Author Brian Zahnd talks about the film at the end of his recent 500 mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
Postcards From Babylon is a long-form documentary currently in production featuring author and pastor, Brian Zahnd, as he investigates possibly the most important question for the church in North America today:
How does the church stay faithful to the beautiful way of Jesus while situated in the most powerful empire to exist in human history?
The film, based on his popular book of the same name, begins with Brian some 350 miles into his 500-mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He walks “the Camino” in spiritual pilgrimage as preparation for the mental mayhem of the 2020 US election cycle. . It’s against the backdrop of the elections that Brian exposes how the church in America has succumbed to the seduction of empire and has entangled Christianity with the Red, White and Blue.
The parallel between the modern-day United States of America and Biblical Babylon, that great whore and archenemy of Christ, is one that is rarely drawn. Brian exposes the viewer to the culture war antics of evangelicals who rely on fear and scapegoating rather than the disarming qualities of humility, grace and inclusion. Alliance with the triumphal American “Babylon” is distorting the core of the message of the cross.
The film’s narrative unfolds as Brian journeys to places and attends events around the United States of America that lead him deep into the heart of the story. Brian speaks at a leading evangelical college, interviews a university faculty historian about how evangelicals entered the political arena, and visits an El Paso, TX immigrant detention center with a local Catholic Priest. A Trump rally and a Town Hall gathering provide Brian an opportunity to witness firsthand how Christians are reacting to the current administration. A leading journalist puts Brian on the spot as she questions why he still identifies as an evangelical.
In the film Brian reveals the ultimate irony of a Christianity that sits comfortably within a military-economic superpower. Interviews with a veteran deeply convicted by his part in killing his nation’s enemies and with peacemakers who challenge fellow Christians’ reverence for the US military are juxtaposed with footage of an evangelical gathering where people turn assault rifles into gardening tools.
For Zahnd, Donald Trump’s popularity and mostly uncritical support from evangelicals prompts his sense of urgency for this film. “I want my grandchildren to know that during the Trump era I wasn’t duped, I wasn’t silent, and I didn’t go along for the ride. I want them to know that I saw what was happening, I knew it for what it was, and I spoke out.”
In reference to the book the film is based on, Walter Brueggemann writes, “The more I learn of Zahnd’s work, the more I have deep respect and appreciation of his truth-telling. This book is a reprimand and invitation to his fellow evangelicals about how the Way has been lost and what it will mean to come home.”
“It is Brian’s poetic idiom that provides the viewer a fresh access to emancipatory truth.”