All posts in Peace

  • 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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  • My 4th of July Prayer

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    My 4th of July Prayer
    Brian Zahnd

    Father God, Creator of heaven and earth—
    You have made all the peoples of the earth for your pleasure,
    You have appointed the nations of the world for your glory.
    As a people who have pledged allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ,
    We pray today for the nation in which we dwell.
    We pray you would grant us to be governed by good and wise leaders;
    That we would be governed in such a manner that we may live in peace.
    We pray you help this nation strive for righteousness and justice;
    That your care for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the alien—
    Would flow like a mighty stream through our nation.
    May we be a people of humility, generosity and compassion.
    May the weakest among us, the unborn and the unfortunate, the elderly and the ill—
    Be shown your justice and mercy.
    We pray that we who are the followers of the Prince of Peace and his kingdom,
    Would be a peaceable people seeking to live in peace with one another.
    We pray that hate and acrimony would give way to love and harmony.
    We pray that the church of Jesus Christ in our land would be found faithful.
    We pray that we would be a faithful witness to the kingdom of God;
    That the church in this nation would be a city set upon a hill;
    That the church in this nation would faithfully model the way of salvation—
    The way of following Jesus Christ.
    We ask all of this in the name of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
    Amen.
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  • It’s Hard to Believe in Jesus

    3298 Sermon on Mount 10.5x13.75 cas d(v) Dec. 23, 1949 signed (v)

    It’s Hard to Believe in Jesus
    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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  • Merry Christmas! War is Abolished!

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    Merry Christmas! War is Abolished!
    by Brian Zahnd

    Isaiah had a dream, a God-inspired dream.
    Isaiah was a poet, a God-intoxicated poet.
    He had a Messianic dream that he turned into a prophetic poem.
    It goes like this—

    In days to come
    the mountain of the LORD’s house
    shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be raised above the hills;
    all the nations shall stream to it.
    Many peoples shall come and say,
    “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
    to the house of the God of Jacob;
    that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
    For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
    and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
    He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
    they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
    nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

    -Isaiah 2:2–4

    Swords turned into plowshares.
    Spears into pruning hooks.
    Tanks turned into tractors.
    Missile silos into grain silos.
    The study of war abandoned for learning the ways of the Lord.
    Instead of academies where we learn to make war,
    there will be universities where we learn to wage peace.
    The cynic will laugh (for lack of imagination), but this is Isaiah’s vision.

    And every Christmas we borrow another of Isaiah’s poems to celebrate the birth of the child who makes these dreams come true—

    The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
    those who live in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined…
    For all the boots of the tramping solidiers
    and all the uniforms stained in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for fire.
    For unto us a child is born,
    unto us a son given;
    the government shall be upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    His government shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
    for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.

    -Isaiah 9:2, 5–7

    Isaiah in his prophetic poems frames the Messianic hope like this:

    A Prince of Peace will establish a new kind of government, a government characterized by ever-increasing peace. Weapons of war will be transformed into instruments of agriculture. At last the nations will find their way out of the darkness of endless war into the light of God’s enduring peace.

    This is Isaiah’s hope. Christians take Isaiah’s hope and make a daring claim: Jesus is that Prince of Peace! Jesus is the one who makes Isaiah’s dreams come true. From the day of Pentecost to the present this is what Christians have claimed.
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  • The World After Easter

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    The World After Easter
    by Brian Zahnd

    He Who Sits Upon The Throne says, “Look here! I am making all things new!”

    This is the only time in Revelation where we hear the voice of Him Who Sits Upon The Throne.

    There are only three other times in the New Testament when we hear the voice of God the Father:

    At Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

    At the Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased — listen to him!”

    Before the Paschal Mystery: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

    These occurrences of the Voice of God emphasize that Jesus is the Word of God — the incarnation of the Logos/Logic/Love of God sent into the world to redeem humanity from the dominion of Sin and Death.

    When He Who Sits Upon The Throne says, Look here! I am making all things new! — he is doing it through his eternal Word, his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

    This is what was promised in Abraham.
    Foretold by the Prophets.
    Born at Bethlehem.
    Inaugurated on Easter.
    The making of all things new!

    God’s solution for a Creation marred by Sin and Death is not to abandon it, evacuate it, condemn it, or destroy it, but to remake it — to make it new again! This is what was inaugurated on Easter! Read more

  • The Radical Alternative of the Gospel of Peace

    Christ Mocked by Soldiers

    The Radical Alternative of the Gospel of Peace
    by Brian Zahnd

    Christians call Jesus the “Prince of Peace.” But what does that mean? Is it just a Christmas card cliché? Does it merely mean some peace of mind in an anxiety-ridden world? Or might it mean something more substantial? Perhaps much more substantial. Might it mean that Jesus offers the world an alternative arrangement that could best be described as peace? This is what I have come to believe. Jesus is the savior of the world in a real, wonderful, and urgent way — the Prince of Peace who can lead humanity out of the madness of arranging our world around power, violence and war.

    I have my own story of how I moved beyond a misguided allegiance to that tired paradigm of violence by discovering the radical alternative of the gospel of peace. This was not an easy move, but it was worth it. And it’s a story worth telling.

    But I’m most interested in telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth and the revolutionary ideas he preached — especially his ideas about peace. This first century Jew from whose birth we date our common era, this one who became the heir of Isaiah’s ancient moniker of “Prince of Peace,” preached a new way of being human and an alternative arrangement of society that he called the reign or kingdom of God. It was (and is!) a peaceable kingdom. My claim, which I’m told is audacious by some and naïve by others is simply this: Jesus Christ and his peaceable kingdom are the hope of the world.
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  • Eye-Deep In Lies

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    Eye-Deep In Lies
    by Blindman At The Gate

    Why is it that if we dare to envision a world without war
    (A hope offered humanity by the prophet Isaiah bar Amoz)
    We’re considered hopelessly naïve or even treasonous?

    Why is it that everyone knows Jesus taught the way of nonviolence
    (Just read the Sermon on the Mount and you’ll see what I mean)
    Except those who most vociferously call themselves Christians?

    Why is it that a clear renunciation of war is called cowardly
    (Suggest killing enemies is not the way and see what happens)
    When following the crowd has never required any courage?

    Why is it we’re suspicious of those called peacemakers
    (Ask brave Daniel Ellsberg, he’ll tell you all about it)
    When the One we worship is called the Prince of Peace?

    Why is it we believe the coming of Christ will bring the reign of peace
    (For we do confess that someday the lion will lay down with the lamb)
    But in the mean time act as if we must preserve war as long as possible?

    Why are those who renounce war and embrace peace called stupid
    (“The poor dolts don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain”)
    When Einstein said, “I’m not only a pacifist, but a militant pacifist”?

    Why am I even bothering to talk about the topic of peace
    (“Shouldn’t he be preaching the gospel or something?”)
    When I know good and well it will only cause me grief? Read more