All posts tagged John Howard Yoder

  • The Sermon on the Mount and Caesar’s Sword


    The Sermon On the Mount and Caesar’s Sword
    Brian Zahnd

    As I call Christians to the practices of radical forgiveness and nonviolent peacemaking that Jesus embodied and most clearly sets forth in the Sermon on the Mount, I often encounter Christians using Romans 13:1–7 as a kind of rebuttal. (Though whom they’re rebutting — me or Jesus — isn’t always clear.) Their argument goes something like this:

    “God has ordained the government and has given it the sword to execute vengeance; therefore we cannot be opposed to war because Romans 13 sanctions ‘Just War.’”

    Usually this argument is given to me in the context of advocating that the United States government should wage total war on ISIS and other enemies of America, and that the church should celebrate this.

    But this is an egregious misinterpretation and misapplication of what Paul is talking about. Let me explain.
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  • Manhood Is Not Brutality


    Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
    murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
    hurling down to the House of the Death so many sturdy souls,
    great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
    feasts for the dogs and birds,
    and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
    Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
    Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
    —The Iliad

    Western civilization has always had two competing sacred texts: The Iliad and the Bible. We have long pretended we can form a nice synthesis of the two—that Homer’s Achilles and Isaiah’s Immanuel are somehow compatible ideals, but they are not. The rage of Achilles and the peace of Immanuel are fundamentally contradictory visions for the ideal of humanity in general and of manhood in particular. Those who derive their ideal of manhood from the pagan vision personified in Achilles will never be able to reconcile it with the ideal of manhood depicted in Christ. Achilles or Christ? Who is our model of manhood? We must choose. We must choose between the brutal way of Achilles and the peaceable way of Christ. And if you feel compelled to appeal to the whip-wielding Christ in the temple as an attempt to synthesize the two, let me simply say that Christ cleansing the temple is a world away from the violence of The Iliad that dominates imaginations from Homer to Hollywood; i.e. Jesus’ prophetic protest against religious exploitation is no endorsement of a “Walker, Texas Ranger” version of Messiah! Read more