• Nagasaki: The Sufferings of Christ

    Nagasaki

    This is the third in a series of blog posts on the seventieth anniversary of the creation and use of the atomic bomb. The first two are Los Alamos: We Have Become Death and Hiroshima: An Anti-Transfiguration. I have asked Peri to write the final one on Nagasaki.

    Nagasaki: The Sufferings of Christ
    Peri Zahnd

    1945. What a year it was. What it must have been like to have lived in that time — the last days of WWII, watching the evil Third Reich disintegrate, the fall of the Nazi regime, dancing in the streets of America when it was announced the war in Europe was finally over.

    I can’t imagine what it was like to hear in the days and weeks to follow the stories of the concentration camps being liberated, the piles of bodies, the skeletal survivors. Had such horror ever been seen on the earth? I absolutely agree, the world must “never forget” what awful things were done in an attempt to utterly wipe out a people group, the Jews.

    But the war wasn’t really over. America was also at war with Japan, and the Japanese had not yet surrendered. We were still at war, for a few more months, until August, when two atomic bombs were dropped in the space of four days on two major cities in Japan. I think it is safe to say again that such horror had never been seen on the earth.
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  • Hiroshima: An Anti-Transfiguration

    Hiroshima

    Hiroshima: An Anti-Transfiguration
    Brian Zahnd

    “And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became whiter than light.” –Matthew 17:2

    Seventy years ago today an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Those who experienced it and lived to tell about it, all described it in similar fashion: It began with a flash brighter than the sun. It was August 6, 1945. According to the church calendar it was also the Feast of the Transfiguration.

    The atomic bombing of Hiroshima was the world’s first use of a weapon of mass destruction. In this seaport city of 250,000 people, 100,000 were either killed instantly or doomed to die within a few hours. Another 100,000 were injured. Of this city’s 150 doctors, 65 had been killed and most of the rest were injured. Of the 1,780 nurses, 1,654 were either dead or too badly injured to work. Hiroshima had become the house of the dead and dying. It was Transfiguration Day.

    When Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor his face shone like the sun, and when he came down the mountain a little boy was healed — a boy who had been thrown into fire and water by a demon.

    When “Little Boy” (the name given the bomb) shone like the sun over Hiroshima, thousands of little boys and girls were burned in atomic fire and poisoned by radioactive rain. The bombing of Hiroshima is the anti-Transfiguration.

    The Transfiguration was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Hiroshima was a turning point in human history.
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  • Los Alamos: We Have Become Death

    LosAlamos

    Los Alamos: We Have Become Death
    Brian Zahnd

    Seventy summers ago in a New Mexico desert we crossed a dark threshold when we created the capacity for our own annihilation. A generation earlier Albert Einstein had perceived something elemental about the nature of Creation: Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared (E = mc2). As I understand it, matter is “frozen” energy which when released unleashes the power of the sun. That our instinctual impulse upon gaining such knowledge was to build atomic bombs says something sad about us — we are still the sons and daughters of Cain, and now we’re looking for ways to kill Abel a million at a time.

    The first atomic bomb was tested on July 16, 1945. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, gave the test the code name Trinity. Oppenheimer was, of course, a brilliant physicist, but he was also well-read in religious and philosophical texts. He took the code name Trinity from a poem written by John Donne, a sixteenth century Anglican priest and poet.
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  • George MacDonald’s Spiritual Journey (And Mine Too)

    george-macdonald

    George MacDonald’s Spiritual Journey (And Mine Too)
    Brian Zahnd

    “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded George MacDonald as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote him.” –C.S. Lewis

    “I can testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence…and it is by George MacDonald.” –G.K. Chesterton

    George MacDonald (
    1824–1905) was a Scottish novelist, poet, preacher, mystic, lecturer, theologian whose writings have had an enormous influence on many Christian thinkers, including C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. In my own spiritual journey I would list George MacDonald’s Lilith as a top ten influence.

    George MacDonald understood as clearly as anyone that salvation is not so much a conferred status as it is a lifelong journey — a continual pressing into the revelation of God in Christ. But to be a public theologian, thinker, writer and on an ever-evolving spiritual journey, rankles the self-appointed gatekeepers of religious certitude. Thus George MacDonald was regularly (and wrongly) accused of heresy for simply not toeing the line of the Scottish Calvinism predominant in his day.

    In the mid 1860’s George MacDonald received a letter from a troubled reader asking why he had lost the “old faith” and embraced what many regarded as “unorthodox” views. MacDonald’s candid reply is brilliant and beautiful and I would like to share it with you. (Plus, as one who has often been criticized for moving beyond an earlier fundamentalist/charismatic certitude, MacDonald’s defense will aptly suffice as my own.)

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  • Turn The Page

    Tomahutu

    Turn The Page
    Blind Man at the Gate

    In our journey through the holy script we’ve not yet reached THE END
    Turn the page
    All that is to be said has not yet been said
    Turn the page
    Long ago the writers finished the text
    But the players have not yet said it all
    There are heroes yet to take stage
    There are dramas yet to be resolved
    Turn the page
    We’ve lingered long over this familiar leaf
    And it’s beginning to turn yellow
    We’ve begun to forget that which has gone before
    We’ve begun to think there will be no more
    Turn the page
    We find comfort in that which is now too familiar
    But the thrill is gone and the story has stalled
    Turn the page
    To move on in the divine tome is not a betrayal
    Of that which we have come to know and love
    But to understand the story demands that we
    Turn the page
    But those afraid to turn the page
    Discourage and disparage and in fear rage
    “If we turn the page things will change!”
    Yes Read more

  • Moonset

    starry-night

    Moonset
    Blind Man at the Gate

    Last night I watched the moonset
    From where I sat
    It was half past eleven
    Between Longs and Ypsilon
    There I sat
    With the moonset
    In the enfolding dark
    Growing colder
    Knowing
    I’m growing older
    And time flies
    But still I sat
    Long past midnight
    Under Rocky Mountain skies
    Until the stars came out
    I saw the Big Dipper
    And the Milky Way smear
    Seven meteorites
    And one satellite
    I hope it wasn’t inflicting cable news
    On God’s good earth
    BREAKING NEWS
    Theater shootings are a thing now
    When I was a kid we saw shoot ‘em up Westerns in theaters
    But they don’t make imposters like John Wayne anymore
    (T-Bone Burnett said that)
    Now we have real shoot ‘em ups
    In…
    Theaters
    Schools
    Malls
    Churches
    Anywhere
    Because Americans have a right
    To act like John Wayne
    “Bang! Bang! You’re dead!”
    But it makes me wonder
    When will America grow up
    And act like an adult?
    I don’t know. . .
    Then shooting star number seven
    Calls me away from the madness here below
    And I remember something about
    Each night giving a little grace
    To help wipe away the sins of the day
    Time to sleep
    And dream of peaceful things
    The moon sets
    The sun also rises
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  • The Day I Met Jesus: A Conversation With Mary DeMuth

    metjesus

     

    Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola have written a fascinating book — The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels (Baker Books 2015). Recently I was able to interview Mary about this book and also ask her some questions about the role of women within Christianity and the church. Here is our conversation.

    * * * * * *

    BZ: In The Day I Met Jesus you tell fives stories of women who encountered Jesus. You do this in the form of first person diary entries. I love this imaginative approach. Could you talk about your process of creating the back-stories for these five women?

    MD: Sure, first off, this idea was Frank’s. I’m grateful he pulled me in on this project. As a novelist, I tried to walk around in these women’s sandals, hoping to understand their dreams, the possible plight they were in, and what it must’ve been like to actually meet Jesus in the midst of their stories. I also did research about First Century Jerusalem as well as biblical research about the five women. And then I prayed. Actually I prayed throughout the entire process. What resulted? Gritty, real stories about actual women who were never the same after they encountered Christ.

    BZ: Do you feel that the evangelical church has perhaps under appreciated the power of story?

    MD: I think we’re getting better about this. Things like Donald Miller’s Story conference and the proliferation of YouTube (where we see millions of stories) encourage me. And when I go to church on Sunday I’m seeing more pastors tuck story into their narratives and theology. The human heart and mind better understand truth when wrapped in a story.
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  • When America Went To Hell

    Amerfican Art Exhibit  Civil War Church_Our_Banner_In_The_Skyaa
    When America Went To Hell
    Brian Zahnd

    “How I wish that you of all people would understand the things that make for peace.”
    —Jesus (Luke 19:42)

    Whether or not slavery was the direct cause for the first shots fired upon Fort Sumter in April of 1861 is a matter of scholarly debate. What is undeniable is that two and half centuries of slavery was the fuel that caused the American Civil War to ignite into a conflagration that resulted in 750,000 deaths. From its Jamestown beginnings the American colonies and later the United States practiced one of the most brutal forms of slavery the world has ever known. The preservation of an institution that systematically dehumanized millions of people for the sake of economic gain was not a thing that made for peace. Inevitably that kind of cruel exploitation would overflow its cup and unleash death and hell, bringing everything that is the opposite of peace. During the horror of the American Civil War, the “land of the free” became a burning Gehenna. Thirty percent of Southern men of fighting age were slain on battlefields that saw the birth of modern warfare. From now on, war would be totalized and mechanized. The four horseman of the Apocalypse galloped across America leaving a wake of war, disease, famine, and death.
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  • Sinners In the Hands of a Loving God

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    Sinners In the Hands of a Loving God
    Brian Zahnd

    Oh! Ephraim is my dear, dear son,
    My child in whom I take pleasure!
    Every time I mention his name,
    My heart bursts with longing for him!
    Everything in me cries out for him.
    Softly and tenderly I wait for him.

    –Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:20)

    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. He is of purer eyes than to bear you in his sight; you are ten thousand times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours.
    –Jonathan Edwards, Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God

    Two pieces of literature. The prophetic poetry of Jeremiah and the revivalist preaching of Jonathan Edwards. I know them both well. First let’s look at Jeremiah.

    In this beautiful passage Jeremiah channels God’s love for Ephraim. Who is Ephraim? Ephraim is Israel in the 7th century BC. More importantly, Ephraim is Israel in its worst spiritual and moral condition. Ephraim is idolatrous, adulterous, backslidden, covenant-breaking, sinful Israel. But Ephraim is still the child of God and Jeremiah reveals God’s unconditional love for sinful Ephraim.

    Centuries ahead of the full revelation of God that will come with Jesus, Jeremiah reveals the heart of God toward sinners. Toward me. Toward you. At your worst, at your most sinful, at your furthest remove from God and his will, God’s attitude toward you remains one of unwavering love. Why? God is love.

    But many Christians struggle with a deeply embedded concept (theology) of an angry, vindictive, retributive god. Somewhere along the way they picked up a Sinner’s In the Hands of an Angry God paradigm. And it has left them deeply damaged.
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