Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Farewell to Mars

http://smile.amazon.com/Farewell-Mars-Evangelical-Pastors-Biblical/dp/0781411181/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456761688&sr=1-1&keywords=farewell+to+marsThis is the current selection being discussed at Valley's Wednesday Night Book Club led by Brad Dewing. The book critiques Christian capitulation to violence which is constant display in politics, media, and, sadly, in many churches. Zahnd dismantles the me-first nationalism and flag-waving religion that he admits was part of his own thinking in the past.

Zahnd is a little heavy handed at times, sometimes too creative in his exegesis of Scripture, and a bit too self-referential for my taste. Particularly irksome was his tortured interpretation of John 8 (chapter 5) and his presumptive and annoying indictment of the Air Force Chapel architecture (chapter 8). In the early chapters of the book, Zahnd confesses to being wrongheaded and too sure of his former views. He might do well to be a little less sure of his current ideas. That being said, Farewell to Mars is a very readable and thought-provoking book worth reading. If read with a group, it is sure to spark strong discussion (just be sure to keep the discussion kind and civil).

I find Zahnd's critique to be on track, for the most part, but he sidesteps, disappointingly, some of the more complicated discussions regarding non-violence. Is it ever ethical to use violence, such as in the case of defending the weak or abused from imminent hostilities? Questions like that didn't get much ink, and by not much I mean zero.

Zahnd does a good job challenging the "TEAvangelical" distortions of Christianity, which I applaud, but he doesn't really suggest much guidance beyond that. Advocating for non-violence takes more than a "stop doing that" message. A more serious approach needs to wrestle with the fact that not all use of violence is motivated by fear, selfishness, or ideas of empire. Maybe that's his next book.

Farewell to Mars
by Brian Zahnd

Publisher's Description...
We know Jesus the Savior, but have we met Jesus, Prince of Peace?
When did we accept vengeance as an acceptable part of the Christian life? How did violence and power seep into our understanding of faith and grace? For those troubled by this trend toward the sword, perhaps there is a better way.
What if the message of Jesus differs radically from the drumbeats of war we hear all around us?
Using his own journey from war crier to peacemaker and his in-depth study of peace in the scriptures, author and pastor Brian Zahnd reintroduces us to the gospel of Peace.

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