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A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace Paperback – June 1, 2014
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“Brian Zahnd fuses his vocation as prophet and pastor into a powerful evocation of the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Peacemaker. … And the writing is simply brilliant — not a dull sentence in the book.”
—Eugene H. Peterson, professor emeritus of spiritual theology, Regent College, Vancouver
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This was my first experience with Brian Zahnd and his work. To be honest, due to simply his location in Missouri and had assumptions about what he might say. It is constantly refreshing and humbling to be proven wrong. Though more memoir in approach, in Zahnd’s writing style it is easy to see his pastoral and preaching influence. Each chapter stands alone well and invites further discussion (I would have liked some sort of question prompts at the end of each chapter to have been provided) – an important approach to have with a topic like this as many reading it will find themselves in the evangelical camp Zahnd hails from and acknowledges in the subtitle of the book ‘An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace’.
Brian Zahnd dives head first in naming many of the ways Western, American Christianity has embraced and confused things like nationalism and the sacred/secular divide, while acknowledging his own blind acceptance of them in the midst of his own journey. There is often a frustration by some when discussing pacifism (a label Zahnd would rather avoid using) that it must also engage the discussion on ‘just’ violence – thus engaging the various just war theories. Though there is a place for that type of approach, Zahnd attempts to begin in the words and actions of Christ and the overall theme of the narrative of Scripture as the framework/lifestyle for what followers of Christ’s are called to embody. He does not presume that to embrace the Gospel of peace as easy or without difficult but precisely what God has asked of His followers. This, he stresses through his experience that he has ‘come to understand that to live gently in a violent world is part of the counterculture of following Christ’. Zahnd invites his readers to wrestle through how we all have chosen to justify our actions and positions, to acknowledge how we have chosen to interrupt the words of Scripture, and in turn do the hard work of reclaiming the Gospel of peace and love Christ came to bring for and to all.
The Aspiring Pacifist’s Takeaway:
Although this book did not say anything ground breaking for me as one who attempts to hold to such a posture; it would probably be a challenging read for individuals who find themselves in faith circles that have not considered the broader influences of things like nationalism have on their faith. Brian Zahnd helps to continue to give a language for those who attempting to embody the Gospel of peace – and provide a sigh of relief that the gymnastics of justifying violence in the name of faith is not necessary.
As mentioned above, Zahnd helps to reframe the understanding of the life that Christ came to invite us into – this book leaves me desiring to have a resource that better explains just war. Not as some sort of apologetic either for or against but rather in a manner that allows for a common language and understanding to take place between individuals coming from all sides of the discussion.
The book concludes with this line:
“There is no them; there is only us.”
A beautiful reminder that regardless of where we find ourselves in this discussion that we are bound to one another. This is a reality that transcends ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, or whatever way we attempt to divide ourselves. It is only together that we move into the future – and it is my hope that it is a future of peace.
Recommended for: Those desiring to wondering wrestling through ideas of just war and peace; those thinking of joining the military.
Again, my overall impression of this book is positive and I think it's worth a read - if only to have your paradigm challenged. I just wish that more of my questions would have been answered.