20 Truths from ‘Faith Among the Faithless’ by Mike Cosper

Mike Cosper, executive director of Harbor Media, a non-profit media company serving Christians in a post-Christian world, recently wrote Faith Among the Faithless: Learning from Esther How to Live in a World Gone Mad. He served for 16 years as a pastor at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Below are 20 truths from Mike’s new book.

1. Secularism denies real transcendence. It might allow for the possibility of the experience of transcendence, but it must explain it via these material causes: What we call transcendence or religious experience is actually some combination of good hormones and happy neurons in the brain. It has some evolutionary cause— some root in the need to advance and preserve our species that has been written into our DNA. (pg. 13)

2. Secularists can tolerate religion as long as it doesn’t make claims on anyone else’s happiness or welfare— that is, as long as it doesn’t purport to be an all- inclusive picture of the good life. (pg. 14)

3. This is how most of our desires work: Through cultural stories, we’re offered images of the good life: pathways to love, romance, sexual fulfillment, power, money, and happiness. These stories grab hold of our hearts, and they shape what we think we want. (pg. 19, referring to James Smith, You Are Wheat You Love, 11-12)

4. When God’s people face opposition, including the cultural opposition Christians face today from a post- Christian world, the path of least resistance is the path of compromise. It’s a foot in both worlds. I’ll give you an ethical compromise here so long as you let me speak of faith in public. But if history teaches anything, these compromises always end in weakening the church’s prophetic witness. (pg. 39)

5. Rather than an ethnically and culturally bonded community, the church’s bond is to be around the gospel, which creates a new family, one in which people are radically committed to one another’s inclusion and well- being. This new family is to be marked by generosity, diversity, and love. (pg. 42)

6. Just as Ahasuerus is a pun on “headache,” Esther is a pun on the Hebrew word for “hidden.” Hiddenness is a theme that follows her throughout the book. She passed for a Persian, and for most of the book, no one knew she was Jewish. (pg. 55)

7. We, too, are enslaved and abused by our culture. Think of all the ways our world tells us we’re inadequate, and all the ways it tries to sell us on something else that will ultimately make us happy…Our whole consumer economy is designed to prey on our sense of weakness and our longings, and it works. We are an anxious, rootless, desperate world. (pg. 61)

8. Humanity is both responsible for its fallenness and cursed by it. Both sinner and saint. A fallen world and a host of evil spiritual forces are wreaking havoc on our souls, and the tantalizing power of idols lies in their offer to heal our wounds. (pg. 64)

9. People of faith get blamed for a lot of evil in a post-9/11 world. Religious terrorists killed thousands of Americans on that day, and in the years since, they’ve wreaked havoc the world over: terror attacks, ISIS, and more. At the same time, evangelical Christians have been increasingly seen as bullies and bigots, archaic jerks who don’t want to bake cakes for their gay neighbors. The argument has been made more than once that religion itself is the problem, particularly when religion speaks of moral absolutes and eternal consequences. (pg. 80)

10. The late philosopher René Girard described our culture as one obsessed with victims and scapegoats. Once you gain the status of victim, you rise above any kind of moral responsibility or scrutiny. The moral imperative is about justice: How do we defend these victims from their oppressors? Any sins of the victim can and will be overlooked because, after all, they only committed them in response to their oppressor. (pg. 86)