• War Is…

    Syria (2012)
    War Is…
    Blind Man at the Gate

    War is stupid.
    War is wrong.
    War is impatience.
    War is song…
    Made silent.

    War is hate.
    War is haste.
    War is rape.
    War is waste…
    Of precious life.

    War is murder.
    War is money.
    War is pride.
    War is profit…
    Woe the profiteers!

    War is old.
    War is told.
    War is gold.
    War is sold…
    To remorseful buyers.

    War is swords.
    War is tanks.
    War is bombs.
    War is banks…
    Of filthy lucre.

    War is Auschwitz.
    War is Hiroshima.
    War is Nagasaki.
    War is humanity…
    Hanging by a string.

    War is Hell.
    War is Hades.
    War is Sheol.
    War is Gehenna…
    Valley of the dead.

    War is seen.
    War is obscene.
    War is famed.
    War is declaimed…
    By the Christ.

    War is named.
    War is shamed.
    War is sham.
    War is banned…
    By the cross.

    War is ancient.
    War is always.
    War is ever.
    War is over…
    If you want it.

    War is Cain.
    War is cruel.
    War is crucifixion
    War is cancelled…
    With resurrection.
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  • Love Never Ends: A Meditation

    nebula

    Love Never Ends: A Meditation
    Brian Zahnd

    Why is there something instead of nothing?
    The only answer I can imagine is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God…
    But why would God say, “Let there be light” and initiate Creation?
    The only answer I can imagine is God is love.

    What is light? God’s love in the form of photons.
    What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love.
    What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow.
    What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground.
    What is a bull moose? God’s love sporting spectacular antlers.
    What is a whale? Fifty tons of God’s love swimming in the ocean.

    As we learn to see Creation as goodness flowing from God’s own love—
    We begin to see the sacredness of all things.
    As Dylan and Dostoevsky say, in every grain of sand.
    All of creation is a gift — a gift flowing from the self-giving love of God.

    Why is there light and oceans and trees and moose and whales and every grain of sand?
    Because God is love — love seeking expression in self-giving creativity.
    Unless we understand this we’ll misunderstand everything and misspend our lives.
    In our misunderstanding and misspent lives we harm Creation—
    Including our sisters and brothers, all of whom bear the image of God.
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  • What If Jesus Addressed Congress?

    crucifixion-1

    What If Jesus Addressed Congress?
    Brian Zahnd

    The cross is shock therapy for a world addicted to solving its problems through violence. The cross shocks us into the devastating realization that our system of violence murdered God! The things hidden from the foundation of the world have now been revealed. The cross shames our ancient foundation of violence. The cross strips naked the principalities and powers. The cross tears down the façade of glory that we use to hide the bodies of slain victims.

    In the light of the cross, we are to realize that if what we have built on Cain’s foundation is capable of murdering the Son of God, then whole edifice needs to come down. In the light of the cross, our war anthems lose their luster. But this throws us into a crisis. What other alternatives are there? How else are we to arrange the world? The alternative is what Jesus is offering us when he told us that the kingdom of God is at hand. God’s way of arranging the world around love and forgiveness is within reach. If we only dare to reach out for it, we can have it. But we are so afraid. We’re not sure we can risk it. It’s so hard for us to let go of the sword and take the hand of the Crucified One. It’s so hard for us to really believe in Jesus.

    The crowd never believes in Jesus. Only the little flock that accepts its vulnerability can believe in Jesus. If you tell those rushing to war that their hatred of enemies and their plan for the organized killing of enemies is evil, the crowd will hate you. War is sacred. It lies beyond critique. To critique it is blasphemy. The crowd hates blasphemy. The crowd wants to kill blasphemers. The crowd knows that the criticism of their violence is blasphemy because they know their cause is just. They believe it. And from their perspective their cause is just. They can prove it. Both sides can prove it. Always.

    Achilles knew his cause was just and that it was perfectly legitimate to drag Hector’s body from his chariot in front of the gates of Troy in a show of grotesque triumphalism. It’s the same grotesque impulse that causes modern soldiers to pose for gruesome photos with the bodies of dead enemies. It’s literally the way of the world. But it’s not the way of the new world founded by Jesus. Jesus is not the warrior king the world is accustomed to. Jesus is not the Jewish Achilles. Jesus refused to be the violent Messiah Israel longed for. Jesus did not kill Pilate and drag the governor’s body behind his chariot. Jesus did not pose triumphantly over the dead bodies of slain Roman soldiers. Instead it was Jesus who hung naked on a tree after being put to death through a state-sponsored execution. Jesus founded his kingdom in solidarity with brutalized victims. This is the gospel, but it’s hard for us to believe in a Jesus who would rather die than kill his enemies. It’s harder yet to believe in a Jesus who calls us to take up our own cross, follow him, and be willing to die rather than kill our enemies.
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  • How Does the Church Differ From America?

    american_jesus

    How Does the Church Differ From America
    Brian Zahnd

    What is the church?

    Is the church a religious building with stained-glass and a steeple?
    Is the church a religious gathering that meets on Sunday mornings?
    Is the church a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit religious organization?

    I don’t want to give a quick and jaded “of course not.” There are reasons why stained-glass and steeples, Sunday gatherings and not-for-profit status have become associated with the church.

    But…

    In the end this is not what the church is.

    Maybe the church is something like this: The other way of being human (together). The way given to us by and built around Jesus Christ.

    The church is a distinct way of being human.
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  • The Last Testament of a Beheaded Christian

    Christian-de-Cherge?-On-est-comme-des-galets-qui-se-frottent-les-uns-aux-autres-et-qui-se-polissent-sous-le-regard-de-Dieu.

    The Last Testament of a Beheaded Christian
    Brian Zahnd

    Christian de Chergé was a French Catholic monk and the Trappist prior of the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria. With the rise of radical Islam in 1993, Father Chergé knew that his life was in danger. But instead of leaving Algeria, Father Chergé chose to stay and continue his witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. On May 24, 1996 Father Chergé was beheaded by Muslim radicals. Anticipating his death, Father Chergé had left a testament with his family to be read upon the event of his murder. The testament in part reads:
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  • Jesus Is What God Has To Say

    >TRANSFIGURATION

    Jesus Is What God Has To Say
    Brian Zahnd

    One of the most mysterious aspects of the Transfiguration is the appearance of Moses and Elijah — these two giant figures from the Old Testament — conversing with a glorified Christ. Of course Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the Prophet are representative figures signifying the Law and the Prophets. On Mount Tabor, Moses and Elijah are summoned from the Old Testament past to give their final witness.

    The goal of the Law and the Prophets was to produce a just and worshipping society. Jesus and his kingdom is where that project finds its fulfillment. The new society formed around Jesus was what the Law and the Prophets were aiming for all along. The Transfiguration is where Moses and Elijah find their great successor. The Transfiguration is where the Old Testament hands the project of redemption over to Jesus. The Transfiguration is where the old witness (testament) yields to the new witness (testament.)

    But initially Peter misinterpreted what the presence of Moses and Elijah meant.

    Peter’s first impulse was to build three memorial tabernacles on Tabor, treating Moses, Elijah, and Jesus as approximate equals.

    But Peter’s idea received a strong rebuke when the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him!”

    Jesus is the true and living Word of God. Jesus is what the Law and Prophets point toward and bow to. Jesus is what the Old Testament was trying to say, but could never fully articulate. Jesus is the perfect Word of God in the form of a human life. God couldn’t say all he wanted to say in the form of a book, so he said it in the form of Jesus. Jesus is what God has to say!
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  • Achilles or Immanuel?

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    Achilles or Immanuel?
    Brian Zahnd

    I just returned from seeing An Iliad at The Kansas City Repertory Theatre — a one act telling of Homer’s Iliad — and I can’t rest until I share a few thoughts…

    The eighth century BC gave the world two great poets — the Greek Homer and the Hebrew Isaiah. These two poets offer competing visions of the heroic. Homer’s epic poem The Iliad opens with these lines.

    Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles
    murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
    hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
    great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
    feasts for the dogs and birds.
    (Iliad 1–5)

    But the poet Isaiah sings a different song.

    The boots of the warrior
    And the uniforms bloodstained by war
    Will all be burned
    For unto us a Child is born
    Unto a Son is given
    And he shall be called…
    The Prince of peace
    His government and its peace
    Will never end
    (Isaiah 9:6–7)

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  • Walk the World Like the Pardon of God

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    Walking the World Like the Pardon of God
    Brian Zahnd

    G.K. Chesterton suggested that Saint Francis of Assisi “walked the world like the pardon of God.” It’s an apt summary of the saint’s life. In his wonderful and unique way Saint Francis embodied the grace of God as he walked the hills of Umbria barefoot in his patched brown habit and simple rope belt preaching to birds and bishops. His life was a kind of performance art protest against the pervasive sins of thirteenth century Italy — pride, avarice, corruption, and violence.

    Yet sinners were drawn to Francis. How else do we explain that within Francis’ lifetime forty thousand people joined his rigorous order of radical Christianity emphasizing poverty, simplicity and humility? Like Jesus, Francis could uncompromisingly denounce systemic sin, while extending genuine compassion to the people caught in its pernicious web. To be a prophetic witness against systems of sin and a preacher of God’s pardon for sinners at the same time is the peculiar grace Francis excelled at and the church is called to.

    Two years before his death Francis retreated to the secluded hermitage at La Verna in the mountains of Tuscany for a protracted season of prayer. While there he experienced a mystical vision that resulted in his stigmata — the reproduction of the wounds of Christ in his own body. Francis bore these painful wounds until his death in 1226. Admittedly, this is a mysterious phenomenon, but I am willing to view it as Francis’ final dramatic testament to how the church is to be present in the world. Along with being a prophetic witness against the principalities and powers, and bearing joyful witness to the pardon of God, the church is called to participate in the sufferings of Christ.
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  • The Cross as Counter-Script

    Andrea_del_Castagno_-_Crucifixion_-_WGA00349

    The Cross as Counter-Script
    Brian Zahnd

    As Americans we are given a script from birth — it is our shared and assumed formula for the pursuit of happiness. Without even being aware of it we are scripted in the belief that our superior technology, our self-help programs, our dominant military, and our capacity to obtain consumer goods should guarantee our happiness. Said just so it sounds silly, but when it is communicated in the liturgies of advertising and the propaganda of state it becomes believable…and we do believe it. Give me a new iPhone, a motivational talk, a trillion dollar war machine, a Visa card, and I can be happy! For the most part the Americanized church has unconsciously bought into this script and concocted a compromised Christianity to endorse the script point for point. It’s Americanism with a Jesus fish bumper sticker. But in the end the desperate pursuit of the brass ring of happiness — even when “Christianized” by the prosperity gospel — leads to a shriveled and disappointed soul. In the final analysis the American script is shamed by the cross of Christ.
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