All posts tagged Voltaire

  • In Praise of Ordinary Church

    In Praise of Ordinary Church
    Brian Zahnd

    Sometime in late modernity Christians who had deeply, though mostly unwittingly, imbibed the heady cocktails served by the high priests of the Enlightenment (Voltaire, Hume, Nietzsche, et al.) conjured the drunken idea that Jesus had given a writ of divorce to the church. In an age of suspicion committed to the critique of tradition how could it be otherwise? Surely the compelling figure of Jesus of Nazareth could have nothing to do with the tired institution that is dismissively referred to as “organized religion”? This secular assault upon the church found a surprising resonance among many Christians — especially pietists, revivalists, and rugged American individualists. Thus was born the modern idea of Jesus as personal savior (which really means private savior), leaving the church as little more than an optional common interest club for the more socially inclined. Jesus was essential, but the church was optional, or perhaps irrelevant, or even a hindrance to Christian faith.

    Today this kind of thinking is in full bloom. But what should we make of it? Or perhaps a better question is, what would the first followers of Jesus make of this development? I have no doubt at all that they would scratch their heads at this strange new private religion with its stunning capacity to misunderstand Jesus and his message.
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  • You Are What You Pray


    You Are What You Pray
    Brian Zahnd

    I am a religious person because I pray.

    In that sense I have a solidarity with all who pray.

    I have more in common with the Egyptian Muslim who prays five times a day than with the European secularist who never prays.

    I have more in common with the Indian Hindu who prays to Brahma than with the American consumerist who prays to nothing at all.

    I have more in common with the mystic Rumi than with the Deist Jefferson.

    (That the majority of American evangelicals feel more at home with an Enlightenment secularist than with a Muslim mystic shows just how secular we really are.)

    I am a Christian because I pray as a Christian.

    I pray to the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

    I pray the prayer Jesus gave his disciples to pray.

    I pray the prayers of the Church.

    How we pray is how we are formed.

    The Hindu is formed by Hindu prayers.

    The Jew is formed by Jewish prayers.

    The Christian is formed by Christian prayers.

    The Muslim is formed by Muslim prayers.

    The secularist is formed by not praying.

    Those who refuse to pray the liturgical prayers of a received tradition are on the verge of becoming a secularist.

    They have followed the dictates of Voltaire and Jefferson and rejected the authority of religious tradition.

    They endorse Voltaire’s cynicism and Jefferson’s scissors.

    If they pray at all, they pray their own prayers, which is to say, they’re not being formed by prayer—
    They’re only wishing.

    They wish for what they want and call it prayer.

    Window shopping imagined as prayer.

    This is the prayer of the consumerist, the secularist, the atheist.

    But Christian tradition knows better.

    The primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what you want him to do—
    But to be properly formed.

    We are formed as Christian people as we pray Christian prayers.

    “When you pray, say…” -Jesus

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