All posts in Violence

  • Good Friday: A World Indicted

    Cristo_en_la_Cruz (1)

    Good Friday: A World Indicted
    Brian Zahnd

    Good Friday offers humanity a genuinely new and previously unimagined way of understanding both the character of God and the nature of human civilization. As Jürgen Moltmann writes in The Crucified God, “the cross is the test of everything.” But to understand Good Friday we need to be clear on who did the accusing, condemning, and killing of Jesus of Nazareth.

    As we read the passion narratives in the Gospels it’s obvious that it isn’t God who insists on the execution of Jesus. Mark tells us, “the chief priests accused him of many crimes.” (Mark 15:3) Jesus’ jealous rivals accused him of heresy, blasphemy, and sedition because they were possessed by the satanic spirit of rivalry and blame. It wasn’t God who charged Jesus with capital crimes. It wasn’t God who shouted, “Crucify him!” It wasn’t God who ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The work of accusation, condemnation, and torture is the work of human civilization under the sway of the satan. The spirit of God is not heard in the crowd’s bloodlust cries of “crucify him,” but in Christ’s merciful plea, “Father, forgive them.” We must not imagine the machinations of the devil as the handiwork of God!

    When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the principalities and powers of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate and their constituent institutions of religious, economic, and political power were at enmity with one another. These power brokers were bitter rivals locked in a fatal embrace. But when they took their rivalry-induced fear and hate, and projected it onto Jesus as their chosen scapegoat on Good Friday, they achieved a demonic unity. Luke precisely tells us this. “That same day [Good Friday] Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.” (Luke 23:12)
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  • Closing The Book On Vengeance

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    Closing The Book On Vengeance
    (A reflection on Luke 4:14-30)
    Brian Zahnd

    To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God.

    This is how Jesus read Isaiah 61:2 when he returned to Nazareth after beginning his ministry. Jesus edited Isaiah. Reading from this familiar passage in Isaiah, Jesus stopped midsentence and rolled up the scroll! It would be like someone singing the national anthem and ending with, O’er the land of the free. Everybody would be waiting for and the home of the brave. Jesus didn’t finish the line. Jesus omitted the bit about “the day of vengeance of our God.”

    In announcing that God’s jubilee of liberation, amnesty, and pardon was arriving with what he was doing, Jesus omitted any reference to God exacting vengeance on Israel’s enemies. In claiming that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled in their hearing, Jesus is claiming to be Jubilee in person. But the scandalous suggestion is that this Jubilee is to be for everybody…even Israel’s enemies.

    Jesus edited out vengeance, and this gives us a key to how Jesus read the Old Testament. And lest we think that Jesus’ omission of “the day of vengeance” was simply an oversight or meaningless, consider what Jesus says to the hometown crowd in the synagogue following his edited reading of Isaiah. Jesus recalls the stories of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper — Gentiles who instead of receiving vengeance from God, received provision and healing.
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  • Bethlehem: Beauty and Brutality

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    Bethlehem: Beauty and Brutality
    Brian Zahnd

    The Sunday before Advent I was preaching in Bethlehem. While there a Palestinian friend I’ve known for nearly twenty years and who shares my appreciation for Orthodox icons gave me the wonderful gifts of a Nativity icon and a Root of Jesse icon. These “gospels in color” now occupy a prominent place in my study. They have been especially meaningful to me during this season of Advent.

    Icons

    I also received two more “souvenirs” from Bethlehem — a spent teargas canister and a used rubber bullet retrieved from the street in front of the Bethlehem Bible College where some of my Palestinian Christian friends teach. Unfortunately, these sad souvenirs are quite plentiful.

    Teargas
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  • 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

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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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  • An Encyclical and a Massacre

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    An Encyclical and a Massacre
    Brian Zahnd

    Lord Jesus, help me to be a voice of peace, drawing your church in America away from its idolatrous allegiance to nationalism, militarism, consumerism, racism, violence, guns, and war. Amen.

    I pray this prayer everyday. I’ve done so for years. It’s part of my morning liturgy of prayer. Praying this prayer has formed me in a certain way. (The primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we think God ought to do, but to be properly formed.) This prayer has influenced me to write books about forgiveness, beauty, and peace. My target audience is the evangelical church in America. My people.

    I also pray the Confession of Sin from the Book of Common Prayer. I always pray it in the plural…

    Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you…

    I pray this prayer in the plural because I know I am complicit in sins I have not personally committed. I know I benefit from sinful structures for which I’m not personally responsible. I benefit from an economy originally founded on stolen land and slave labor. I didn’t “do” these things, but still people like me benefit from them. I know this. So the very, very least I can do is pray, “Father, forgive us our sins.”

    I prayed these prayers today. Like I do everyday. But today is different.
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  • Jesus Died for Us…Not for God

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    Jesus Died for Us…Not for God
    Brian Zahnd

    “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” –The Apostle Peter, Acts 3:15

    Golgotha is where the great crimes of humanity — pride, rivalry, blame, violence, domination, war, and empire — are dragged into the searing light of divine judgment. At Golgotha we see the system of human organization that we blithely call “civilization” for what it is: an axis of power enforced by violence so corrupt that it is capable of murdering God in the name of what we call truth, justice, and liberty.

    Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners. At the cross we discover that the God revealed in Christ would rather die in the name of love than kill in the name of freedom. Our savior is Jesus Christ, not William Wallace.

    The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace. But it is not a contest of equals. In the end love and beauty win. We call it Easter.
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  • Peace Donkey On Palm Sunday

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    Peace Donkey On Palm Sunday
    Blind Man At The Gate

    The king approaches on Palm Sunday
    Forsaking the glorious war horse
    To ride a ridiculous peace donkey

    Gentle as the wings of a dove
    Inaugurating the reign of love

    Conquerors come with hubris, blood, and violence
    Riding stallions of famine, war, and pestilence
    (They tell me Genghis Khan murdered all of ten million)

    The Prince of Peace comes without breaking a bruised reed
    Swords are now for plowing, spears are now for pruning
    (I’ll tell you for a fact, Jesus of Nazareth killed nary a one)

    If Hosanna praises rocket’s red glare: Weep over Jerusalem!
    If Hosanna acclaims kingdom come: Let the rocks cry out!

    BZ
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