Saturday, April 22, 2006

4.22.06 Cobb: Divine Mushroom Cloud: A Call to Worship

Divine Mushroom Cloud: A Call to Worship
by Karen Horst Cobb

On June 2nd the god of America will be paraded before the people of the earth causing them to tremble in fear. Americans will again marvel as they worship the god of their own creation. Just like the restless Israelites in the desert who grew inpatient with god and fashioned a golden calf to protect them we have grown inpatient with god and fashioned a shiny idol of power. Southern Methodist University is working with the new clergy of death who have named the idol Divine Strake.

Divine: Having the nature of or being a deity. Of, relating to, emanating from, or being the expression of a deity: sought divine guidance through meditation. Being in the service or worship of a deity; sacred. Superhuman; godlike. Supremely good or beautiful; magnificent: a divine performance of the concerto. Extremely pleasant; delightful: had a divine time at the ball. Heavenly; perfect.

The 700 tons of explosives designed to simulate the effects of a nuclear weapon will create a glorious mushroom cloud. The goal of the ammonium nitrate and fuel to be detonated on Shoshone land will cover Las Vegas with a mushroom cloud and will measure 3.5 on the Richter scale. Some believe it is in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty which banned all testing for nuclear weapons. This simulated explosion will show the "enemy" and the war planners how the real thing will impact the ground and the air in which a nuclear bomb is detonated. Specifically, it is designed to simulate using a tactical nuclear weapon on underground facilities like the ones we are told exist in Iran. If this were the real thing the death toll would be huge, people would be incinerated in a flash with no chance to "duck and cover", much of Nevada would be contaminated with radiation. For any who might survive in the surrounding area they would experience a curse of cancers and deformities which may effect their children and their children's children. The evidence of America's idolatry is clear. We have named it Divine, worship it in our churches and trust in its power.

The names for our God used to be the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace but the names of America's idol are Divine Hates, Divine Helcat, Divine War Hawk and we practice nuclear stockpile stewardship. Many people who identify themselves as being born again , who profess to be dead to self and alive in Christ, now put their trust in and honor the development and use of nuclear weapons. It seems that a massive shell game of mass destruction has occurred. The wizards of treachery have taken away the love of Jesus while his worshipers were distracted by politics. They have been manipulated by fear but Jesus said, " perfect love casts out fear."

Perhaps it is because many are unhappy in their daily lives due to relationship problems, economic difficulties or feelings of being disconnected. Perhaps they fear some impending doom and want to quickly alleviate their discomfort with the belief that there is a mighty force which can prevent more harm from reaching our shores. Perhaps they want to just "bring it on" so there are no scary surprises in the future. Perhaps they have an emotional need to believe they and their families are more valuable to God than those of other lands and cultures.

The Israelites who experienced the same human anxieties responded in the same way. They fashioned a golden calf which represented their need to find security against hunger, poverty and attack. They gave of their wealth to create it and celebrated their ingenuity and their ability to make a god. We read that God was angry with the people for corrupting themselves and for forgetting his promises to them. They trusted in the golden calf as they made peace offerings to it and believed it would protect them from the evil doers. After they had given their resources to the effort and confessed their faith in its ability to protect them they continued to party. Much as today's Christians supported invading the middle east after September 11 and then went shopping.

Clearly when the nuclear genie was first summoned from the bottle the nation gathered round and worshiped the power of their ingenuity. The Israelites began to follow the pillar of cloud after they repented from idolatry . We however, are following the mushroom cloud of our false god of divine hate and testing its power in the Nevada desert. Each year at tax time we contribute our wealth just like the gold smelters in the desert did when they took off their gold earrings to fashion the shiny calf. We sign our continuing pledge on our tax returns and offer our resources to our devouring nuclear god. As a nation we look for aggressive leaders who are able to bully the rest of the world. We bring out our god and parade it before our enemies and boast of its power.

Just like the Israelites in the desert we beg for a god to go before us so no harm comes our way. The actions of the fearful and proud calf worshipers of ancient times resulted in the Ten Commandments. The first and greatest is "you shall have no other Gods before me" (Exodus 34:12) and the other nine Jesus summed up as loving your neighbor as your self. Clearly many Christians in America have broken the first and greatest commandment which results in the breaking of all the rest. We can not embrace our neighbors with mushroom clouds. The nuclear god is a jealous god who will consume us all. We clearly have named our idol divine and support its worship in many of our churches.

Some leaders of America's churches remain silent on the topic of war while others proclaim its glory. Most embrace the writings and teachings of St. Augustine. When Rome was sacked by the Visigoths, the non-resistant Christians were blamed. Just war theory provided a way out of adherence to the peaceful teachings of Christ. It was a way to merge Christianity and nationalism. The church in America conveniently applied and misapplied the principles of Just war to rally the political Christians to support the war in Iraq. This embracing of violence works well for most church leaders since many of their parishioners work for companies who have military contracts, or have family members in the military as our state religion advances.

The trust in military might by many religious leaders is obvious. There are many blatant examples among political Christians. Jerry Falwell stated on CNN, "Blow them all away in the name of the lord." He and others like him are Zion's Christian Soldiers. The Council for National Policy (CNP) is the group of America's political preachers and leaders who worship the divine weapons and meet in secret. These efforts are fueled as the parishioners of mainline denominations are influenced by the para-church organization Promise Keepers. These well attended meetings are held in stadiums and attended by thousands as they support and honor the common perception of men as military aggressors. There are smaller para-church organizations which are drawing believers of all demographics into idolatry of military might. We named it Divine, we worship it and we give it power to protect us from evil.

As you have been told over and over," All options are on the table when it comes to Iran. Our president has told us he is the "decider" of who the evil doers are and who deserves to be killed. We are trusting in a man to use our man made god to destroy a perception of "evil". If the president's war planners carry out their plans many agree it would be the active beginning of WW III The nations of the world are already choosing sides and will contribute their own divine weapons to the efforts. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) gives us an idea of how the two sides of a nuclear war will shake out.

Will we use a nuclear weapon against a threat which does not yet exist and call upon the god of this world - the god of power, dominance and military might? Robert Oppenheimer called the atomic bomb the destroyer of worlds. It has become our source of wealth, power, and the focus of our technology. We have made a deal with the devil and worship at the feet of destructive power. Many Christians won't publicly say they put their trust in our nuclear arsenal but secretly they breathe a sigh of relief that we have a national god of our very own and possess Divine weapons. Our trust in this powerful entity makes it easier to pursue the American dream and just keep shopping and owning more stuff to fill the love shaped hole in our hearts.

There are some Christians who have renounced the god of war, but more of our church leaders just remain silent. Is there any act of violence that our government could do which would cause church leaders who profess their love for the teaching of Jesus to make bold statements of love?. There is torture and they remain silent, there is imprisonment without charges and they remain silent, There are anal probes and sexual humiliation and they remain silent, there are children and women taken hostages, and they remain silent. There is the use of depleted uranium weapons which cause heinous birth defects and they remain silent, there are bomblets which children think are toys but which blow off limbs and kill them and the Christian leaders remain silent, There is the hell fire use of white phosphorous and they remain silent. There are proud boastful leaders who use Jesus' name while committing acts of extortion, thievery, and domination and falsely hold themselves up as martyrs for the false Christian god. Yet, most church leaders remain silent.

If the nuclear god is called upon to save us will they continue to remain silent? Will they continue to worship the power of the mushroom cloud in our churches? Is there any thing of Christ's words and example for which church leaders will take a stand? Is there any egregious act from which they can not look away? Those who live by the bomb will die by the bomb! This statement is not some sort of esoteric spiritual magic but is a result of natural consequences and the wisdom of the Living God. Sin is sin because the natural consequences are sure destruction. Death and destruction has been pronounced divine, churches preach it from the pulpit and look away from it's hellish fire destruction and human suffering.

Some want to ignore the issue and wash their hands of responsibly by repeating statements concerning the inevitable destruction of the "last days". Some repeat sentiments of old time hymns, "this world is not my home." Some voice the belief that we are to honor our leaders whom Christ placed in power. Or overwhelmed by the immensity of the situation, some acknowledge it's bad but just sigh, " what can you do?" There still is time to return to the peaceful message of Jesus. There is a Christ-like remnant, a church in exile and strong peace churches. Begin today to speak out.

Perhaps these are the "last days" but do you want to be on the side of love and compassion or on the side of death suffering and destruction? Will you be found worshiping the power of the living God or the power of the idol of death? Like it or not, for now this world is our home. Maybe you do not value your earthly existence but your earthy family members will suffer and die without you speaking a word of protest. In fact you will have contributed to the mass destruction. In a representative government the citizens are the leaders and responsible for influencing the laws. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but it is our responsibility to try. Yes it is bad but you can and you must do everything in your power to speak out to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

The test on June 2nd, the trial run of the use of a nuclear weapon is still six weeks away. Perhaps we can make a difference and change the course of history. Everyone has three people representing them in Washington where the powers are unleashed. We each have two US senators and one US representative. If you don't know how to contact yours find out. Start by speaking out and shaping the actions of our representative government. Then, work in any way you can to make every church a peace church and live love and compassion. Chose ye this day whom you will serve.

Karen Horst Cobb wrote No Longer a Christian and No Longer a Christian - Part II published by in the fall of 2004 and several other articles on false christianity. She is a mother and a grandmother, and with God's grace, tries to follow the example of Christ as she speaks Christ's message to the world that there is no Government Issue Jesus (GI-Joe Jesus.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

4.14.06 Cordaro: A Good Friday Message

Frank Cordaro climbs over the gate at the STARC Armory near Des Moines to protest of the presence of Iowa National Guard troops in Iraq in November 2004.

Good Friday – April 14, 2006


Death for us humans is both universal and personal. It is universal because no one gets off the planet alive. It is also personal because each one of us must experience our own death. No one can die our deaths for us.

My first real experience of death came with the death of my father, George. There was no one in the world I loved more than my dad. He was a teacher, coach and athletic director of Dowling Catholic High School at the time when it was the all-boys catholic high school in Des Moines. His whole life was directed to serving and loving his God, his family and his work at Dowling, in that order. I cannot say too many good things about my dad. He was honest, true and a friend to all. He lived his life passionately with a strong sense of purpose and meaning. He was a gentle man with a contagious spirit. I lived my life to please him. He was that good.

When my dad died of a heart attack my senior year at Dowling on Easter Sunday morning April 6, 1969, my world collapsed. As he lay dying in a room at Mercy Hospital they let his three oldest children go in to see him, one at a time. There was no time left for my three younger brothers to see him. I was the last in the family to see him alive, though he was barely alive at that time. All I can remember saying to him was "Don't worry Dad. God will take care of everything." I must have said this at least three times. All my dad could do was look at me and let his eyes speak. In them I saw his fear, his love and his understanding.

It took me years to sort out the many layers of meaning of my father's death. For a very long time I had a real fear of death. It was not until I was a parish priest that I acquired some comfort around death. Being a parish priest afforded me rich and meaningful experiences with the dying. As a priest I could walk into the middle of a dying person's last days, hours and even minutes and ask the most important and personal questions. To ask a dying person if they are ready to die is to ask a person to open themselves to the deepest things in their hearts. It was often the most moving and humbling thing I did as a priest, revealing to me, through others, what true faith in God is all about.

My second most personal encounter with death was my own near death experience of dying from a heart attack in September 2001. It was a killer heart attack, the pain was unbearable. I was lucky I was five minutes away from the hospital. Another 10 minutes getting to the hospital would have cost me my life.

I remember being in great pain as I was being taken to the operating room. There was no time to pray or think or do anything to prepare. I managed at my last moment of consciousness to give myself over to God. When I awoke after surgery, I was still in great pain, drugged out on meds, with lots of tubes and needles in my body. As I gradually got my wits back, the first thing I realized was that for me death had ceased to be a metaphor. It had no meaning for me. All I remember was coming out of a kind of darkness, though calling it darkness is saying too much. It was more like nothingness. It was weeks before I was able to use words to explain this experience and months before I thought in metaphoric terms about death again.


Nobody knows for certain what was on the mind of Jesus when he was dying on the cross. No one ever will. I am certain I know what was not on his mind. I do not believe he was thinking he was the sacrificial blood offering demanded by his Father, God, for the sins of the world. All such sacrificial language used to give meaning to Jesus' death came after his death and resurrection, a kind of theological "Monday Morning Quarterbacking", where the meaning for events is given in hindsight.

Furthermore, I do not believe that Jesus' goal in life was to get nailed to a cross. Certainly, the fact that he foresaw in his continued public speaking and acting out of the Kingdom of God's demands that he was putting his life in jeopardy was no great divine insight. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero all foresaw their probability of being killed for their peace and justice work. None of these modern martyrs lived to die, not do I believe did Jesus. Jesus' crucifixion was a consequence of his being faithful to his mission and call from God. Jesus set out in his life to correct the faults of his own tradition; in the process he realized the old covenant based on law could not be fixed. What was needed was a new covenant based on love. This covenant was based on a truer understanding of the nature of God and God's relationship to humanity. This covenant's two working principles were unconditional love and unlimited forgiveness. Jesus believed that God operated under these principles and that human beings could do the same. Jesus instinctively knew that worldly powers would violently resist this new covenant and he knew he risked his life to follow it as would others who joined him.


The way we answer this question will greatly determine our understanding of who Jesus is. There are many who believe Jesus' suffering and death was a singular event in human history. (Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, comes to mind as an example of this thinking.) Because Jesus was taking on the sins of the world, his suffering and death are unmatched by any other human suffering and
death. Though countless others had suffered the same fate as Jesus and countless more have suffered longer and more gruesome forms of torture and death, none can compare to Jesus' suffering and death. This line of thinking placed in our modern context is not helpful. It is hard to take Jesus' humanity seriously if you believe that Jesus' suffering and death were singular and beyond all ordinary human suffering.

The hardest thing facing the New Testament authors was convincing people of their time that Jesus was the Son of God and there were no others beside him. That God had sons was not a problem for first century people. Greek mythology is full of stories that involve the father god Zeus' many affairs with human women and the various 'sons' that were produced (e.g., Hercules, Dionysius, etc.). In addition, everyone knew that god had a very famous 'son.' They knew his name and where he lived. His name was Caesar and he lived in Rome. Convincing people that a poor Jewish peasant, a vagabond preacher who fell afoul with the Romans and got crucified in Jerusalem, had a greater claim to God's sonship than Caesar greatly affected how the New Testament was written, especially the four gospels. The problem we have today is exactly the opposite. For most professing Christians, the divine side of Jesus is a given, it's his human side that is not seriously believed.

One way to take Jesus' humanity seriously is to understand his suffering and death as all too common and universal, a reality that people lived with in Jesus' day and in our own. The truth is anywhere the poor and oppressed exist we'll find violent political repression. This is a common human experience. Just as Jesus did, we can find people who are nonviolent, justice-seeking peacemakers in these poor and oppressed communities. Many of these people end up suffering from the same violent political repression that dominates the poor and the oppressed. This is how the saints and martyrs throughout history have joined in Jesus' redemptive work to heal and restore our broken world.

This does not mean only the suffering that ends in martyrdom is nredemptive. All human suffering can serve a redemptive purpose. However, the suffering that comes with those who die for the faith and/or die as a result of their nonviolent resistance to injustice and oppression represents the normative kind of suffering in the manner that Jesus suffered. The Catholic Church recognizes this hierarchy of redemptive suffering when it officially certifies a person a martyr who died for the faith.

Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Romero are good examples of how redemptive suffering works today. After each one of their deaths, countless people were inspired by their lives and have tried to follow their example. These are examples where true blood sacrifice can be redeeming.

Not all blood sacrifice inspires people to do "good." The "powers" and "principalities" (Rom 8:36) are also sustained by blood sacrifice. These are the people who believe in redemptive violence as a means to serve God and country. In this regard, the 2000 plus U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the suicide bomber martyrs from the middle east die for the same theological reasons, only on different sides of a win/lose struggle.

When I think of the Middle East, the lands of the Bible, and all the violent forces at work there and our own U.S. contribution to the violence, my heart breaks. Is it as hopeless as it seems? Only with New Testament eyes do I see signs of hope. When I call to mind two Americans who tried to bring the nonviolent love of Christ to the region at the cost of their lives -- Rachel Corrie and Tom Fox -- I say, "Amen!" Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by a U.S. made bulldozer trying to stop the Israeli Government from destroying a Palestinian family's home. The body of Tom Fox, who was one of the four Christian Peace Makers who were kidnapped . . . was found in February . . . with fatal bullet wounds.

These two U.S. peacemakers hardly match the 2000 plus deaths of U.S. soldiers sent to make war in the Middle East. Then I'm reminded that Jesus died alone on the cross, abandoned by all his friends and disciples and that the Roman Empire and its heirs are firmly in control of our world despite the truth of the first Easter Sunday Resurrection claims. This is the case despite a long litany of saints and martyrs known and unknown. Then it dawns on me just how big a leap of faith a person has to make to truly believe in Jesus' new covenant of love.

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A former priest, Frank Cordaro is now serving a six month federal sentence (his most recent of several) for nonviolent direct action. He and other members of the Catholic Worker community regularly protest against nuclear weapons and the war in Iraq, which they oppose on the basis of their faith and their understanding of the meaning and value of the teachings of Jesus.