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“Mikey Cohen's Twistian Faith"

Robert Michaels
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Robert Michaels is a regular contributor to the Benicia Herald in the San Francisco Bay Area. He works for the federal government while ministering at Windsor, a local nursing home, and a ministry of Community Bible Church in Vallejo, CA. Robert and his wife Lindsay have three daughters. He has two non-fiction works planned for the near future and is a previous Amy Writing Award winner.

Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen was an infamous member of the Jewish-American Mafia with connections to organized crime figures in Cleveland, New York, Chicago (Al Capone’s syndicate), and Las Vegas - all before he eventually ended up in Southern California.


Cohen’s life of crime began in 1923 as a young boy running alcohol during prohibition and lasted until the 1960s, when he landed in a cell on Alcatraz and later in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.


What made Cohen’s story more colorful was that one of his men, Jim Vaus, a wire-tapper for the mob, became a Christian while attending a tent meeting of the young evangelist, Billy Graham, in 1949. Vaus did the unthinkable: he walked away from the mafia and became dedicated Christian, serving as an evangelist and youth ministry leader.


Cohen was intrigued by Vaus’ decision to leave organized crime for a life of service to Jesus. His interest in Christianity brought him face to face with Billy Graham himself, and it appeared that Cohen had become a Christian too. 


But unlike Vaus, Cohen continued his life in the Mafia. When confronted with this inconsistency, he once said, "Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians - why not a Christian gangster?"


A friend of mine at work coined a new term for this brand of Christianity. He calls it “Twistianity.” Twistians are people who claim Christ as Savior, but do not want to submit their lives under His Lordship. They twist or pervert the Gospel so they can remain in their sin.


I fear there are many professing Christians out there who live comfortably within the subculture of Twistianity. Like Mickey Cohen, Twistians don’t want to be confronted with their hypocrisy and choose to stay in darkness: Christian adulterers, Christian racists, Christian addicts, Christian gangsters, Christian gamblers, Christian drunks – the list is nearly infinite.


I had a conversation with a priest a while ago and this topic came up. He affirmed that a man can remain in a sinful lifestyle his entire life and still be a Christian. This is not an isolated affirmation: many people adhere to the Twistian faith, including a whole slew of Twistian evangelists on television.


But this is gross contradiction of the Bible, which teaches that once a person is saved he is forever changed. In other words, when a person’s nature has been born-again by the spirit of Christ, he is no longer a slave to sin.


The Apostle Paul put it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).


I was an immoral young man up to the very second I became a Christian. My reckless world consisted of sex, drugs, alcohol, and low-level crime and I loved the pleasure it brought me. 


I believed the Bible was true. I acknowledged that Jesus was the Savior of the world. I agreed that my sin against God condemned me to hell. I went to church every Sunday. But I didn’t want to be a Christian and so I continually rejected the Gospel.


Then one morning I miraculously stopped resisting the amazing grace of God. I asked the Lord to forgive this wretched sinner. I laid my life before Jesus and He changed me.


The next day was Monday and it would prove to be my first test. I was employed at a glass shop in Vallejo, where my co-worker was lining up the cocaine. He called for me to come and take my turn, something I had done in the shop regularly in the past. 


Like Jim Vaus, I knew I had to walk away from the sinful habits that dominated my life. I told my friend that I’d given my life to Jesus over the weekend and that I had no desire to use drugs again. I respectfully asked him not to invite me to participate in the future. My friend chucked and said, "We'll see how long this lasts."


By the grace of God it has lasted more than twenty years. I never went to rehab or to a twelve-step program; I went to Jesus and He delivered me from all my immorality.


Speaking of Twistians, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23).


Twistians like Mickey Cohen are false converts. Part of being a Christian means that a person's relationship with their Lord and Savior is more important than their relationship with a sinful lifestyle that ignores Christ's commands.


Christ died for the ungodly. Jesus will only embrace those who will forsake their sin to follow Him.


Printed September 1, 2011. The Benicia Herald;  Benicia, CA.

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