J.E.S.U.S.A. (2020) - full transcript

J.E.S.U.S.A. is an in-depth exploration of the relationship between Christianity and American nationalism and the violence that often emerges from it. Far from a new phenomenon, this ...

We are the greatest
country on this planet.

We are going to
defeat the barbarians

and we're going
to defeat them fast.

And to our enemies...

To our enemies,
we will pursue you

as only America
can. You will fear us.

It is time to show
the whole world

that America is back,
bigger and better

and stronger than ever before.

The American narrative, the militaristic
spirit is so deeply ingrained in our bones.

And I know that because I was
that person for so many years,

like I know what it feels
like to be so committed,

to a militaristic, destroy your enemy
kind of posture while maintaining

my Christian faith. I
know what that feels like.

And when you start
to challenge that,

it cuts to the core of who we are,
as American Christians,

or I'll say AmericanChristians.

I think it's
hard for outsiders. I mean,

people not living and
growing upin America

to understand how
deeply that myth is woven

into the American psyche.

That America is not just the
latest in a long line of superpowers.

America is raised up by God
with special purposes. Generally,

they'll talk about bringing the gospel to
the nations, which the gospel also includes

certain visions of democracy
and things like that. And the primary

means by which America will
accomplish that is either the

infliction of violence or the threat
of violence. That's always there.

That's why, in the Christian mind,
a trillion dollar military

is somehow also very connected
to purposes of Christ in the world,

which I think is ludicrous. But, I promise
you that in that particular narrative,

it makes sense.

Love God, love thy neighbor. Hey!

Because in the end, the
devil and evil, they know the bottom line,

who will have the
dominion of the use of force?

Will it be good,
honorable young men and women?

Or will it be the wolves?

I think a lot of people in the
body of Christ have a hard time

associating Jesus with
making an assault weapon.

But it's right there in the Scripture,

it's a Scripture that's not taught in churches
because it kind of breaks that narrative.

He actually manufactured,
he spent time to manufacture a scourge,

which is a nine tail whip
for the purpose of assaulting

the money changers in the temple. So,

what he did was manufacture
an assault weapon

for the purpose
of beating people.

You know, Luke 22:36

one of last things
Jesus tells his disciples.

He said, I told you before,
don't you take your cloak with you.

Now I tell you,
sell your cloak and buy a sword.

What would Jesus do? One of the last things
he told us to do is to arm ourselves.

Hebrews tells us David was
made after God's own heart.

And Saul has killed his thousands,
David has killed his tens of thousands.

Think about this, "Thou shalt not
kill." It's kind of a weak translation

taken horribly out of context.

All of the Jewish translations,
original Hebrew,

translate to "shall not murder."

Almost all the modern translation
translate to "shall not murder."

And there's a clear difference between
murder and lawful use of deadly force.

- Back! Down!
- Down! Down! Down!

Lawful use of deadly force to
protect the innocent is always there.

Greater love has no one than this.
They lay their life down for their friends.

And who are your
friends? Then we get

the parable of the Good
Samaritan. Where your neighbors,

and that responsibility to try to
take the world and make it safe.

We see it
as practicing self defense

as the actualization oflove
God and love your neighbor.

Which Jesus said,
is the greatest commandments. Love God,

love the gifts that he's given and
also know how to protect them,

and protect your neighbor. Even though
that neighbor may not be of the faith,

or a believer in Christ.

We still have a duty to
extend Christ's love upon them.

I think the picture of Christ as

this sort of pacifist
is non biblical.

It's non biblical even when you
look at the Old Testament as well,

through the the warrior leaders.

Moses had to become a leader of armies.
Abraham had to become a leader of armies,

King David, all the kings throughout
the Scripture are leading armies.

So we really see it as
like a spiritual practice.

All right young man, here we go.

Tenderness inside is important,

but also, at the same time,
the ability to

defend Christ's kingdom.
Loving our enemies,

praying for those
who persecute you.

This is something that
Christ tells us to do.

He doesn't say, however,
let the enemies destroy your nations,

your civilization,
rape your women and children.

He does not say that.

We know that Christ is a shepherd,
so he protects his flock.

Ladies and gentlemen,
may I introduce to you, the truth?

Jesus is not Mother Teresa.

He's William Wallace.

We have feminized this man.

We've turned him into an
American male who goes to Target

and doesn't know
which bathroom to use.

He was a hellraiser.

Started arguments and
fights everywhere he went.

I would agree with C. S. Lewis, who said,
"Though I can respect an honest pacifist,

I believe him to be
entirely mistaken."

I respect him, just, you know,

step aside so I can protect you,

We're not wrestling
against flesh and blood,

we're wresting against somebody
who roams about like a roaring lion

seeking someone to devour.

He will gun you down in your
sanctuary. He will rape your kids.

He'll attack you at Walmart,
Target, he don't care where you at

because he is a killer,
and that is his nature.

And if he can find somebody willing
to carry out his plan, he will do it.

It would be wonderful if
the whole world was pacifist.

But we live in a world that,
according to the Epistle of First John,

the whole world lies
under the power of the devil.

And Jesus said in John 8:44,
he's a liar and a murderer.

We never
mention the names of the killers

'cause we give these
guys way too much glory.

And all they want
to be is recognized.

They're in it for the glory.
They feel like they're a god.

When they come into
your area with a gun,

they feel like they're a God and they're
gonna be in the news. But I know...

You can kill to protect others,

and there's justification for that,
all through the Scriptures.

But it's not natural.

It's not natural to
kill another person.

Inside most healthy members of
our species is this resistance to killing.

Sociopaths don't
have that resistance.

Healthy people have
to be trained to kill.

There are sheep,
there are wolves and there are sheepdogs.

The wolf is a predator. He
will kill to satisfy his own needs,

but the psychology of a police
officer or a military person,

or somebody who's a defender,

they have the propensity to kill.
They have the propensity for violence,

but they have empathy
for their fellow man,

which is something that a
cold blooded killer doesn't have.

I've used
this analogy of the sheep,

the wolf and the sheepdog
for a very long time,

and it's amazing how almost every
time somebody comes up and said,

"You know, I always thoughtthere's something
wrong with me. I thought I was a wolf.

I would never harm the flock,

but I yearn for the opportunity
to use my skills and to protect it.

All my life, I've stood up to the bully, and
all my life, I've tried to protect people

and all my life I've been prepared
for violence when it comes.

I'm not a wolf, I'm a sheepdog."

And I tell people,
you know what,

I know who my great shepherd is.

I'm a sheepdog under the
authority of the great shepherd,

and one day the sheepdog will finally
rest at the feet of the great shepherd.

And we yearn to hear those words, "Well
done there, good and faithful servant."

Many of the sheep
don't like the sheepdog

because he looks
too much like the wolf,

and he acts too much like the wolf,
and he has a propensity for violence.

He can get violent. He can
grab a gun and go to work.

And the sheep don't like
that until the wolf is attacking.

Then they want that.

And there are people
that don't even want it then.

There's always gonna be some
people who will never be convinced that

you should use a tool of protection.
Even to protect them. I don't get it.

I don't understand why they feel that way,
but they do.

The problem is that the churchgoing
people, and I say this all the time,

I know it's offensive,
but religion dumbs people down.

Welcome back. We're following this breaking
news out of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

A shooting taking place at
the First Baptist Church...

I remember after the 26
people were massacred in Texas,

I remember a churchgoing
man calling me saying,

"Jimmy, you know what's wrong with us church
people?" I said, "What's that, George?"

He said,
"We think everybody's like us.

We think everybody that comes to
church or at the mall, or the theater,

nobody's got evil intent." And
what's so odd about that is that

here you have people who teach
from the Bible, who pastor churches,

they're elders, they're Sunday
school teachers, they're theologians,

and they don't see the
potentialfor evil in the heart of man.

How did they miss the fact that we're
not even past the Book of Genesis,

when God said something
he'd never said before.

"I regret that I made man.
He's corrupt and violent."

People have always
been terribly violent,

but people don't understand that,
especially people of faith.

They give their hearts to Jesus
and throw their minds in a dumpster.

If you knew anything
about trust in God or faith,

you would know that
faith without works is dead.

We know that Abraham had
faith because he offered Isaac.

We know the woman who
was bleeding internally had faith,

because she pressed
her way through the crowd.

True legitimate faith made you do
something, and then you trust God.

Because faith without works is dead,
and you might be too,

if you don't have a plan. And I
always like to ask if faith is enough,

then tell me why are our brothers and sisters
overseas being killed for their faith?

Over 3000 Christians were
murdered by ISIS terrorists in 2017.

Six Christian women are raped and forced
into Islam every day in the Middle East.

If faith is enough,
why isn't he protecting them?

A grieving
mother and son turned martyr...

I no longer struggle with,
"Why do bad things happen?"

I'm way past that.

I know that God made this world and gave
it to Adam and said, "This is your world."

Genesis 1:26. Rule over
everything. The birds of the air,

the fish of the ocean, the animals
that creep about, what have you.

This is your world. You
and I will work in harmony

and we will make
it work. And that

is the reason bad things
happen. We're not doing our part.

It would be nice if
everybody was a pacifist.

You bet. But,
I'm stunned at these men and these women

who say they believe the word of God,
but don't dig beneath its pages.

And who don't study the
languageand see what it says.

I was Fry,
the long-haired Zeppelin kid,

and I had this encounter with Jesus,
and I'm carrying my Bible to school,

not to make a statement, not as
some sort of badge of super spirituality,

because I wanted
to read the thing.

We're gonna serve and seek
the God of peace like never before.

And like Martin,
we're gonna fulfill our...

I grew up in North Carolina.
I was a very devout kid

and believed in God.

My father was the local
newspaper publisher in the '60s.

He came out in support of the civil
rights movement and President Kennedy.

Well, as my mother said in every
white household in North Carolina,

in the South,
had somebody in the Klan.

And the Ku Klux Klan threatened
my father by threatening to kill me,

and that clarified a lot of
things about life in the world.

So, at first, I was just picking up
Bibles we had laying around our house.

Then I saw it under a glass case

at the Narrow Way bookstore,

a brown calfskin New
American standard Bible,

with wide margins.

And so what I did was,
I sold a bicycle I had. I sold it for $40

I went and bought that Bible,
and I just thought it was the best

$40 I would ever
spend in my life.

And I was reading it. I mean,
say what you will, I know the text,

because I've just
read it so much.

We were very politicized.
Knew everything about the Vietnam War,

and Dr. King and the
civil rights movement.

So that when Dr King was killed,
I was really shaken.

And then when Bobby Kennedy was killed,
like millions of us,

I thought that was
the end of all hope.

And what happened was,
I went into an existential crisis

and deep depression.

And then I went to Duke to get
away from the Catholic Church,

it's a good Methodist school and I
decided I don't believe in God anymore.

I just couldn't see how that worked

because life is so beautiful.

And so, one day I decided,
of course I believe in Jesus,

and I believe in God. Then
my next thought was, well,

you have to give
your whole life to God.

After about a year,
it was worn out,

and I said, "Hey, I want to get
another one of these Bibles." He said,

"Didn't you just get one?" I said,
"About a year ago."

So, what's the matter? I said,
"Well, it's all falling apart."

And he said, "Really? Do you
have it?" "Yeah, it's out in the car."

So, I bring it in. He said, "Yeah, it is
falling apart. These have a lifetime guarantee.

I'll just send this back to the
manufacturer, and I'll give you a new one."

After about a year, I was back again and I
said, "Looks like this one's defective, too,

'cause it's falling apart." And by this
time he had got to know me a little bit.

He said, "You know, Brian,
there's nothing wrong with these Bibles.

They just weren't made
for people like you."

And then I
decided to become a priest,

but what happened was,
I went to Israel to

hitchhike through Galilee,
to see where Jesus lived,

and end up walking
through a war zone.

I was there in the summer of
1982 during Israel's war in Lebanon,

and instead I saw
all these jet fighters

swooping down over
the Sea of Galilee,

dropping bombs
and killing people

at the Sea of Galilee,
where Jesus gave us the beatitudes,

where he called us
to love our enemies.

Mass murder in the name of God,

even at the place where Jesus said,
"Blessed are the peacemakers,"

and I decided I would consciously,
actively, spend my life

working for peace and justice.

That's what the poor
guy wants us to do,

even if nobody
else wants to do it,

and that's what I've been doing ever since,
and that's gotten me into a lot of trouble.

I've been kicked out of churches,
and banned from speaking in churches

all over the country.

It's quite a way
to live one's life,

to be saying Jesus is nonviolent,

pretty much every day of my life,
I've got a Christian

telling me why we need to kill

or threatening to kill me because
they don't like this message.

Gung ho!

Here come the Gung Ho Commandos.

My best friend was a guy
by the name of Donald,

and we did military role playing like
a lot of red blooded young men do.

And he had a lot
of military books,

and we would page through the
books and we came across this picture.

It was a SEAL in Vietnam with a
weird looking gun that I had never seen,

with, like a olive drab bandana on,
and I'm like, "Who is this guy?"

So we started role
playing to be SEALs.

I got more serious about it after
I graduated from high school.

So I joined, it was a program that
guaranteed you could go to SEAL training.

They don't guarantee you're
gonna make it. That's the hard part.

And so I went. That was the start
of my foray into Special Operations.

Sit up straight,
and look at me right now!

- Aye aye, sir!
- Our mission is to train each one of you

to become a United
States Marine.

I'm third generation.
So my grandfather's a Purple Heart,

my father is a Vietnam
Marine veteran.

My grandfather was an Army veteran,
and so

there was probably no hard work

to assume what I was
going to do after high school.

Looking back now,

I would question whether
or not I would have enlisted.

But at the time, I loved it. I
was the quintessential Marine.

I looked the
part. I felt the part.

It was one thing that I did well

and I was proud of that. I moved
to the top 10% of enlisted Marines.

I was assigned
to SEAL Team Five.

My first platoon was Charlie
Platoon. I was a decent shot,

and I ended up
becoming a sniper.

More than anything,
my thinking when I entered the SEALs,

it was these phrases like
"To liberate the oppressed,"

and I thought you know, "There's
a good fight to be fought out there."

And at that stage,

why not violence? I mean,
that gets the job done, pretty tidily,

as far as destroying the enemy.

I loved my time there. I did.

I make no apologies about that.

I hate war,

and I make no apologies about that,

I absolutely hate it.

Dr. King's said war is a poor
chisel to carve out peace.

It's brutal,
and I know there's a lot of argument

about Just War Theory, and

whole idea that people will
give life to save life. I got it,

but life departs.

Not everyone comes back home,

and everyone that does come home,
doesn't come back the same way they left.

Something leaves a human,
I believe, when they have to take life,

even if it is in their mind to
save their own or justified.

There's a horror
that stays with folks.

There's a myth,
a mythology of what war is,

that is almost
impossible to fight against.

And that is perpetrated by Hollywood,
and television

and politicians... It's
an attractive myth,

and laying out the reality
of war is very unpalatable

for a people because it forces them,
ultimately, to question who they are.

I mean, we look towards a source of
meaning because we have so little meaning.

And a consumer society where atomized,
isolated individuals who are

seeking an elusive and unachievable
happiness through consumption

and hedonism and status.
And... war fills that void.

War gives you a noble cause,

war obliterates or seems to obliterate
because it's a false obliteration.

The alienation of normal life.

The celebration of war
is also a celebration of us.

So celebration of our virtues,
of our prowess,

of our goodness, accompanying of course,
with dehumanization,

and racist attacks against
whoever it is we're fighting.

It is addictive. I mean, soldiers or
Marines will call it a combat high.

It's very real. You keep
coming back for that elusive high,

which becomes harder and harder to get,
the longer you're in war.

Partly because your circle of
fear shrinks to such an extent that

unless literally people are
being shot right next to you,

I don't want to
say you're blase,

but you learn to cope
in extreme environments.

The U. S. economy

is being drained by
wars in the Middle East.

It's why those of us who
come back and speak

the truth about war are
usually not very effective

in reaching the young kids
who are the fodder of war.

Militarism and war promises
what they so desperately want.

Many will hear the calling.

One day,
your stocking shelves at Walmart,

and a few weeks later,
you're at Parris Island,

part of the greatest fighting
force on the face of the Earth.

- And it's all a lie. - Ronnie!

- Lies! - Stop it!

Go to bed, you sleep it off.

What did they do to you in that
war? What happened to you?

I think many people, including veterans
who come back, face an existential crisis

in that they realize that everything
they've been told by their church,

by their schools,
by their political leaders is a lie.

It's why so many... It's not
just that they cope with trauma,

it is that they cope with that existential
crisis of seeing behind the mask.

It was August, 1990.

I had a big screen TV on, we were
drinking beer, and playing pool, and

there was a big aircraft carrier battle
group moving into the Persian Gulf.

We were like, " What's up with
this?" And then it started to scroll,

that Saddam Hussein's
forces had invaded Kuwait,

and I could see right away,
"Oh, here we go."

Just two hours ago,

Allied Air Forces began an attack
on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait.

I was very excited. I mean,
America is getting ready to go to war,

and I had the
radio on in my study

and I was, you know,
paying attention all day long.

And I couldn't wait
to get home because,

though the Internet really isn't up and
running yet, we now have cable news.

And so I rushed home,

ordered pizza,
had a couple of friends over,

learned that America's Pastor
had prayed with America's President,

and assured him that all of thiswas
in keeping with God's divine purposes.

And I watched a war on TV.

I was entertained, America won.

A lot of people were killed,

hundreds of thousands,
but like...

Like the video games,
and like the Westerns, we didn't see that.

So that wasn't real.

We were over there for
seven months from start to finish.

We did a lot of recons,
which is just going out to look

kind of spying on the enemy locations,
and stuff like that.

But there was one particular
case where we located a group of

Iraqis on the beach.

There is an air strike coming in,
and we were told to get

at least 3/4 of a mile offshore
because it's gonna be big.

And I thought about the guys,
the Iraqi soldiers,

they don't even
know what's coming.

And I had knowledge
that they're...

I was hoping we were far
enough away from the beach.

When it hit, it really did a job on
my head, 'cause I was thinking,

"These human beings are doing just
what they think they're supposed to do.

They've been raised in Iraq,

they're serving under a knucklehead
that's put 'em in this position,

and they're trying to bethe
best soldiers they could be.

And they're about
to be annihilated,

just gone." And
it just crushed me.

It was like,"Man,
I could be in their shoes.

I could have tried to be
the best Iraqi I could ever be

and not had a choice and
be bombed to smithereens."

I know that may sound simplistic'cause,
"Yeah, well, what do you think war is about?"

But just taking that step
back and just trying to

think about what was about to
happen to these other human beings,

created in the image of God.

And it was... I don't like
to think about it a whole lot,

still, to this day,
but it was a turning point for me.

I didn't think about that again.

That was just one
night of my life,

and I didn't think about it

from between 1991,
and I think it was 2004.

I was praying one day,

I'm sitting,
acknowledging the presence of Christ,

sitting quietly and
without any anticipation,

without any really
logical sequence,

that episode from that night,

it was replayed as an
incriminating surveillance video.

I saw myself laughing and
jokingand eating pizza with my friends,

watching a war as if it were
nothing but entertainment.

And now, I'm referring to a mystical
experience that I can only say

how I experienced it.

So I bear witness to it and people
can believe it or not believe it.

But I sensed Jesus say to me,
"That was your worst sin,"

and I wept bitterly.

I mean, I do think of Peter denying Christ,
and it says

he went out and wept bitterly.

It was like that for me,
I wept bitterly.

And I repented. Not
just said I was sorry,

but repenser, rethink.

That, and another incident

in reading some things in Dostoyevsky
caused me to almost overnight

rethink everything.
It was a conversion.

We live in a violent world.

A lot of people think that we should
confront violence by using more violence.

If you were to ask me,
like, 10 years ago,

or tell me 10 years ago that you're
gonna write a book on non-violence,

I would have thought you
were absolutely insane.

I mean,
my background was heavily militaristic,

and I don't really know exactly
where it came from. Just kind of the air

I breathed as a Christian,
as an American. I mean,

I heard about a Christian at
some university I was at, and

you know, somebody said,
"Oh, yeah, he's also a pacifist."

And I just thought that's impossible.
That's like an atheistic Christian.

It's like you can't be one or the other.
These are two incompatible categories.

Christians destroy
their enemies.

I've always thought, if more good
people had concealed carry permits,

then we could end those Muslims
before they walk in and kill us.

Fast forward several years, and now
I'm teaching at a Christian university,

and teaching a class on ethics,
and we would work through various

ethical dilemmas,
and violence and warfare

was one of those topics thatwe wrestled with
and I remember, as a professor, thinking,

"I really want to
challenge my students.

I'm wanna help them
to think about both sides,

not just confirm their

But I remember as I did that
and went back to Scripture,

and said,
"What are the best scriptural arguments for

non-violence or arguments
against using violence?"

And I remember thinking,
"Oh my gosh,

where did these
verses come from?"

I've been studying the
Bible for a while now, and

I'm reading passages trying to
read them through a fresh lens.

Like love your enemies
and turn the other cheek,

and the ones that are
fairly well known. But I'm...

I'm asking the question, "What if
Jesus actually meant what he said?"

And I don't want to come at these
questions with these presuppositions like,

"Of course, I'm not gonna let the guy
break into my house, and rape my wife

and kill my kids." Those are good
questions to ask, but those aren't...

We need to first go to the text and say,
"What does the text say?"

and then go to those questions.

And when I did that,
I became convinced that

the Bible does not want Christians,
followers of Jesus,

to use violence to address evil.

The biggest problem that
humans face is our own violence,

that we tend to
risk self-destruction.

A lot of that is built
into the narratives of

the ancient myths,
which are a way of remembering

how the first solution to this
problem of violence occurred.

The myth of redemptive violence
is a term to refer to the idea that

we can bring order out of
chaos through lethal force.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is, to
this day, the oldest written down document

that we are aware of.

There are some cave
paintings that are older,

but in terms of a written narrative,
the Enuma Elish is the oldest one.

It's the creation myth of the
ancient Babylonian people,

who are kind of the
contemporary Iraqi people.

And in this story, the world is
created when two gods get bored,

so they have children and they hang out
as a kind of a cosmic family for a while.

But the parent gods get irritated by
the noise that the children are making.

And because they're gods,
they don't bring in a family therapist.

What they do is,
they decide to kill the children.

The children overhear
this plot to kill them,

and they immediately
rise up and kill the father.

They can't overpower the mother. So
they regroup and have a conversation.

One of the kid gods says,

"I'll kill Mother on the condition that you
make me supreme ruler of the universe."

What he does is,
he approaches her in space,

he kisses her on the lips.
He blows a poisonous gas

into her mouth, it expands her belly.
And then he stands at a distance,

with a bow and arrow,
and he fires the arrow,

and her stomach... This is kind of
gruesome. Her stomach then explodes.

And from her entrails,

he creates heaven and earth.

Human beings are formed out of the
blood and guts of a murdered mother god.

There's lots of
creation myths like this,

that have human beings
coming as a result of violence.

So, something beautiful, humans,
come out of something horrifying, murder.

The Judeo-Christian creation myth is the first
creation myth that's totally non-violent.

God says "Let us make
human beings in our own image."

And then they appear.

Nobody dies. No blood is shed.

Nothing like that is
required for creation. God...

It just emerges out of God.

Of course, things go wrong

when the serpent enters,
and shifting Adam and Eve's focus

from being aligned
with God's desires,

to doubt.

Can they trust that God has
their best interests at heart?

So it's this rivalry with God,
rather than having this

wonderful relationship
where God can be God,

we could be human.

We come into rivalry,
and that's where

paradise gets broken.

After God had thrown
Adam and Eve out of Eden,

they started living
outside the garden.

There they had two sons,
Cain and Abel.

Cain and Abel are two brothers
who make a living differently.

One is a tiller of the soil,
one's a shepherd,

and you would think that the differences
would keep them from coming into rivalry.

But no, they're actually,
Cain, it arouses his jealousy,

because he feels that God is
more accepting of Abel's offering

than his own. Cain doesn't realize
that that's available to everybody.

God can accept both
their offerings equally,

but Cain is caught up
in this resentment mode.

And so, this evokes the
similar story of two brothers

who are the founding
brothers of ancient Rome,

Romulus and Remus,
and Remus taunts Romulus,

and Romulus kills him.

And how did the divine
forces react to that?

Well, with affirmation and acceptance,
Romulus is awarded

a status of a God,
and he is the founder of ancient Rome

and a beloved of the gods.

But in the Bible,
when a brother kills a brother,

God's displeasure is evident.

God takes the side of
the victim of the murder.

So we're instantly seeing this
reversal of the mythological narratives,

which reward the victor, the heroes,
the aggressors, the dominant ones,

and the biblical narrative, which is
always taking the side of the victim.

And when we say
Jesus fulfilled the law,

or came to fulfill what
God's purpose was,

it was to fulfill
that revelation

of what God's nature is.

Which is completely
without violence.

Roman society
was structured like this.

It was a pyramid. At
the top of the pyramid,

was Caesar.

It was a rigid pyramid.

You didn't move up.

You were born into
one of these places.

You carried out your role

and that's where you would die.

Only People up here
could issue dinner invitations

to lower status people.

In normal times, Zacchaeus would
have to issue a dinner invitation to Jesus.

What Jesus is doing is
upending the pyramid,

and he puts a
table in its place.

That early Christian community
that emerges around Jesus,

really the early community
that has no name at that point,

Jesus literally walks by a lake.

He says, "Follow me,"
and people look and say,

"Oh, okay!"

And so what Jesus invited
the earliest disciples to

was being part of a community.

So belonging
was the first piece.

So, Jesus said come and belong.

Sit at this table.

That's the other really strong piece of
imagery throughout the New Testament,

is that of table fellowship.

Jesus really doesn't call
people into a belief system.

He calls them to a
meal. It's no coincidence

that the last thing that Jesus
does with his community

that has gathered around him
is celebrate a meal together.

Jesus does not come back

from the dead and go to Calvary

and point to a hill with a cross on it,
and say,

"Hey, if you're going to bea Christian
person, believe thatl died on that cross.

Believe that that cross,
that blood,

covered up your sins."
Jesus didn't do that.

Jesus appears in
the same exact room.

The first ever post resurrectionappearance
to the entire group of disciples

is where Jesus goes back to the
room where they held the Last Supper.

So, the... the story

that Jesus is constantly
pointing toward

is creating a table,

inviting people to sit together,

to go past their
places of comfort,

their tribal identities and say,
be part of this tribe,

be part of God's tribe.

And God's tribe is a tribe
that gathers round the table.

The kingdom of God,
or the kingdom of the heavens,

or the kingdom of
Heaven in Christ's teaching

is clearly entirely unlike

the kingdom of Caesar.

The early Christians
created a new society.

It was the embodiment of the ideal
for how persons should live together

under the rule of the one true God,
the God most high,

and in creating such a society,
they were condemning the other model

of empire as false and damnable,

violent, cruel, diabolical,
whatever you like.

It is very much a
movement against

the sacred basis, the political basis,
the social basis of empire.

For the first
three centuries of the church,

the church was on
the margins of society.

They're a small,
often persecuted group,

viewed with suspicion
by the powers,

when they got big enough to
even be on the radar screen.

There wasn't much of a temptation
to buy into the Roman Empire.

They were very aware
that to call Jesus Lord

means that you don't
confess Caesar is Lord.

If you look at the
writings of Tertullian and Origen,

and some of these thinkers,

the early church, when Jesus said,
"Love your enemies,"

we typically say, "Yeah, but..."

And they said, "Okay."

I think they took a, what would seem
to be a really straightforward reading of

Scripture and they took passages seriously,
and they talked about

the power of suffering.

And I think a
big socio-political

point to understand is that
Christians were operating

from the perspective
of a persecuted minority.

They were suffering, they weren't
intertwined with the government.

But I think if you look at the
New Testament, that's kind of

how New Testament
ethics is designed operate.

The New Testament,
it's almost like it's not meant

to empower Christians in
places of power and authority

and governmental positions.
It's not designed that way.

The great blessing of our
birthright is that in this troubled world,

there is still a bright spot
where borders never change,

where peace reigns supreme.

The United States of
America has become...

They would not have been
patriots if there were such a thing

as the nation
state in their day.

They would not have recognized

human rule is anything other than
an unfortunate provisional reality

of a fallen world and would
not have allied themselves

with any set of national
or racial interests.

They were people set apart in every level,
I don't just mean spiritual and moral,

but economic and social as well.

And in the Empire
in the time of Christ,

the structure of power was not
considered merely a worldly reality.

It was part of a sacred order that reached
all the way up to the realm of the divine,

and then all the way down
to the chthonian realm.

And Christianity made the claim
that all of these orders of power

had been overthrown by
Christ to be placed under him,

that he might hand over the whole
cosmos to God, and God be all in all.

This is a very subversive
claim that under this new reign,

all these powers on high,

these gods of the nations have been cast down
from their high eminence and made subject

to this peasant,
whose kingdom's rule was radical charity.

The church grew mainly by its witness,
by how people lived

and by how they were
willing to sacrifice. I mean,

when plagues would hit cities,
and everyone would run for the hills,

including the doctors,
and leave the sick behind,

the Christians would run into
the city to care for those sick.

And often would get
the disease and die.

But they're willing to do
that. And people saw that,

and that's how it spread, through
love. It spread through their witness.

There were boundaries
at that table Jesus established,

and the boundary is
always around violence.

If you are willing to use
your invitation to that table

to hurt, maim, destroy,

dehumanize others
who are at that meal,

you can't come.

you have to lay down whatever it is

that is destructive
before you join the meal.

So you can't bring a
sword into that room,

and the early Christianswere
perfectly clear about that.

It was about turning
swords into plowshares.

First of all, the early church was an
absolute diverse hodgepodge of views.

I mean, they were wrangling
about what books belong in the Bible,

they were arguing about Christ's
deity. They were arguing about

whether the Old
Testament was valid.

The early church
couldn't agree on anything.

When it came to the question
of should Christians ever kill,

as far as we can tell from the literature,
the answer was unanimous.

Of course not.

What about good killing? What
about killing for the military?

Can you join Romans' military? The
answer to all this was absolutely not.

They wouldn't even baptize certain people,
if they were...

If they had blood on their hands
from serving the Christian military.

Or debate about whether they should
even be allowed after repentance.

This was such a no brainer
for the early Christians.

The problem was,
of course, is the Roman army,

they were the ones whokilled Jesus. The
Roman army waspersecuting the early church.

The Roman army was the place
where you gave due to Caesar,

who was the rival to the idea
that Jesus was Lord and Savior.

So Christians thought the
Roman army was horrible.

But then, in the fourth century,
Constantine allegedly gets this vision

where he's gonna fight under
the banner of Jesus Christ.

First time Jesus is
associated with war,

and Constantine's a pagan,
and pagans assume that

if you win a battle, that's because
you're serving the right god.

Battles are about whose
god is stronger and bigger.

And so he becomes a "Christian"

but he's really serving a
pagan version of Christ,

because he's still seeing this is a power
source that's gonna get his way in this world.

So then he invites the church to
sit at the table of political power,

and unfortunately,
the church accepts that offer.

If they pick up the power of the sword, that
means youput down the power of the cross.

This creates a problem because now,
what is Jesus? Who is Jesus?

Is he Lord? Because the original
conflict was Caesar is Lord.

No, Christ is Lord.

But now that we have
a Christian emperor

and we don't wanna
have that conflict,

what happens? Well,
Christ gets demoted

to the secretary of after
affairs. Afterlife affairs. Okay,

so now the job of Jesus is to
get us into heaven when we die,

and apparently he has delegated
ruling the world to Caesar.

So then, Christians become very interested
in being able to control Caesar's sword

because it's such a pragmatic
way to shape the world.

And this is the
project of Christendom.

If you are a
persecuted minority group,

you don't necessarily want to
think about Jesus as a humble guy

who's just invited a bunch
of friends over for dinner.

And I think what we have
there is early Christianity

setting up a sort of
an aspirational Jesus,

that they wanted their
Jesus to be like Caesar.

A good Caesar,
but nevertheless Caesar.

Because it was the image they had at hand,
for power.

It was the image they
had it at hand for safety.

It was the image they
had at hand for provision.

What good was a Jewish
peasant going to do them

in a world where
they were persecuted?

Looking back,
it would be unreasonable to imagine

that anyone would have had the foresight
or even the moral resources to resist this.

Or be able to think back
over the course of generations,

especially in a culture in whicheven
access to the texts is going to be limited.

It's just what you hear in church. Most
people aren't even going to be literate.

So what happened? Well,
imagine that you're a Christian presbyter

in Milan in the early fourth century,
and you get news

that the new Augustus has just
won the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Seems to be some
kind of Christian.

Your first reaction isn't going to be,
"We've got to put an end to this."

I mean, historically speaking,

you're going to see
this as a work of God.

Christians throughout
church history just do that.

You take what is at hand,

and then Jesus emerges

out of that in in new ways.

And that was...

That shift from the family tableto
the imperial banqueting table

was clearly one of the most
dramatic shifts in early Christianity,

and it was also the one that set
up the most trouble in the longer run.

And now you have this
blending of church and state,

and the Roman state still
has barbarians out there.

They still have people to the east,
to the west,

that are trying to destroy them,
and so they have to ward them off by

using physical force. And so,
now you have Christian thinkers operating

from the assumption that the church
is the state, the state is the church,

and now they have to explore, "Well,
we've got to defend the nation.

We gotta defend
Rome through violence.

Which is kinda what you do as politician,
as a government.

how can we Christianize this?"

was an illegal religion.

It's hard for us to grasp, but it was an
underground movement of non-violence,

and overnight we all
joined the Roman military.

And in effect,
what Constantine did was,

he said,
"Let's throw out the Sermon on the Mount,

and return to the pagan Cicero

to begin to come up with
some kind of justification

for complicity with empire.

You have Augustine, and Ambrose
and other Christian thinkers of that time

operating from these assumptions of
church and state wedded together as one,

and they came up with... Well,
they kind of refined what had been

what we now refer
to as Just War Theory

that maybe there's
unjust ways of waging war,

but maybe there's just,
righteous ways of waging war.

By the eighth and ninth century,

you had really cutting edge Christian
things called monasteries. They had armies.

And then you got the Middle Ages
and poor St. Francis and St. Clare,

the church leaders are
leading the Crusades.

Not just staying home. They're
actually out there with the sword.

The person who will
spell out a new theology

that will in some ways also
empower the new policy is Augustine.

He is a person who writes the
first justification for coercing people,

for making them change
their beliefs by force.

And that basically
became the dominant view

for the next 1500 years.
I say dominant view, but

you still have throughout church history,
you always have pockets of resistance.

People that says, man, I don't think
this wedding of church and state is

helpful for a Christian
ethic that seems to be

separated from the politics
and powers of the day.

You could be Manichaean about this
and simply say, "Well, how horrible."

On the other hand,
there was always a tension between

the Gospel and the Empire
that never disappeared.

The moral language of Christianity,
more and more,

even if at times it proved impotent,
really, to change things on a large scale,

more and more it saturated,
it permeated the culture.

It became the moral
grammar that we today

spontaneously recognize
as having a claim upon us.

we can lament what happened to Christianity

as a result of its
alliance with empire.

But in doing that,
we also shouldn't forget

that Christianity also
had a corrosive effect

upon some of the cruelest
aspects of ancient society.

And in the centuries
and generations,

by the quiet persistence of this
moral language, of this conscience

that Christianity bred into the language,
at least

of the Western world,
did bear fruit.

The Jewish religious system
had a very complex sacrificial system.


So how do we make sense of that?

If God is revealing himself as a
god that doesn't need sacrifices,

why do we see this elaborate
sacrificial system in the Old Testament?

God is leading the people
out of the sacrificial world

through a series
of substitutions.

The call to Abraham,
the call to Abram

is a call to leave
behind his gods,

to worship a new
God in a new way.

Now, humans learn slowly,
over time.

So, you have to remember
that to change your culture

and to change your way
of thinking and doing things,

you're changing your
habits and it's slow.

So the Bible is this record of
this slow awakening and emerging,

out of the sacrificial world.

So first Abraham is called out.

God gives Abraham a lesson
in what it's like to sacrifice to him.

The story I heard about
that when I was growing up,

and I think the story that most people who
have some affinity with that story think,

is the one that says God did say,
"Abraham, go kill your son

because I need you to prove to me that
you love me more than you love your son."

And that God needed
Abraham to get to the point

of literally having the knife
above little Isaac's face,

and I think it's important to go
into detail about this, because this is

absolutely horrifying.

And then, God is convinced.

Oh, actually, Abraham does love
me more than Abraham loves Isaac.

So, here's a magic sheep.

Can I say "bullshit"
in your film?

Can I say psychopathy?

Can I say any God that required

a human to threaten
to murder their child

in order to prove
that their love

for God was greater
than their love for a child,

that God's a psychopath.

I don't think that's
what that story means.

Abraham just assumes

that this new God who's speaking
to him is gonna want a child sacrifice.

That's what a good religious
person did in those days.

You file your papers with the IRS
when you're starting a business today.

You can't start a business
without filing your papers.

Well, the way you filed your papers at that
time was people believed you gotta kill

a human,
and often it's a firstborn child.

if Abraham's already living in this,

he's got this sense that I'm
supposed to start a religion,

it makes complete sense
to him that what he has to do

is kill his firstborn child.
It's just what you did.

It's terrible, but it's also the only
way you can get through that door.

And so, Abraham's taking Isaac

to sacrifice him,
but what does God do?

Gives him a substitute.

A ram is a ritual substitution
for a human victim.

An animal can be sacrificed,
a grain offering, all these other things,

but it has to be
ritually constructed

so it's just as effective
for the community.

And I think what the story
means is that Abraham is up on the mountain

ready to do this because he
thinks that's what God wants.

And God wants to
let him get that far,

in order to prove to him,
"This is horror.

You don't need to do
this to start a religion."

And Abraham's brain,
and his mind,

and the mind of the people
who were around his time

weren't yet ready to
have no scapegoat.

And that's why there's a sheep.

I don't think we need
a scapegoat at all.

Destruction is not a creative
act. It would have been fine

for Abraham to just say, "We're going to
start a religion and the way we're gonna do it

is by getting some friends together
and figuring out what it means to love,"

but in the evolution
of the human mind,

and a culture that hadn't happened,

what we have is someone like Abram then,

is in a culture
of ritual sacrifice

and what you're saying, maybe it's a
way of looking at the ram that's supplied.

It's not God saying, "Well,
I need something. Here's a ram."

It's more like saying to Abram,
"You feel the need to sacrifice something,

- here's a ram." - Exactly.

- "But I'm not taking your child, because that's not who I am."
- Right?

You know,
Hosea says it really succinctly.

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

The whole prophetic
tradition is about that.

You know your sacrifices
are a stench in my nostrils.

I can't stand the smell of
it. Why are you doing it?

God is saying, "Stop thinking
that I demand violence from you."

I see the Old
Testament as the inspired telling

of Israel's story as
they are on the journey

of discovering the living God.

But along the way,
assumptions were made,

and you have to stay on the
story until you get to Jesus.

What you certainly cannot
do with the Old Testament

is use certain texts
to argue with Jesus,

as I had a church member do.

I was preaching through
the Sermon on the Mount.

I'm in Matthew 5, talking about
what Jesus says about violence

and a well-educated church
member said to me afterwards,

"Yeah, but the Bible says,
an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth."

Despite the fact that Jesus
actually even brings that up

in the Sermon on the Mount.

So you can't use Joshua
to save you from Jesus.

I think that's how a
lot of Christians think, it's like,

Jesus is the best revelation of God,

but all these other portraits
we've got are just as accurate.

If that's your approach,

you smush it all together and
you have this kind of montage of

beautiful and ugly,
and I think a lot of folks have this

understanding of God. In fact,

throughout church history,
you can see various theologians like Luther

who just have a schizophrenic
understanding of God.

That's why Luther, he loved Jesus,
but he was terrified by God the father.

The problem isn't to just try
to put the best possible spin

on the Old Testament
violent portraits of God.

The real issue is that
Jesus himself teaches us

that all of this is
supposed to point to him.

So the challenge is,
how do you read an account of God saying,

"Show no mercy. Go slaughterevery man,
woman, child, infant,

and even the animals, but spare the trees,"
it says in Deuteronomy.

How does it point tothe self-sacrificial
love of Godthat's revealed on the cross?

We're quite used to
fundamentalists who believe that

the Bible should be read as
a literal documentary account

and that it's internally
free of any contradiction

and so on and so forth.

It's very strange when you compare
that to the practices of the early church.

For instance, Gregory of Nyssa, when he reads
these tales, they have a spiritual value

to the degree that they're
allegorized as stories of slaying the sins

that take rise in
the city of the soul.

But taken as literal
historical narratives,

he has no use for them,
and he says that if you...

If you think that that's the kind of
truth you're going to find in Scripture,

if you read it without, what he calls
without thephilosophical method of reading,

which is what... Then
you're just reading silly myths.

God never commanded
the slaying of peoples,

the extermination of cities,
the killing of children.

Those were the interests of
these warrior peoples of old,

and Yahweh or El or
Elyon or Elohim was invoked

as the author of these crimes,
because that's what people do.

It's what it's what
nations and empires do.

...you to the Apostle Paul and his
clear and wise command in Romans 13

to obey the laws
of the government

because God has ordainedthe
government for his purposes.

The turning point for me came when I asked
a question that I'd never asked before,

and I've never heard
anyone ask before,

but the minute I asked it, it seemed
like most obvious question in the world.

And the question is this.

How does this first century
Jewish crucified criminal

become the definitive
revelation of God?

And the answer is that it's not
anything we see on the surface

of the crucifixion that
reveals what God is like.

In fact, on the surface,
the cross is hideous, it's grotesque

because it reveals
the ugliness of our sin.

The cross becomes the revelation
of God for us, when we, by faith,

look through the surface
of the cross and we see that

it was the almighty,
all holy God who stepped into this.

That God out of love was
willing to become this for us.

So if this is the same God
who breathes Scripture,

it seems to me to make sense to
ask the question, where else might God

be revealing his beauty
by becoming our ugliness?

I call these violent portraits
of God literary crucifixes,

because we see there on a literary level,
the same thing we see in a historical way

when we look at the
historical crucifixion.

The humble God,
stooping to meet his people bear their sin,

and thereby taking on an appearance
that reflects the ugliness of sin.

I think there's a poetic resonance
between the death of Jesus

and the attempted
murder of Isaac.

The way a lot of people conceive
of this is that God sent his son

and had him killed in
order to satisfy his wrath.

Well, if you believe in
the kind of God that causes

parents to kill their
children to prove their love,

that would be consistent with that God's

or the way God thinks about things.

But if Jesus is a person who

somehow comes to understand

that there is no
higher rule than love,

there's no higher law than love,

and that love is extending
yourself for the benefit of another.

And if he teaches
that in a context

where the ruling authorities think devoting
yourself to Rome is the way life works,

and where there are
revolutionaries who think

devoting yourself to the violent
overthrow of Rome is how life works,

well, I would have been surprised
if they hadn't executed him.

The chief priests and the rulers are
concerned about the political situation.

They're trying to keep the peace.
That's their job, peace and security.

And Jesus is instigating crowds,

he's making them think that they
have more power than they should.

He's just raised
Lazarus from the dead.

He's creating all kinds of
trouble for the authorities,

so they're trying to decide what to do
with him, and when they come up with

the decision that he has to die,

the high priest says,
"You know nothing at all.

You do not understand
that it is better for you

to have one man
die for the people

than to have the
whole nation perish."

Succinct statement of
the sacrificial formula.

But the early Christians understood
what Jesus was doing was

inverting the
meaning of sacrifice.

So, on the altar we
sacrifice unwilling victims.

Jesus was a willing victim.

In other words,
it was a self-sacrifice,

instead of sacrificing others,
now the ethic is

to endure suffering,
rather than inflict it.

One of the the
staples of pagan religion

going back to the
beginnings of human history

is the conviction that we
need to appease the gods.

And you appease the
gods by making sacrifices.

And pagan religions always had
this kind of quid pro quo deal where

we make sacrifices,
and we feed the gods, and please them,

so that when we need to call on them,
they'll help us win our battles

and things of that sort.

And I think it was a tragedy
when that understanding of God

became the interpretive grid through
which you understand the cross.

God has to take out his wrath on his son

in order to love us.

What kind of love is that?

It's almost like
God's a rage-aholic.

"I'm so mad at these humans.

Someone's gotta pay,
I don't care who it is,

but someone's gonna pay.

It could either be humans
who are gonna pay eternally,

or Jesus, my son,
I'll kill you instead."

And Jesus said,
"Okay, I'll do it."

And if that's the case,
there's no forgiveness.

Look, if you owe me $100
and your son pays it instead,

I never really forgive the debt,
I just collected from somebody else.

So the question becomes,
does God really forgive?

'Cause if he's paid in full by Jesus,
well then, he didn't forgive anything.

He just transferred the guilt. However
that's supposed to work, I don't know.

You know, when you go to a fairground
attraction and you buy the tokens

because they don't take cash and
you hand your token in at the booth,

and then you can go
on the roller coaster.

The notion that God
needed Jesus to be executed

so that the token could be bought,
that I could then give to the carny

who would allow me
on the roller coaster.

Like, that has...

The reason people believe that

is because somebody
told them that.

Not because it makes sense.

It fundamentally contradicts
the notion of a loving God,

if love is to extend yourself
for the benefit of another.

It also contradicts even
the narratives and Scripture.

So you could be someone
who's a biblical fundamentalist,

someone who believes that
every story in it is literally true.

Well, Jesus forgives loads of
people before he gets crucified.

He doesn't have to be
crucified before the...

And he tells the disciples,
"Go out and preach the forgiveness of sin."

The notion that the
cross represents an offering

to the father to appease his wrath is
a late and rather disgusting distortion

of the language of
the New Testament.

The very word that's translated "ransom,"
lytron orante lytron,

doesn't refer to a
price paid to the father.

It's a term used for

the manumission fee that one paid
in order to free slaves from bondage.

That's the price paid to death,
to hell,

hell in the sense of Hades,
the realm of the dead,

to set the captives free. It's not
appeasing the wrath of God against sin.

Nor is the cross an act of God.

Paul is quite clear in the New
Testament that this is a human act.

The cross is where human violence
is revealed to be unspeakably evil.

We see that we are
capable of murdering God.

So the cross is not where
Jesus saves us from God.

The cross is where Jesus
reveals God as savior.

The cross is not what God inflicts
upon Jesus in order to forgive.

The cross is what God in
Christ endures as he forgives.

If we see that it is God that
requires the violence of the cross,

then we exonerate the
principalities and powers

that the cross is
intended to shame.

No, I see the violence of
the cross as entirely human,

the love and forgiveness seen
at the cross as entirely divine.

And there is an
allusion here to Genesis,

to the serpent in
the garden of Eden,

who is now the
father of the lie.

And what is the lie? Well,
the lie is that God is not a giving person.

God is more interested in
prohibition then in freedom.

God is withholding
good from you.

God might even be selfish, as the
Satan says in his conversation with Job.

now Jesus is going to come into this world

to settle accounts
with the father of the lie.

The death of Jesus, then,
it belongs in the category of revelation

that sets the record straight.

What makes it a triumph
of God is that Christ remains

faithful to the father,
to the very end.

His triumph lies in his faithfulness,
not in the butchery of illegal execution.

When we pin that on God,
that God required a sacrifice,

it's really the way we reconcile
ourselves to one another.

We often sacrifice others in order
to build community, and so forth.

I think what Jesus was
doing was taking the place

of our victims in these
scapegoating scenarios

in which communities
get reconciled.

And not only is he going willingly,
but he's innocent from the beginning.

And he's divine
from the beginning.

So Jesus is trying to switch that
whole way of thinking about our violence,

and he will now create unity,
not around creating victims,

but around awareness of a victim

who will come
back and forgive us.

This is what the
communion ritual is.

The communion sacrament.
We gather around an altar,

but it's not to
create a new victim.

It's to remember that we are all
victimizers who have been forgiven.

To me,
that's the best definition of a Christian,

is a repentant victimizer,

or recovering scapegoater,
or however you want. We're all in recovery.

And we're all
susceptible to relapse.

Now to the latest
on Harvey Weinstein.

The New York Timesreporting allegations by
numerous women who say the Hollywood mogul

sexually harassed them.
His alleged victims...

When I'm faced with somebody
who is obviously doing things,

who is using their power to hurt,
and especially for me as a woman,

Harvey Weinstein is
somebody that I want to vilify,

and I'm actually really given
permission by the world to vilify.

I think that,
for me is always the first red flag

as a disciple of Jesus.

If everybody else is so down

with calling someone names
and stripping them of the dignity

that they have just
because they're human,

then as a follower of Jesus,
who is who desires to live into

the alternative society
of the Kingdom of God,

who has a desire to seek the shalom of God,
which looks so different than the world.

Than I have to step back and say,
"I can't participate with that."

People don't get to a place
where they make hurtful decisions,

where they hurt other people,
where they are actively

creating brokenness and
pain in other people's lives,

they don't get to that place
without a back story of pain

about something happening to
them that maybe stripped them

of their sense of dignity and worth,
which then makes them

want to strip others of that.

And so, one of the things that
I do to remind myself of that,

to kind of condition my
heart for that empathy,

as I go back and look at
pictures of them as kids.

And then I remember,
something had to happen.

I tell myself, something had to happen
between this innocence and this guilt.

people hurt other people.

There's something that that person
is suffering from to cause them to

want to hurt and
oppress someone else.

That doesn't make it right.

But there's something
in that person where

it's important for me to at
least extend some compassion,

so that I can hear what it
is and why it is that they are

acting in certain ways.

And it's not my job to
judge them in their guilty.

As a peacemaker,
my job is to speak beauty and speak truth,

and say,
"This thing that this person did was bad,

but people are not the
things that they did."

And I think that is the
calling of a peacemaker.

We're always looking for ways to
remind people that there is good in you

and give the Holy Spirit a chance
to woo them back to their wholeness.

We extend compassion,
but we also stand firm against the

injustice and lack of humanity against
certain populations within our country.

I want you to sit down and
watch this because it is shocking.

He's licensed,
he's licensed to carry.

He was trying to get out his ID,
his wallet out...

I have been pulled over,
and particularly if it has been a long day,

I try to center myself first, because you
already know they're coming to the car with

hand on weapon,
a flashlight in your face,

and you try to keep your
hands where they're visible,

and all these kind things
that goes through your mind,

almost unconsciously
for certain populations.

You do it because it's
been ingrained to do,

and you're trying to come home.

But you know, when they ask me,
"Do you have a weapon in the car?"

I started laughing.

I said, "No, I actually leaving my church.
I'm a pastor right around the corner.

It's not my policy to
carry weapons to church."

And this is my
uniform of the day.

I'm a third generation
combat veteran,

so I've always been in a uniform,
a jacket and a tie.

This is me. I'll get
stopped with this.

And the first thing I'm asked, "Do you
have a weapon in the car? Or drugs?"

And I'm leaving my congregation.

How do you
feel in those moments?

How do you deal
with that in your head?

It's exhausting.

And so when people say,
"If they just pulled up their pants,

or got a different haircut,

if they didn't look
like they fit the bill,

then maybe they
wouldn't get pulled over."

It's exhausting. It's depleting.

It's infuriating,

to not to be seen
as fully citizen.

And in this case, fully human.

If we as Christians believe in
Paul's letter, the Pauline epistles,

the talk about warfare
and spiritual warfare is real.

That these things are principalities,
they're strongholds,

and one has to assume the responsibility
of pushing back against those things.

To take the necessary stands

and to be fully human when
they are inhumane themselves.

And I think that's
what Christianity does.

It gives us a source of strengththat
we would not have without it,

because it takes unimaginable strength
to stand up against some of the stuff

that individuals are
facing in our communities

and the legacy of
violence and terror

against blacks and
others in this country.

It takes a spiritual
armament to deal with that

and not project out on others.

To still be a loving individual
without having to be guarded.

That you can still

fight a good fight and
not have to fight everyone.

Even though we're in this world,
we do not make war

the same way this world does.

That is something
we have to hold on to.

What does it even mean to say,

"Taking America back for God"?

Because I honestly
don't have a clue.

Presumably, there was a time
when this was a godly nation,

when we glorified God,
one nation under God.

God was glorified and the
culture was just Christian,

and it was the good old days,
the golden age of America.

And if we could
just pass some laws

then we'll get back to that golden age.
When was that golden age? I'm really...

That's the assumption
that fuels Christendom.

If we just get more
power then we can...

We who are more righteous than others,
and we're smarter than others,

we can impose our will on others
and further the cause of Christ that way.

Fire now. Fire.

But that means, then,

if you're gonna run an empire,
you have to be willing to use a sword,

to keep law and
order on the inside,

and to protect from
enemies on the outside.

And now,
Jesus' teachings about loving your enemies

and blessing those
who persecute you

and praying for those who spitefully
use you, and doing good to your enemies,

all those go out the door because
you have to kill your enemies

if you're gonna have
that kind of power.

I wanna drive a
much more sharper wedge

between our earthly citizenship
and our kingdom citizenship.

I do think that the Kingdom of
Christ and all other earthly kingdoms

are fundamentally incompatible.

Again, that doesn't mean
we revolt or disobey the laws.

We need to be good citizens,
keep our heads down, but never, never...

I don't think mixing
these two is even possible.

I find it helpful not to think of
myself as a citizen of any particular land.

I'm an ambassador,
right? And ambassadors aren't citizen.

I'm here to represent
a different kingdom.

We're called to exercise a
fundamentally different kind of power.

I think it's the
most powerful...

It's the greatest
power in the universe.

It's the power of the cross.
The power of self-sacrificial love.

Changing people by
showing what they're worth,

by what you're willing
to sacrifice for them,

that's the power that Jesus displayed.
That's the power that runs the kingdom.

It's fundamentally anti-thethical
to the power of this world,

where you try to control and
manipulate and kill, if necessary.

The problem
to me when you get into the

logic and the practicality
of non-violence

is that it breaks down very fast,
because as far as I can tell,

the teachings of Jesus in
terms of non-violence are not a

promise of safety in
any sense of the word.

In fact, if you look at the
record of active practitioners

of non-violence in church history,
even in the New Testament,

it often doesn't work in terms
of maintaining human safety.

The apostles died. Jesus himself,
practicing non-violence,

was executed by the state.

Even the great figures of
non-violence in church history,

someone like
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,

died as a result of violence.

When the conversation kind of
moves in the direction of, will this work?

I often immediately go to like,
probably not.

At least not in the grand sense.

The payout of Non-violence is
disrupting the cycle of violence.

Violence begets violence,
and nothing else.

Until someone creatively steps in,
empowered by the spirit of God, to say,

I just won't do it,
and then it stops.

While we're
talking about his death,

and very few Christians have
gotten over their fear of death.

In fact,
we support the culture of death,

and the metaphors of death,
and the means of death.

My main concern is with
the deep-seated, militaristic spirit

that celebrates our military might that
puts our faith in America's military power

in order to ward off all the
refugees and terrorists or whatever.

Like I think it's that deep seated
spirit that's the fundamental problem,

and even now I want to say, "Look,
you can go to the New Testament

or the Old Testament and say that
is not characteristic of God's people."

I think American
Christianity has missed that,

and I think that is really the fundamental
problem that we're dealing with.

We are kind of in the
position of the bad guys

from the perspective
of the New Testament.

You know, we're the ones in kind of,
oppressive power

over other people that
we're hurting in our privilege.

We are that empire, bigger and
better than Rome ever did big and bad.

- They're coming from Syria, they're coming from Iraq.
- President denies this.

- They're coming from Iran.
- President denies this.

No, we're there,
Sean, we see it.

Every Sunday, we're having fear preached
to us, and then we go to watch news

where there's more fear
preached to us. It's all about

them out there,
we're afraid of them.

How can we protect
our good thing?

Evil is externalized.
We represent the good.

As soon as you externalize
evil you become evil yourself.

I think on the whole,
if you're raised American,

you've been raised with a
religion that's deeply anti-Christian.

You've been inoculated
against the Gospel.

We have completely
rejected the Sermon on the Mount,

and the non-violence of Jesus.

Just for the record,
none of this is working.

The God who expresses
himself in the form of a suffering slave

is not the God who shapes the
American religious experience.

The only real religion in America
has always been America.

The shining city on a hill that has
created a new constitutional order,

a new nation, a new people...

And some of that is
quite innocent at first,

but the more that you realize that what
backs up these claims is a gigantic military,

one that spends a great deal of time
striding around the world, spreading

sheer terror of its presence as a kind
of benign influence on historical events.

When you see how easy it is for people
who profess Christianity, to confuse

their loyalty to Christ
with loyalty to America,

what's actually happening is,
the Christian America is really

just the religion of
America in Christian garb.

And not very convincing Christian garb,

It keeps dropping off the shoulders,
and showing its seams,

and unfortunately, America and
Christianity are two antithetical values.

They don't just exist in different
spheres. They're more or less

entirely opposed to one another.

You know, not everybody
is gonna get on board with this message.

- No.
- If we decide to forego violence,

and organize our lives differently,
what happens?

How do we do that?

Well, first of all, Jesus is upfront.
Martyrdom is always on the table.

The seminal call to discipleship is,
"Take up your cross and follow me."

I have to recognize
that my ancestors,

while part of them are
the Christians who so

glibly gave in to
imperial violence,

my deeper ancestors in the
Christian tradition are the saints

of the early church, who

were surrounded constantly by violence,
and were under threat

and said that their
own lives did not matter.

I actually hate
saying that because

I live in a culture where I
want to live a really long time,

and our lives do matter. Our
individual lives do really matter.

No one wants to die.

And sometimes when we look
back at the earliest Christians,

we say, "Oh,
they all had martyr complexes."

Well, no.

They literally had this priority
of non-violence straight.

And that is,
they were never to participate in violence.

And if violence
was done to them,

so be it.

And I have to stand there and
look at that and say, "Whoa!"

I would at the very least hope I
had the capacity to make the same...

The same choice.

I'm not all bleak about it. I'm
not saying we're all gonna...

I actually do believe in the
transforming power of co-suffering love.

I mean,
there is a reason why the

gladiatorial games
finally came to an end.

And that is the power
of co-suffering love,

embodied in Christians
that were willing to die,

rather than to capitulate,
eventually awakened a higher consciousness

in the Roman Empire, and they said,
"Yeah, we're gonna stop doing that."

Non-violence is actually
how the world works.

Anytime you're not acting violently,
you're acting non-violently,

and most of us are not acting
violently most of the time.

And so when the world works,
it's because of that,

and I don't think the
onus is on me to prove it.

I just think,
look outside your window.

I think about
the Civil Rights Movement,

the non-violent direct
actions that took place

and people literally
being spat on

and water hosed down and beat.

But the non-violence that
actually helped to change policy.

They were standing against
injustice in such a powerful way,

extending that compassion. Many
people were hurt, many people died.

But that's literally what helped
to change our society in America,

and it's continuing to
help bring about change.

I do make a distinction between
police function and waging war.

Consider the difference. Waging war,
you go forth and you kill.

Here in St. Joseph, if an Officer
discharges his weapon in the line of duty

there'll be an inquiry
and an investigation.

I understand that in
dysfunctional societies,

the line can be blurred,
or almost entirely erased.

But in healthy societies,
there is a distinction.

I'm not a complete
Christian anarchist.

I, as a kingdom person,
I don't believe I'm called to,

or even allowed to carry
arms or kill for any reason.

But I don't judge
other people for whom

that's what they want to do,
or they feel comfortable with that.

And I think Paul takes
this attitude in Romans 13.

God uses a sword wielding
government to keep law and order,

and to punish wrongdoers
and things of that sort.

It doesn't mean
that God likes that.

But given that this world is going to
have sword-wielding governments,

God is going to be at work to use it to
carry about as much justice as possible.

So, I don't feel guilty about calling on
them to do what they feel called to do.

And that is to stop wrongdoers
by the use of the sword.

So this is going to be five
guns for home defense.

What I don't do, though, is I don't
sit around and plan for these things.

That would never cross my mind.

"I need to own a handgun
for personal protection."

That is...

From a very long distance,
that's premeditated killing.

If you want a nice small rig, this is
something that can just ride next to the bed.

If I've got a person who's gonna
harm me and possibly my wife and kids,

it looks foolish not to kill himif I have
to, to prevent that from happening.

But then again,

we're called to follow
the one who died...

God, he's all powerful, and yet

the way he expresses that
poweris by getting himself crucified.

That looks pretty foolish. The
cross looks foolish to the world.

So, if we look foolish, I think that's an
indication that we're on the right track.

I often tell people that unless your
God is a foolish looking God, you're not...

You're not following the
God that Jesus revealed.

- Good morning, everyone.
- Good morning.

All right! We're
gonna go ahead and get started.

What a special,
special day. This moment of truth

in front of the King
Memorial on this beautiful day.

I didn't get up at 3:30 in the morning, in
Philadelphia, for a monument film, right?

We got out for a movement.

At 16,
I was 10 feet from Dr. King

when he gave his "I
have a dream" speech.

The problem today is that too
much of America is still dreaming.

We must put our bodies onthe line. We
must put out bodiesagainst the machine

to grind it to a halt.

We need to build a movement
and take a public stand.

Martin Luther King said the choice
is no longer violence or non-violence.

It's non-violence,
or non-existence.

That where we are today,
on the brink of non-existence.

But we are gathering here in this culture,
stuck in violence,

saying, "Okay, Martin,
we take up your challenge."

So today, brothers and sisters,
say with me now

- we march...
- We march...

For a non-violent world.

For a non-violent world.

- We repent...
- We repent...

...of the ways
that we have used power...

...of the ways
that we have used power...

- ...to dominate...
- ...to dominate...

- ...for conquest...
- ...for conquest...

- ...to warn...
- ...to warn...

...for the supremacy...

...for the supremacy...

- ...of this world.
- ...of this world.

I think we have to
look at ourselves as

not quite done yet.

God is still in the
process of creating us

through the influence
of the Holy Spirit,

and trying to separate us
from this addiction to violence.

Every line on
the map tells a bloody tale

of war that has been fought,
and people that have been killed,

and that's how we
arranged the world.

It's Jesus that gives us the
capacity to imagine something other.

But we're gonna have to decide
whether we want to embrace that or not.

Right now, the question is,
what is the best cultural work we can do?

And finding images of
Jesus that are lifegiving

and allow for flourishing,

and don't segregate and
demean and create more violence.

Any jackass
can tear down a barn,

but it takes a
carpenter to build one.

It takes a lot more effort,

energy, love,
all of those things that are hard...

There's things
you can do right now

to be engaged in preventing
and reducing violence.

One of those things has
got to include asking yourself,

"Where am I complicit in perpetuating
injustice against other people."

The kingdom begins in
your life with your first drop of blood.

Where does it pinch you?
Where does it inconvenience you?

What are you willing
to sacrifice for others?

We're supposed to be
able to die for our old self,

which is to die to... That self
that wants our best life now,

that wants power now,
wants to get my way now,

die to that. There's
no life in that.

When we think about it,

when you stand somewhere
knowing that you will be beat, spat on,

possibly arrested. Is
that cowardly or passive?

Jesus, at his very last moment,
chose to heal and not hurt.

Jesus modelled for
us self-giving love,

even in the face of horrible,
terrific torture

and pain and betrayal.

And so, when we're faced
with the violence in the world,

emotionally or physically,
my hope is that I always start with

"Love is my only strategy."