There was an interesting recent editorial on dailybeast.com entitled: Why I’m coming out as a Christian. Columnist Ana Marie Cox who has written for a number of periodicals and has quite the following on twitter (1.3 million and counting) wrote the article. I heard about it today when Ms. Cox appeared on the cable morning show Morning Joe on MSNBC and talked about the reasons she chose to ‘come out’ of the religious closet. A week ago the news cycle had picked up on a comment made by Governor Scott Walker who was questioning President Obama’s Christian faith. Ms. Cox, a liberal commentator and obvious supporter of President Obama, opined if the President wasn’t a Christian than what did that make her? In her television interview this morning she did a decent enough job in trying to explain her own Christianity (enough for me to hunt her article down anyway and read it for myself), and what I found was a testimonial mixture of both good and bad. I don’t mean that as a criticism of Ms. Cox or what she wrote, but merely an observation. Who amongst us has a testimony that isn’t mixed with both good and bad? Who now wants to share that testimony with 1.3 million people? Ms. Cox did and what she wrote was powerful.
Of course her article is laced with the usual double-standard when dealing with conservatives and liberals. She writes: I know that when conservatives talk about Obama’s faith, they are also talking race, fear, society, and status, as well as winning elections. Obama’s Christianity—or lack of it—matters to them only to the extent that it proves an existing hypothesis about who he is at his core.
This kind of comment doesn’t surprise me especially from one leaning to the left and who is paid to write about politics. One could easily substitute the word ‘conservatives’ with ‘liberals’ and attach the moniker to a Republican darling and appeal to the other side of the aisle just as easily. But looking past the politics for a moment and just focusing in on her confession, one finds much to admire. Cox writes:
Here is why I believe I am a Christian: I believe I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I believe in the grace offered by the Resurrection. I believe that whatever spiritual rewards I may reap come directly from trying to live the example set by Christ. Whether or not I succeed in living up to that example is primarily between Him and me.
The pastor in me would want to nuance that last sentence and encourage Ms. Cox that there is no such thing as an ‘individual Christian’ and that we are saved into a Body of believers. St. Paul writes: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (I Corinthians 12:27). So no, it’s not just between you and Him and yes, your ‘living up’ does have corporate and communal ramifications. It’s a slight nuance but an important one. But the rest of her confession is as orthodox and Christ-affirming as anything I’ve read from any political commentator working from either side of the aisle. One wishes that our President (and all of our politicians!) would be just as a clear.
I especially like that Ms. Cox goes out of her way to demonstrate what she doesn’t believe as well: To be clear, I don’t just believe in God. I am a Christian. Decades of mass culture New Ageism has fluffed up “belief in God” into a spiritual buffet, a holy catch-all for those who want to cover all the numbers: Pascal’s wager as a roulette wheel and not a coin toss. Me, I’m going all in with Jesus. It’s not just that the payoff could be tremendous—it already has been! The only cost is the judgment that comes from others, from telling people that my belief has a specific shape, with its own human legacy of both shame and triumph.
To that I also offer a hearty, ‘Amen and AMEN!’ Is there a better way to describe what Ms. Cox identifies as the ‘human legacy’ than one of both shame and triumph? That certainly describes my own life. But there is even more. Ms. Cox goes further to write about the ‘artifact of ego’ and that there will be the temptation to make this confession solely about her: A liberal who is a Christian. She points out that not only is that kind of thinking foolishness (Ecclesiastes agrees with her, identifying it as vanity) but more importantly that is not what God is looking for. I love this line she wrote: God does not see charming dissonance in being a liberal who follows Christ; He’s not looking for that New York Times Style section trend story. No He is not indeed!
In the end Ms. Cox sums up the message that she hopes her readers take to heart: What Christ teaches me, if I let myself be taught, is that there is only one kind of judgment that matters. I am saved not because of who I am or what I have done (or didn’t do), but simply because I have accepted the infinite grace that was always offered to me.
Agreed! We cannot earn our salvation. It is the free act of grace. Ms. Cox writes, ‘they’ll (Christianity) let anyone in!’ She is absolutely correct! Confession aside, I’m sure that culturally and politically, Ms. Cox remains a mixed-bag (i.e. holds opinions and views that run contrary to Scripture). She admits as much in this article. Like all of us she is in the long journey of living in both the ‘already and the not yet’ and will find that life and sanctification between the Advents is messy. But as she grows in her confession I’m confident that God will work all of that out for His good pleasure and in His good time. He certainly does that with me—and if His grace is sufficient for big sinners like Ms. Cox and me, His grace is sufficient for all who call on His name.
Since 2006, Dr. Dave Lescalleet has served as the lead pastor of City Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Whitefield Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Knox Theological Seminary (D.Min). At Knox he consulted formally with Dr. John H. Armstrong as an advisor on his doctoral writing project. In addition to his pastoral work, Dr. Lescalleet also serves as a chaplain for Christus Spohn Hospital and is actively involved in helping churches prepare for transition in pastoral leadership. You can follow Dave on various social media. You can also learn more about his vocation through his website at pastortransition.com and his personal blog: Corpus Christian. You can find David and his church at https://www.citychurchcc.com and his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/dave.lescalleet.