Opinion: Mega-minister Brian Zahnd is bearing false witness about America

by Peter Heck · Sep 10th, 2020 5:01 pm

Last Updated Jan 28th, 2021 at 3:35 pm

I am the furthest thing from an expert on the biblical trustworthiness and doctrinal accuracy of popular minister Brian Zahnd. I've never read his books or watched one of his sermons. That's why even though I often see him labeled a "progressive" by others I do find reliable, I'm uncomfortable drawing any conclusions about a man's theology without looking into it myself. Besides, here's what he says about the accusation:

That's a sentiment I can certainly embrace, provided we clarify that "embodying the promise of the age to come" isn't ripped from biblical context and distorted to advocate some utopian civil-social order facilitated by bureaucrats.

But even though I reserve any judgment on Zahnd's theology until such a day as I actually look into Zahnd's theology, I do have to shake my head in disappointment at the mega-minister's recent tweet about our country's cultural foundations.

Brian wrongly oversimplifies the foundation of America, thereby uncharitably humiliating generations of people he's never met, for the apparent purpose of signaling his virtue to anyone who will notice. This is a fact.

That's how this works, right? That's what counts as meaningful commentary these days, yes? Just hurl sweeping generalizations followed by an unsubstantiated declaration that it's factual and you're done?

One of the common traits I've noticed in those so eager to run down the cultural foundations of the country we inhabit is an arrogant pretense of having been "delivered" from what they were taught in their unenlightened upbringing. Hence, Zahnd's advice to, as he has apparently done, "rethink everything." But, of course, the truth is that Zahnd's current view on America's founding is something he was also taught, just by different teachers.

I'm not sure what has convinced them that those more recent teachers are somehow more reliable, more trustworthy, more dependable, but just once it would be nice to see a man like Zahnd "rethink" those ideas too.

For instance, is Zahnd unaware that tribes native to the Americas were practitioners of a brutal and inhuman slavery long before Europeans ever arrived? That they warred and maimed and tortured and — yes — stole land from each other? One of the primary reasons small bands of Europeans were able to vanquish such massively large Indian civilizations was the eagerness of neighboring tribes to join the white men, tired of being savaged, sacrificed, and enslaved themselves.

None of these realities excuse the worst practices and barbaric failures of Europeans and early American settlers. It merely puts them into a larger context that is curiously almost always omitted by those claiming to want a "full rendering of America's true history."

Some early Americans committed horrific acts. Others did not. Some hijacked the Christian religion to wield as a weapon of subjugation and oppression. Others submitted to its glorious truth and transformed lives through it.

A man who tells you that America was built on godliness and hard work isn't telling you the full story. Neither is the man who tells you it was built on stolen land and slave labor.

What would be nice is if those of us who "believe in Jesus and the alternative kingdom he preached" would have the honesty to forgo our own egos and tell that simple truth.

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