Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Farewell To Mars

Click to Order From Amazon Farewell To Mars

You need to read this book, then read this book again, then read this book one more time.  Pastor Brian Zahnd is speaking prophetically to this generation of Western Christians.  These are the things we are not hearing about Jesus that we should be hearing about Jesus, because this is who Jesus really is.

Here are 10 of the 180 quotes I took from this book.

  1. We reduce Jesus to being the Savior who guarantees our reservation in heaven while using him to endorse our own ideas about how to run the world.
  2. 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!
  3. What has happened over the ensuing two millennia is that we who confess Christ have deftly (and mostly unconsciously) crafted a religion that neatly separates the Jesus who died on the cross for the radical ideas he preached—ideas that Jesus foresaw would lead to his crucifixion.
  4. What I saw was that great and powerful nations shape God into their own image; great and powerful nations conscript God to do their bidding. Great and powerful nations use the idea and vocabulary of God to legitimize their own agenda. Great and powerful nations project God as a personification of their own national interests. And for the most part, they don’t know they are doing it. This is not to say that everything great and powerful nations do is evil—far from it. They maintain order, provide security, produce industry, maintain civility, educate the populace, preserve culture, and so on. But neither are they to be confused with the kingdom of Christ. And neither can they claim that the God revealed in the crucified and risen Christ is their God, committed to their interests! No! There are no “Christian nations” in the political sense. 
  5. The thought that makes me so happy is that Jesus is the Savior of the world! This world that you and I inhabit—where we go to work, do our living, raise our children, and try to find meaning and happiness—Jesus is the Savior of that! Jesus is not a heavenly conductor handing out tickets to heaven. Jesus is the carpenter who repairs, renovates, and restores God’s good world. The divine vision and original intention for human society is not to be abandoned, but saved. That’s a big deal! It’s the gospel! And it makes me happy!
  6. In fact, in the eight gospel sermons found in the book of Acts, not one of them is based on afterlife issues! Instead they proclaimed that the world now had a new emperor and his name was Jesus! Their witness was this: the Galilean Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, had been executed by Roman crucifixion, but God had vindicated him by raising him from the dead. The world now had a new boss: Jesus the Christ. What the world’s new Lord (think emperor) is doing is saving the world.
  7. And while it may be true that the Jewish community in general has not recognized that God is repairing the world through Jesus, Christians often fail to recognize that God is repairing the world at all!  Salvation is a restoration project, not an evacuation project!
  8. Nothing has done more to confer dignity upon the individual person than the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. If God can become human, then we must reconsider how we treat our fellow humans. The incarnation has, without question, made the world a more humane place by raising the dignity of every individual.  Of course I can hear the skeptics howl! They will point out that the world has seen plenty of atrocities since the advent of Christ. Indeed. But what skeptics often fail to realize is that it is precisely because of Calvary that we call these things atrocities and not normalcy. Without the life of Christ, would we call massacres and genocides atrocities, or would we call them just the way things are? Did the pagan world have the ethical resources to produce what has come to be known as “human rights”? Now I’m the one who is skeptical! In the pre-Christian pagan world, what we now call atrocities were largely seen as simply the triumph of the strong over the weak, the way of nature, the way things ought to be.  A world that had never seen a Christmas and never celebrated an Easter would still be a pagan world bereft of compassion for the poor, the sick, the weak, the marginalized, the victimized—the very people Jesus brings out of the shadows through his life and teaching.
  9. We have to choose between Christ and the crowd. Let me put it to you like this: Jesus loves you, but he may not love the crowd you have aligned yourself with.  To follow Jesus requires the courage to leave the crowd and join his little flock, Christ is against the crowd because of the crowd’s deep inhumanity and dark allegiance with the satan. But Christ calls to each soul lost in the crowd, seeking to gather all of us to his little flock—a flock redeemed from the demonic crowd learning to live beyond fear and without a need for scapegoats. The flock liberated from fear, living together peaceably, never building unity on a sacrificial “them”—this is the universal flock of the Prince of Peace. That the world might become the little flock of Christ is the peacemaker’s hopeful dream.
  10. As the climax of the Hebrew prophetic tradition, Jesus did not merely testify against symptomatic sin—in fact, he spent very little time doing this. Rather, Jesus struck at the heart of the systemic evil that has provided the foundation for human civilization. Jesus didn’t seem very interested in exposing symptomatic sinners—tax collectors, drunkards, prostitutes, etc. Instead Jesus challenged the guardians of systemic sin—the power brokers of religion and politics. Jesus knew that tax collectors were greedy and violent, but he was more interested in focusing his prophetic critique on the foundations of greed and violence that inevitably produce greedy and violent people. Sinful tax collectors were merely a symptom of a sinful but hidden system. The sinful and hidden system of greed and violence is “the world.” Jesus, in his prophetic preaching, was shining a light on the dark foundation of the world: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35).

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