I’m excited to share this quick review as A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd was one of the best and most compelling and challenging books I’ve read in some time. The book in general is a treatment of how the gospel gets coopted by culture to serve national interests – usually through the rationalization or justification of violence as the means to achieve “peace.”
There’s much I can relate to in the journey of the author as generationally I’ve experienced some of the key events that he describes as being critical to his journey at a similar life stage to him. The challenge of this book is to explore deeply all the ways in which we have actively or passively endorse a path of violence while believing the lie that such violence is “righteous” and that God is on our side. This can be reflected in our attitudes towards war, politics, international policy, and even action movies!
This is one of the books that I anticipate will be one of the most recommended books to others. But let me share a couple of the highlights for me in the book. First, the book has 2 chapters that rank among my favorite of any book I’ve read. The first was entitled, “Jesus Versus the Crowd” and goes into some of the best treatment of the scapegoating dynamic that fuels violence in community. This area is an area of great passion for me as a result of my exploration into family and congregational systems theory, but Zahnd gives a phenomenal treatment of it as it relates to violence and society with a great treatment of the Biblical text in the book of John.
The other chapter that really stood out centered on the nature of freedom, which is a critical issue for us to understand since violence and freedom are often presented as hand in hand when we celebrate our national histories. This was an excellent treatment of freedom, again with the theme of peace versus violence as the greater context.
I think the majority of Christians, especially evangelicals, would find this greatly convicting and it’s why all should read it. Christians are often portrayed as a violent people in western society today – not always because they are perpetuating physical violence, but because the way Christians engage society or deal with difficult or sensitive issues often tends to reflect language and attitudes that are violent in nature. Christians need to reclaim the identity as peacemakers that we are called to be and I am grateful for the challenge that A Farewell to Mars brought me. Can’t recommend it enough to you.