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Truth Doesn't Matter
(by Rachel Williams)

I really tried not to put this on my page.  I wrote most of it like two weeks ago.  But I didn't want to put it on my page since it will probably just make people mad.

But I'm really sick of people telling me that my beliefs about God are wrong and their religion is the only one that counts. 

I'm especially sick of it since I've seen how their religion is so willing to accept a lie as the truth just because it makes a good example.

They try to convince me about their religion by quoting from a book that only people who believe their religion think is the truth. It's hard for me to believe that an entire book that's almost 2000 years old has the word of God in it and wasn't either changed or invented by religious leaders when I can see how the same religion isn't even willing to tell the truth about one single word that was supposedly spoken by a teenage girl 6 months ago.  Maybe if I didn't see how their religious leaders are so willing to let a lie become truth today I might be able to believe the bible isn't just some of stories that were fudged to make them more inspiring 2000 years ago.

I bet you're wondering what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the legend of Cassie Bernall, the Columbine High School student who's been called a Christian martyr because when her killers asked her if she believed in God she said, "Yes" and they shot her.

It's a really inspiring story.  It's too bad though that its based on reports from a few confused scared students right after the shooting, and that now the investigation is almost complete it turns out that Cassie wasn't even the girl who was asked about God. 

But I haven't seen a lot of Christian leaders trying to tell their people that the story about Cassie wasn't true.  They keep on letting them think that Cassie was a martyr.  They don't seem to care about the truth about what happened in the library at Columbine.  They don't seem to care that the girl who really said "Yes" was shot and survived.  I guess its because they think it makes a better religious symbol to have a dead martyr than a living survivor.  They can inspire more people that way.  So what if its not the truth.

So if its so easy for them to be willing to let a lie continue to be their religious truth only 6 months after Columbine, it would probably be a lot easier to get people to accept 2000 year old lies as the truth. And since they don't seem to care much about the truth today why should I believe it was any different before?  Why should I believe that 2000 years ago people didn't decide that a story about another dead prophet wouldn't last long but if they made it a story about the son of God it would probably work better?

In case you don't believe me about Cassie you just have to read the reports about what the investigators found out.  There are articles in the Denver Post ("Faith In Cassie's Last Words Waivers" and "Bernalls Defend Book's Accuracy" and "Schnurr's Memory Corroborated By Other Witnesses").  There's an article in the Washington Post called (" COLUMBINE MIRACLE:A MATTER OF BELIEF: The Last Words of Littleton Victim Cassie Bernall Test a Survivor's Faith--and Charity").  

According to most of the witnesses that day including Cassie's best friend who was right next to her when Cassie was shot Cassie never said "Yes" and was never even asked about God.  The girl who said "Yes" was a girl named Valeen Schnurr who was shot and wounded really bad but survived.  

If you read the Washington Post article and you'll find out that, The Rocky Mountain News reported that one of those witnesses, Craig Scott, the original source for the Cassie story, pointed out to investigators the table where he said the conversation occurred, and it turned out to be Val's, not Cassie's.

One key source is Emily Wyant, Cassie's best friend, who was crouched right beside her, and the only eyewitness to her shooting. "Once she started hearing all that," Wyant's mother told a reporter from Salon magazine, "she said, 'That didn't happen. Why are they saying that?' "  Wyant says she spoke to the Bernalls, but they say Emily never denied Cassie said yes.

While they won't discuss the details, investigators are
still clear on the big picture. Most people in the library that day confirm their account.
[That Cassie wasn't the girl who said "Yes"]  "To have one, two or three witnesses say something happened is one thing," Davis says. "But when you have 10, 20, 40 saying something else, that carries a lot more weight."

The Washington Post article said it really good when they said, In questions of death and faith, it's the power of the story that counts, the tale that helps the mind grasp the unfathomable. Compared with that comfort, the truth is a trifle.

That's the way all religions work. People will do whatever they need to for comfort. Some people find it in a bottle. Other people find it in a bible. The bible's a lot better but that doesn't mean there's any real truth in it.

The Washington Post article also said, Should the believers accept the literal truth, they'd be left with a hopeless equation: Schnurr said yes and she lived, but saints and martyrs don't live. Saint Cassie probably said nothing and died. 

How many of the thousand of the priests and ministers who told the story of Cassie to their congregations are going to stand up and say, "We were wrong."  Will they go back and say - guess what- Cassie was not a martyr but just one of many other victims. 

How many of them will tell the truth?  They could say that, "God WAS in the library at Columbine. It was another girl who was asked if she had believed in God. She had already been shot and critically wounded. The shooter had stopped to reload his gun and asked if she believed in God. And she said "Yes." She wasn't shot again. She survived her wounds and is now a freshman in college. God heard her affirmation and rewarded her with life". 

Why aren't they telling that story? Is it because it doesn't sound as good as Cassie's story?  Is it because they don't want to admit they were wrong?  Is it because a dead martyr is more valuable to their religion than a living hero?  Is it because if they admit Cassie's story isn't true then what comfort can they find from the murders of all those kids?  Is it because the truth has always been bent by religions?  Is it because the story of Cassie is exactly the kind of myth and legend that most religions are based on?

Read the Washington Post article and you'll find out that, It's a puzzle that Schnurr, 19, has no interest in solving. Because while it's frustrating to see someone else canonized for your miracle, the stakes here are too high. She'd have to confront two grieving parents, tense neighbors starved for hope, and an American Christian community that's found its most effective symbol in decades. 

Anyway, Schnurr is devout enough to know that faith doesn't depend on the Details.

Faith doesn't depend on details. I agree. 100%. Faith is faith. Its not based on details or truth. It's based on beliefs. Its just too bad that more people don't realize that. Just like its too bad the most effective symbol the American Christian community has had in decades is based on something that never happened.  Is it surprising that I can't help wondering just how much more might never have happened?

Read the Washington Post article and you'll find out that, "You will never change the story of Cassie," says Dave McPherson, the pastor at the Bernalls' church. To illustrate how far it has gone, he tells a story of traveling to a remote church in Sudan a few months after the shooting. The congregation's first request was that he tell the story of Saint Cassie.

"The church," he says, by which he means Catholic and
Protestant, worldwide, "is going to stick to the martyr story. It's the story they heard first, and circulated for six months uncontested. You can say it didn't happen that way, but the church won't accept it. To the church, Cassie will always say yes, period."

In a few months something that never happened has been accepted by people all over the world as the gospel truth. You can't change their belief in it even though it didn't happen. Given hundreds and thousands of years isn't it possible that there's been a lot more of the Gospel truth that also might not have ever happened?

Read Washington Post article and you'll find out that, Her story has sparked a kind of teenage hysteria, a Christian-sanctified death wish. "God has laid it on my heart that I'm going to be martyred," sophomore Tina Leonard told a Southern Baptist news service. "When I told one of my friends, he said, 'That's awesome. I wish it could happen to me.' "

What a wonderful religion it must be that holds the example of Cassie Bernall up to kids around the world so that their greatest goal in life can be to die.  And to be jealous of someone else who has.

Read the Washington Post article and you'll find out that, As time has passed, many Christians have come to think of the Cassie story as proof of God's existence. A cover article in the current issue of Christianity Today argues that Cassie's "heroic yes, with the muzzle of a gun pressed up against" her, is this generation's defining moment, much as the assassination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. was to the generation before.

Too bad the defining moment of today's Christian generation is a moment that never happened.  But then that doesn't seem to matter.

Because when it comes to religions, Truth Doesn't Matter.


October 24, 1999

Copyright 1999 Rachel Williams

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