All posts in War

  • Los Alamos: We Have Become Death

    LosAlamos

    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.
    Read more

  • When America Went To Hell

    Amerfican Art Exhibit  Civil War Church_Our_Banner_In_The_Skyaa
    When America Went To Hell
    Brian Zahnd

    “How I wish that you of all people would understand the things that make for peace.”
    —Jesus (Luke 19:42)

    Whether or not slavery was the direct cause for the first shots fired upon Fort Sumter in April of 1861 is a matter of scholarly debate. What is undeniable is that two and half centuries of slavery was the fuel that caused the American Civil War to ignite into a conflagration that resulted in 750,000 deaths. From its Jamestown beginnings the American colonies and later the United States practiced one of the most brutal forms of slavery the world has ever known. The preservation of an institution that systematically dehumanized millions of people for the sake of economic gain was not a thing that made for peace. Inevitably that kind of cruel exploitation would overflow its cup and unleash death and hell, bringing everything that is the opposite of peace. During the horror of the American Civil War, the “land of the free” became a burning Gehenna. Thirty percent of Southern men of fighting age were slain on battlefields that saw the birth of modern warfare. From now on, war would be totalized and mechanized. The four horseman of the Apocalypse galloped across America leaving a wake of war, disease, famine, and death.
    Read more

  • Peace Donkey On Palm Sunday

    palm-sunday-an_african_jesus_christ_s_triumphal_entry_into_jerusalem_riding_on_a_donkey_to_the_enthusiasm_of_the_crowds

    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
    Read more

  • 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.
    Read more

  • 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.
    Read more

  • 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.
    Read more

  • Achilles or Immanuel?

    IMG_4926

    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)

    Read more

  • Christmas Shock and Awe

    seeingshepherds

    Christmas Shock and Awe
    Brian Zahnd

    Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others,
    The armies of heaven,
    Praising God and saying,
    Glory to God in the highest,
    And peace on earth.

    –Luke 2:14

    This is Christmas shock and awe. D-Day circa 5 BC. The night skies over Bethlehem are suddenly filled with an invading army — an army from another world, an army representing another government, an army from heaven. This army has come in the cause of regime change. The world is about to be given a new day, a new kingdom, a new lease on life. Caesar, Pharaoh, Herod and all their kind are being supplanted by a newborn king — the King of the Jews. He is the long-awaited Prince of Peace. This is why the armies of heaven are invading the night skies over Bethlehem.

    Nearly 250 times the Old Testament describes the God of Israel as the LORD of Hosts, Yahweh Sabbaoth, the Lord of Armies. Now at the birth of God’s chosen king the armies of heaven invade earth with shock and awe. This is why the shepherds were “sore afraid.” But they need not have been. This is not a killing army, but a singing army. This army comes, not to kill, but to carol.

    The text in Luke says the angels were saying, but Christian imagination has interpreted their saying as singing. I like that. The army of heaven is a choir — combat by chorus. The army of heaven doesn’t launch missiles, it launches into song. The heavenly army sings of the glory of God and of peace on earth.
    Read more

  • Christianity In the Age of Nuclear Weapons

    luciano-civettini-mushroom-cloud-jpb

    Christianity In the Age of Nuclear Weapons
    Brian Zahnd

    Today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Saturday we will mourn Nagasaki. As we remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the quarter of a million casualties suffered, I would like to share a few words from A Farewell To Mars.

    It’s easy to imagine that the world doesn’t really change — that it simply marches around the maypole of violence, trampling the victims into the mud same as it ever has. But as true as that may be, something has changed. We are post-something. If nothing else, we are post-1945 when the enlightenment dream of attainable utopia went up in smoke — literal smoke! — from the chimneys of Auschwitz and a mushroom cloud over Hiroshima.

    After 1945 we lost our blind faith in the inevitability of human progress. A threshold was crossed, and something important changed when humanity gained possession of what previously only God possessed: the capacity for complete annihilation. In yielding to the temptation to harness the fundamental physics of the universe for the purpose of building city-destroying bombs, have we again heard the serpent whisper, “You will be like God”?

    When Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, witnessed the first atomic detonation at Los Alamos on July 16, 1945, he recalled the words of Vishnu from the Bhagavad Gita…

    “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

    When the monstrous mushroom cloud rose over the New Mexico desert, did the human race indeed become Death, the destroyer of worlds? It’s more than a legitimate question. We’ve now lived for over a generation with the most haunting post-Holocaust/Hiroshima uncertainty: Can humanity possess the capacity for self-destruction and not resort to it? The jury is still out. But this much is certain: If we think the ideas of Jesus about peace are irrelevant in the age of genocide and nuclear weapons, we have invented an utterly irrelevant Christianity!
    Read more