published Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Cook: The bad news about the good news

The American Bible Society just named Chattanooga the most Bible-minded city in America.

Good news? It's terrible news. Why couldn't we have ranked somewhere in the forgettable middle, crammed in between Waco (ranked 43rd out of 100) and Daytona Beach (65th)? We don't want to be at the front of the line like Peter, but rather on the outskirts, doubting and confused, like Thomas.

First place means the whole world's watching. First place means there is not one city in America that takes the Bible as seriously as we do.

Quick. We'd better get a few things in order.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.

Goodbye, 401(k). Adios, stock portfolio.

Jesus says not to invest in things of this earth, but to double down on the treasures of the spirit. Compassion. Prayer. Equanimity. All the things they don't sell at Walmart.

And get ready, Mr. Mayor. The next time you start talking about pensions, Christian protesters will flood the room, shouting about the sin of saving and storing up our money.

If they packed the house to oppose domestic partner benefits, just think of how angry they'll be about retirement funds, since Jesus talks amply about money (hint: he's not that partial to it) and never once about being gay.

Whatever you eat and drink, do so unto the glory of the Lord.

Next Sunday, I had planned on bathing in light beer and cheese dip, spending a fleshy four hours watching cheerleaders cavort while grown men -- whose combined salaries total more than some Third World countries' entire GDP -- brutalize one another for the chance to win really fat rings and tons of money.

It's called the Super Bowl.

And I'm starting to think it may be a sin.

You can't spell gluttony without g-u-t, and it's hard to experience Super Bowl Sunday without mass commercialism and consumption.

What would Jesus do?

What we really want to know is: What will Peyton do?

Every man that looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery.

At least Beyonce isn't performing at halftime again.

Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.

The top Bible city distinction is great news for the hundreds of homeless people

living in their vans and under the bridges, who undoubtedly will suddenly find themselves housed, fed and employed, as Chattanooga kills the fatted calf on their behalf.

It's wonderful news for all our nonprofits that run on budgets so thin they make shoestrings look fat. They'll be flush with money. (If we can't store it for ourselves, we have to do something with it.)

Every downtown block will have a homeless shelter. Just look at Portland, Maine. They're ranked 91st on the Bible list, and guess how many come-as-you-are, open-every-day, all-year homeless shelters they have?

(We have zero.)

"We have five," said Mark Swann.

Swann is executive director of Preble Street, a part soup kitchen, part shelter, part resource center for Portland's homeless poor. Back in the 1980s, Swann said, the city adopted a mantra: Nobody should ever sleep outside.

"It's part of Portland's values," he said.

And they're ranked 91st?

Lay down your swords.

Taken literally, this is bad news for Civil War reenactors. But with a touch of imagination, we can see that Jesus, who said this to his armed disciples, would in today's lexicon be talking about guns.

No more concealed carry. No more NRA. No more Stand Your Ground. No more guns in bars and trunks and parks.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Would this spell the end of political partisanship? Last call for military recruiters in the area? What does this mean for SEC rivalries?

What does any of this mean?

(It's a question I ask myself a lot while writing).

Let's be honest. The Bible? It's a bear of a book. One moment, I'm awash in divine love, the next, I've got Jesus telling me to sell my possessions, love my enemies and take up my cross.

It's like being embraced by a lover who's also a pickpocket. It's like standing on your head while the world turns upside down.

It's like losing your life.

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die," Bonhoeffer wrote.

Who wants that? I'm telling you, we ought to tremble at this award, not ho-hum it. Can't we send it back? Thanks, but no thanks?

Because if we take it seriously, everything changes.

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Uh oh.

That doesn't apply to me, does it?

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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lkeithlu said...

This is great! Thank you.

January 26, 2014 at 6:20 a.m.
conservative said...

"Because if we take it seriously, everything changes."

Well Mr. Cook is getting close. Let me explain.

The verses I often cite when confronting those who push Homosexuality/sodomy:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Now, why does the unbeliever, the Atheist go ballistic when they see their condemnation and judgment in those verses? Because it is the word of God the most powerful thing in the universe ( God spoke the universe into existence). God's word is authoritative and convicts us of our sins against Him. Hebrews 4:12

These verses in 1 Corinthians 6;9-10 are meant for the unbeliever, the non Christian.

Now the following verses tell us of a great change that occurs in the standing of a Christian before God and his behavior.

"Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:10

Notice the very important "were" denoting a change in us, both in standing before God and our behavior.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are a changed person, our sins are forgiven, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and thus our behavior changes. Even though we can still commit some of those sins listed above we have a changed heart and their frequency becomes less and less.

The word "justified" is a legal term denoting forgiveness and preachers often say "just as I had never sinned." There is no sentence!

"Sanctified" means that we are set apart to glorify God with our lives and to serve Him and tell others of His wonderful grace, mercy and love which He demonstrated when He died on the cross for us.

There is so much more to be said on the subject than this but I have probably already lost some who might have been reading.

January 26, 2014 at 8:11 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Actually, no one really reads your sanctimonious posts, con.

January 26, 2014 at 12:23 p.m.
jesse said...

Basically what it means is "We got more hypocrites than anywhere else in the country!"

There has never been but one Christian and I'm not too sure about him!!

January 26, 2014 at 1:51 p.m.
yaffay said...

This is a magnificent article, Mr. Cook. I feel sure many across the city who consider themselves wonderful examples of Christianity are squirming a bit right now.

January 26, 2014 at 6:52 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

The sanctimonious holier than thou are apparently slow readers and never have reached the New Testament. Hint: there's a twist to the plot and judging those who are different is no longer the message from the lead character.

January 26, 2014 at 9:05 p.m.
Rob51 said...

thanks, again, David. So, we are the best at being "Bible-minded" (doesn't that mean that we "Mind" it, do as it says?) This "award" only makes me more embarrassed about the obvious (at least to outsiders) deficiencies of our community lifestyle. Its sad that we bury our heads in our sanctimonious words while our neighbors cry out for compassion, but find themselves ignored by so many of those who profess to "mind" the words of Jesus. Take stock and step up, Chattanooga!

January 27, 2014 at 7:03 p.m.
SPQR said...

In actual operation, Nature is cruel and merciless to men, as to all other beings. Let a tribe of human animals live a rational life, Nature will smile upon them and their posterity; but let them attempt to organize an unnatural mode of existence, an equality Elysium, and they will be punished even to the point of extinction.

January 28, 2014 at 3:44 a.m.
Salsa said...

Wow...they actually pay someone to write drivel like this?

January 29, 2014 at 7:18 p.m.
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