharias

about 4 weeks ago

You've just proved my point.

Reply

JENNIE HELDERMAN

about 4 weeks ago

Powerful message, Karen. I hope people hear it.

Reply

Karen Spears Zacharias

about 4 weeks ago

Thanks, Jennie. As Flannery said, our job is to write it. What God does with it from there is his business.

Reply

AF Roger

about 4 weeks ago

A few weeks ago, my wife made me catch my breath at the breakfast table. She said, "You know who Donald Trump reminds me of? Jim Jones, Jonestown, Guyana." Exactly. He is not a political movement, a problem solver or a responsibility taker and never has been. He has created a messianic movement not at all about grace and Christ-likeness but about himself. Or the idea of himself. The disciples' chronic lack of faith is not a lack of "belief" understood through a 20th- or 21st-century doctrinal definition. It seems much more their inability to recognize or to exercise faithfulness to the God-likeness that creates in love and the Christ-likeness that loves in humility and grace. God's fundamental challenge has never been how to forgive sin or get a savior injected into the world. The nearly divinely impossible task has been to goad us, nudge us into being who and what we were created to be so that we do not ultimately destroy ourselves and the garden God built for us to tend and keep. Our history is a sobering litany of bad choices. Law sells itself in bulk. Gospel is hard, life-long work that we mostly give up on. Hence, we fall for false messiahs all the time. For a mind expanding discussion of messianism that is timeless and contemporary, see Walter Wink's book The Human Being--Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man, especially pp. 114-115.

Reply

Karen Spears Zacharias

about 4 weeks ago

I've been saying for 2 years now that we aren't dealing with a political party but with a cult of personality worship. Hard to imagine anyone being attracted to his personality but apparently there are some. Thanks for the book recommend.

Reply

Suzanne DealFitzgerald

about 4 weeks ago

I feel uncomfortable hearing or reading about the bible interpretations from many in my family and the few friends I have left that dare bring it up. There is so much hate right now, such determination that the bible says the thing that my friend or family member is trying to promote. I would hope that a book this big, a book with so many stories, is that way to encourage someone to find a connection that they may need, a reason that they may live in peace and love. You ma'am, bring Church and State to people like me, in a way that is upright and yet kind. I listen with a more open heart, at least until my brain tells me to shut it down. Because, sometimes, I must still shut it down.

Reply

Karen Spears Zacharias

about 4 weeks ago

Oh, I get it, Suzanne. I really do. I think we all need a good long break from Trump and evangelicals who support him. It's exhausting. I hope and pray to God he loses, so we can all get some sleep.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.