All posts in Peace

  • Dominus Flevet (The Lord Wept)

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    Dominus Flevet – The Lord Wept
    Brian Zahnd

    “And when Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” –Luke 19:41, 42

    Today is my birthday and I’m with Peri in the Old City of Jerusalem; we’re spending a few days here before leading a pilgrim tour of the Holy Land. This morning we began our day with prayer in the beautiful Church of All Nations located in the Garden of Gethsemane. We then walked to Bethany so we could retrace Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into the city of Jerusalem.

    On what we now call Palm Sunday Jesus arrived in Jerusalem as the long-awaited Messiah and King of All Nations. Unlike Pilate who entered the city from the west riding a warhorse (there’s always some dude on a horse!), Jesus entered the city from the east riding a lowly donkey in a deliberate embrace of Zechariah’s prophecy about a humble king who would come to teach peace to the nations.
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  • Saved from Rage

    Iliad
    Saved from Rage
    Brian Zahnd

    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…
    What god drove them to fight with such fury?

    –The Iliad

    Homer’s Iliad — the closest thing the pagan world had to a Bible — is a five-hundred page war poem. Homer doesn’t sing his song in praise of war, though courage and valor are given their due; rather Homer alerts the world — then and now — to the senseless carnage that can be wrought once rage is let loose in the world of arrogant humans. It’s no accident that the first word of the ancient world’s greatest epic is Rage. And it’s noteworthy that in just the ninth line of the poem Homer asks, What god drove them to fight with such fury? Indeed, what god?

    The ancient world saw rage not as a mere human emotion, but as a kind of malevolent entity, a demon, a monster that if let loose could not easily be brought under control, and in its chaos could lay waste entire civilizations. The Iliad is Homer’s beautiful, but bitter testament to the destructive potential of unchecked Rage.
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  • Marked by Mercy in 2016

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    Marked by Mercy in 2016
    Brian Zahnd

    I’m praying that in 2016 the church would be marked by mercy — that we would walk the world as the pardon of God.

    I wrote these words yesterday following our Wednesday Noon Prayer and Communion service in the Upper Room. As we were praying about the witness of the church in America in the coming year, our prayers took on the theme of mercy.

    We are living in a moment marked by mean-spiritedness. Much of this meanness is directed toward immigrants and refugees, Muslims and foreigners. And, of course, various political factions aim their ire at one another. As we move through the presidential campaigns of 2016, I sadly anticipate the mean-spirited rhetoric to grow worse.

    My prayer is that in 2016 the church would be something other. That instead of conforming to the spirit of the age, the church would model mercy as a Christlike act of nonconformity. Or to say it another way, I’m praying that the church would conform to the mercy of Christ and not to the current zeitgeist of mean-spiritedness. I’m praying that we would walk the world as the pardon of God — a phrase borrowed from G.K. Chesterton’s description of Saint Francis of Assisi.
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  • Los Alamos: We Have Become Death

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    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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  • Bethlehem, Branson, and Baltimore

    CliffordPossumTjapaltjarri

    Bethlehem, Branson, and Baltimore
    Brian Zahnd

    Last week I was with a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem. He talked about his grandfather — a peaceable follower of Jesus who was senselessly killed by an Israeli sniper. He also talked about his grandmother who refused to allow the family to fall into the dark abyss of hate. He talked about the decades of injustice and the daily indignities suffered by the Palestinian people. He talked about how Jesus is found among the oppressed. But he also said Jesus told him this: “Stop using me to justify hating your enemies.” He went on to say, “I live under Israeli military occupation and Jesus calls me to do one thing: Love my enemy.” Wise words. Wise words that didn’t come cheap and don’t ring hollow.

    This week I’ve been in Branson speaking at a retreat for Nazarene pastors — a beautiful gathering of thoughtful women and men who are engaged in the demanding task of leading congregations in the way of Jesus. It was a privilege to speak to these pastors. Next door to us in the convention hall was an end-time-doom-and-gloom preacher hawking blood moons and sporting banners festooned with American flags. I see a good deal of this sort of thing. Flags and crosses all mixed up. Crosses on flags. Flags on crosses. American flags flying in superiority over Christian crosses on church lawns. Flags mounted on top of churches where crosses ought to be. One gets the feeling that the idea is that flag and cross are interchangeable — quite nearly the same thing. But I beg to differ. Allow me to reproduce a passage from one of my books:
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  • What If Jesus Addressed Congress?

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    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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  • The Last Testament of a Beheaded Christian

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    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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  • For The Common Good

    Ahmed, Brian, and Samuel w.border

    A few years ago I drafted a statement to explain the friendship and cooperation I have with Ahmed El-Sherif, an Arab Muslim scientist, and Samuel Nachum, an Israeli Jewish artist, as we work together for peace in Israel and Palestine. This seems like a good time to share it again.

    For the Common Good

    We are Jews, Christians and Muslims.
    And we are friends.
    We seek to follow our respective religions faithfully.
    We do not believe all religions are the same.
    We recognize the reality of our religious differences.
    But we are friends.
    We are devout in our faith and respectful of our friendship.
    Our faith and friendship need not be mutually exclusive.
    We recognize that we share common space — the common space of a shared planet.
    For the sake of the common good we seek common ground.
    We do not share a common faith, but we share a common humanity.
    In our different religions we do not practice the same rituals or pray the same prayers.
    But in our shared humanity we hold to a common dream: Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
    We hold to the dream that our children may play in peace without fear of violence.
    And so…
    We pledge not to hate.
    We pledge not to dehumanize others.
    We pledge to do no harm in the name of God.
    As individuals we do not compromise the truth claims of our respective religions—
    But we will not use truth claims to fuel hate or justify violence.
    We will practice our respective faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
    But we believe our faith can be practiced in the way of peace—
    We believe our faith truly practiced need never be at odds with humanitarian ideals.
    Our religions share a complex and intertwined history—
    A history of interaction that has too often been tumultuous and bloody.
    We believe there must be a better way and we seek that better way.
    The way of peace.
    We are Jews, Christians and Muslims.
    And we are friends.
    We seek common ground for the common good.
    Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

    Ahmed El-Sherif
    Samuel Nachum
    Brian Zahnd

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  • A Dusting of Snow During a Bloody Summer

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    A Dusting of Snow During a Bloody Summer
    Brian Zahnd

    It’s been a bloody summer. In Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Nigeria, and the Ukraine.
    Kill the bad guys and there will be peace is the tired refrain.
    All sides say it. Ad infinitum.

    (I didn’t even mention the bloody streets of America, to which we have grown so numb.)

    But I am where I always hope to be this time of year: In the mountains that I love.

    When I hike above treeline onto the great expanse of the high tundra my soul finds room for expansion. I’m no longer hemmed in by the din from the reactive ideologues. I find time and space to pray and think.

    And as I pray and think, I know this…

    Creation is good. Very good. It bears witness to its Creator, who is good too.

    In our primitive dread we imagine a god who is petulant and hard to please, vindictive and retributive, capricious and cruel. But these are only petty projections born of our own fear.

    The mystics (and maybe the mountaineers) know better.

    When I can clear my head, I know better. High on the tundra between Longs Peak and the Never Summer Mountains I know the greatest of all truth: God is Love.
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