Out of the Corner of My Eye


Out of the Corner of My Eye
Blindman at the Gate

I think I caught a glimpse of truth out of the corner of my eye.
A ghost, a whisper, a suspicion, a subtle and subversive rumor.
So dangerous that every army would be commanded to march against it;
so beautiful that it would drive those who see it to madness
or sanity.
Does the whole of my kind suffer from mental and moral vertigo?
As Melville said of cabin boy Pip,
he saw the foot of God upon the treadle of the loom
and dared to speak it.
Henceforth his shipmates called him mad.
As Vladimir said when they came to bury Fyodor,
the spiritual leader must feel the falsehood prevailing in society;
the prophet must struggle against it, never tolerate it, never submit to it.
I think I caught a glimpse of truth out of the corner of my eye.
Have we been so blinded by the bright lights of advertisers’ lies
that the only true vision is peripheral vision?
In the age of constant commercialization and overblown hype
does truth shout with a whisper and stand out with subtlety?
I think I caught a glimpse of truth out of the corner of my eye.
It terrified me as I fell in love with it.
I said,
This explains everything.
This changes everything.
This challenges everything.
This threatens everything.
This transforms everything.
Dare I speak it?
The truth I caught out of the corner of my eye?
Every empire of man is built upon a lie;
they come to kill, steal, and destroy.
Every empire of man is built upon a lie;
all virtue is subject to sacrifice upon the altar of imperial expediency.
Every empire of man is built upon a lie;
God or gods exist only to serve its cause.
Every empire of man is built upon a lie;
religion takes off its mask when it says—
We have no king but Caesar.
The ultimate betrayal,
the final apostasy,
every empire of man is built upon a lie.
Marx was more than half right when he said—
Religion is the opiate of the masses.
Every empire of man is built upon a lie:
Self-promotion and Self-preservation,
Greed and Lust,
Industry and War,
the industry of war.
Long live the Empire!
Keep the Empire alive,
and to keep the Empire alive
many will be made to die,
because the Empire lives by the sword
and dies by the same.
Every empire of man is built upon a lie.
From Aztec to Zulu,
Egyptian and Ottoman,
Persia and Babylon,
Greece and Rome,
England and—
Now I’m too close to home.
A kinder, gentler Babylon to be sure,
but a Babylon for sure.
Every empire of man is built upon a lie.
So when Christ came
he did not bring
another empire of men
built upon a lie
as the liar in the desert tempted.
Instead he brought
the Empire of God,
Good News!
The government of justice and mercy, grace and truth,
and the truth is
every empire of man is built upon a lie,
though every empire says,
We have God on our side.
So you will have to decide
how patriotic a Byzantine believer can be.
May we be salt and light,
a prophetic voice,
a Christian conscience.
May we preserve and illuminate,
cry aloud and convict,
but never forget
every empire of man is built upon a lie.
And to stand for truth
and to stand for God
is to stand against the lie the empire is built upon.
And in the midst of imperial self-justification pray—
Thy Empire come.
There, I’ve said it.
The truth I glimpsed out of the corner of my eye.
And when push comes to shove,
as it always does,
the Empire of Men will oppose the Empire of God.
To know this is dangerous.
To say it can be deadly.
Do you think I’m kidding?
What crucified Jesus?
Self-righteous religion?
No, not religion alone.
Religion as the whore of Empire.
This is what killed Jesus.
And Paul.
And Peter.
And Polycarp.
And Huss.
And Bonhoeffer.
Because this is what empires do.
Silence the prophets who will not prostitute the truth.
Religion is tolerated.
Imperial religion is promoted.
But the prophetic hope of another way
must be censored
even by the sword.
This is the way of empire.
every empire of man is built upon a lie.
Constantine can become a Christian,
but Constantine cannot baptize the Empire.
The Empire of God converts the hearts of men one at a time.
Christ the King must himself sponsor each one into his Kingdom.
But when the Empire sanctions religion for its own purposes,
the whore of Babylon rides the back of the beast.
Giddyup and God bless the Empire!
Every empire of man is built upon a lie.
I glimpsed this truth out of the corner of my eye.
To believe this truth will set you free.
And you thought it was just Sunday school banality
or empty religious sentimentality
to pray
Thy Empire come
Thy Policy be done.
You had no idea it was dissident and subversive,
because every empire of men is built upon a lie.
The lie that the empire has God on its side.
I glimpsed this truth out of the corner of my eye.
And if you ask me my politics, I will say,
Jesus is Lord!
I glimpsed this truth out of the corner of my eye.


It’s a poem from Mars.


(The artwork is The Two Crowns by Sir Frank Dicksee.)

  • Herm

    Religion as the whore of the empire also killed the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Fortunately he was a protestant so there will never need be a process of canonization. How about an empirical holiday for speaking, living and dying in the Truth? Oh, that would be big of us! Empire as the whore of religion has managed to demean the benevolent dictatorship of Jesus Christ as just too socialist for our tastes, we are told.

    “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

    I am born free to love and be loved in the Spirit as an infant child who knows the Father to provide and our Brother Lord to teach as the Word and the Way. I grieve the loss of so many lately who may not have known God as family. I hurt deeply for those leaders of religion, market and empire who destroy so many because they obviously know not God as family.

    Thank you Pastor Zahnd for speaking the truth but beware of the armies your words might raise on all sides to war. The sword of truth you unsheathe from Out of the Corner of My Eye will cause many more now to feel even more insecure. It needs to be said again and again and again …

  • pachuco

    I just saw the truth….
    Esto lo explica todo…

  • Herm

    …not “everything” but enough to begin an eternity moderated, disciplined, tempered, and motivated by love for life.

  • Greenbean950

    Great poem!

  • Herm

    Pastor Zahnd, please forgive me if I am overstepping my privileges on your blog. I just have to get this out and if you strike it I understand. I hurt deeply for Dr. Brown (a renowned religious leader) and his students from what I witnessed in your recent debate with him.

    Woe to Michael Brown (PhD in Near Eastern languages and literature) who follows his own spirit and has seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:3)

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13

    If we are to be born into the family of the Father we have to come as children. We must shed ourselves of everything taught by this world as real to accept the reality of God. Michael Brown, God bless his soul, justifies his theology by speaking down to his students according to “Bible 101”. Michael Brown attempting to establish his credentials presents himself as the authoritative father figure usurping, in my mind and heart, the authority of the Father. Jesus never in the four gospels in the Bible ever presented himself as a father figure but did find joy in being the Son of the Father. I am neither as mature nor comparable to Jesus Christ but I do find reality, joy and peace as an adored infant brother of His and child of our Father who is in Heaven.

    I warned my children not to test the burner on the stove by touching with their hand. One touched the burner to test my authority against his own and sustained very serious permanent scars. I have tested my Father’s warnings to me relative to the law of reality and carry permanent scars. I am a child who can earn nothing to sustain my life and am totally dependent upon my family of God to provide for and guide me. As an infant looking out from the electron like Earth into God’s kingdom I have no ability to define my divine Family other than to know They can be trusted to provide all my needs. I am compelled and chartered to share the overflowing love of my Family of God with my siblings of Man.

    I recently read this and thought of my quest for reality above all else. I realized what Jesus says to me in ALL the “follow me”s throughout the Bible such as; Luke 9:22-25 and Luke 9:59-62 and Luke 14:26,27 and Luke 18:22.

    “How can you hear your soul if everyone is talking?” He said nothing more that day, but Ha’anala spent hours considering his words. A soul, she decided, was the most real part of a person, and to discover what is real requires privacy. In the village, every act, every word, every decision or desire was examined and commented on and compared, debated, evaluated and reconsidered—participated in ! How could she tell who she was , when everything she did acquired a council of 150 people?”

    Russell, Mary Doria (2007-12-18). Children of God (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) (p. 275). Random House Publishing Group.

    I can hear my soul in the image of God and that is where I find Jesus. When I hear Jesus I hear our Father because they are inseparable in heart and mind. Without Their relationship I am but an insignificant speck of mist inside the spectrum of life soon to be dead; soon to know nothing.

    I sense that the fundamentalism of Dr. Brown’s pride of scholastic ownership keeps him from hearing his own soul. He would do well to hear his own soul if he sold all of his studies to follow Jesus through the Holy Spirit in his heart and mind. I am not as scholastically equipped, well written nor as well spoken as Dr. Brown but I know my creator God loves me as an infant child. My creator God does not expect me to fight Their wars, to punish Their enemies nor to earn life. Dr. Brown is a perfect example of my siblings of Man who think they must serve God as an authority rather than simply (light load) accepting their offered infancy in the Family of the Father.

    Reality is a relationship and not a study. I am a student (disciple) of Jesus Christ to learn to relate to truth and reality with Him eternally but not to dissect Him, His credentials or even why He loves me. I know, hear and see the Holy Spirit and from Him I know, hear and see Jesus and in Jesus I know, hear and see the Father. No adoring parent insists on a system of Penal Substitutionary Atonement to raise their children in life promoting love, none, and neither does our Father in Heaven.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Much of Revelation is saying this same thing. We should not worship any man made organization even if it calls itself a church.

  • Dawes

    What a beautiful painting, it’s beautiful poem