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zahnd-on-empire

This is Part 2 of my interview with Brian Zahnd, author of A Farewell to Mars. You can read Part 1 here and my review here.

DS: Most libertarian Christians are highly suspicious of centralized power. We contend that when power becomes increasingly concentrated, it becomes increasingly corrupt and more harmful to society. You strongly oppose the idea of empire in your book, especially when the empire claims to have God on its side. Few Christians (even Christian anarchists) would deny that governance is needed, but at what point does government become empire? Are local governments less likely to become satanic than federal governments?

BZ: I loosely define empires as rich, powerful nations who seek to rule other nations and claim a manifest destiny to direct history. As a Christian I am opposed to empire for the simple reason that what empires claim for themselves, God has given to Christ. God loves nations, but is opposed to empire. So, yes, smaller is better. This is where I think we should all listen to Wendell Berry. If there is a prophet in America today it’s Wendell Berry. Read More→

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A Farewell to MarsBrian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He is the author of several books, most recently A Farewell to Mars (review here), where he recounts his journey to the gospel of peace after many years of marching to the drumbeats of war. His journey will resonate with libertarians who are disenchanted with the state of political affairs in the United States, as well as with many Christians who hunger for a gospel that speaks to human social needs.

Zahnd agreed to discuss the themes of his new book with somebody who has a libertarian Christian audience in mind. My questions were shaped in part by my desire to connect the core issues that matter to me as a libertarian – primarily violence and peace – with my belief that the gospel of Jesus will change human society. I do not assume or expect Zahnd to agree with libertarians on politics, but I do believe our views overlap enough to have a unique conversation. I have also tried to avoid questions he has already answered in the book.

Brian,
Thank you for being willing to discuss with me the themes in your new book. As I was reading it, I knew it would resonate with my fellow libertarians. We have a reputation of being contrarians, especially in politics! Many of us are strongly anti-war. The non-aggression principle is foundational to our political beliefs. We strongly affirm Lord Acton’s famous quote on the corruption of absolute power. It is no surprise that anyone who teaches that Jesus spoke against empire ends up on our radar!

DS: On this issue of peace and violence, what criticisms have you experienced? What do you believe your critics are missing most about the message of Jesus? How has their critique affected the way you understand and communicate this message?

BZ: First of all, Doug, thank you for the opportunity to engage with your audience.

We tend to divide the subject of violence into two categories: individual/criminal violence and corporate/civil violence. If I speak of the problem of violence on the level of the individual — street violence, domestic violence, criminal violence — I receive no criticism at all. But if I call into question the organized mass violence of war, I have to brace myself for withering criticism. The violence of war is sacred violence. It’s hallowed in anthem, memorial, monument, and myth. The massive violence of war is sacred because it has been the organizing principle of civilization. This is the story that history (and the Bible) tells us. This is the foundational story of Cain and Abel. Cain re-imagined his brother as a rival and enemy. So Cain killed Abel. Then Cain lied to God and himself about what he had done, moved east of Eden, and founded the first city. This is how the Bible tells the story of the rise of human civilization as we build upon a foundation of collective murder. Over the course of six millennia human civilization has clung to power enforced by violence as our organizing principle, and most people find it nearly impossible to imagine the world any other way. Read More→

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Apr
19

Militarism and Easter

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On this Good Friday, Christians are focused on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for the sins of the world. But on every other day of the year (expect perhaps Christmas), many Christians are focused on some other people in the Bible.

The Bible on several occasions likens a Christian to a soldier (Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2). As soldiers, Christians are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). The Apostle Paul, who himself said: “I have fought a good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7), told a young minister to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Read More→

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Two articles came to my attention today that are well worth reading. The first comes from Judge Andrew Napolitano as an Easter reflection called Hope for the Dead. He suggests an intimate connection between the ideal of freedom and rising from the dead:

“When the government takes away our free will, the government steals a gift from God; it violates the natural law; it prevents us from having and utilizing the means to the truth. The moral ability to exercise free will to seek the truth is a natural right that all humans possess, and the government may only morally interfere with the exercise of that right when one affirmatively has given it away by using fraud or force to interfere with the exercise of someone else’s natural rights.

We know from the events 2,000 years ago, which Christians commemorate and celebrate this week, that freedom is the essential means to discover and unite with the truth. And to Christians, the personification, the incarnation, the perfect manifestation of truth is Jesus.”

Read the full article by the Judge here.

The second is by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute and is entitled Jesus Lived in a Police State. He finds many similarities between how the Roman state acted around the time of Christ and how the US government behaves today:

“Just as police states have arisen throughout history, there have also been individuals or groups of individuals who have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age. Nazi Germany had its Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The gulags of the Soviet Union were challenged by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. America had its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering called out for what it was, blatant discrimination and profiteering, by Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Yet for all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America, and yet they are striking.”

Read the full article here. Have any great articles you want to share? Let us know in the comments.

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This article was jointly written by Doug Stuart and Jessica Hooker. See Part 1 here.

Elizabeth Stoker has argued against what she presumes to be the incompatibility of Christianity and libertarianism.  In our first post we examined the first of her three arguments. Here we begin to look at the subject of private property.

2.) Not only does the Bible indicate that God values private property, in it we see God’s desire to see property stewarded for its value to humanity. 

John Locke began his Second Treatise on Government with a comment on property:

“…we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit…”

The idea of private property is fundamental to libertarian philosophy and is clearly supported in the Bible.  We find in the book of Exodus the laws God gave the people of Israel as they emerged from Egypt.  This covenant between God and the Israelites ordered justice in their community.  Part of that covenant and establishment of justice included property rights.  Exodus 22 deals solely with laws regarding property—both livestock and land—and also lists the restitution that is required if these laws are violated. While this may be an oversimplification, the concept of property rights was a part of God’s arrangement with Israel in ordering a just society. God expected them to share, yes, but how can one share what is not one’s own? Perhaps the phrase “stewardship rights” is more accurate a description than “property rights.” We each “own” something, which is to say, we are stewards of real property, and God has certain expectations of us. Read More→

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