A Farewell to Mars: Brian Zahnd’s Timely Send-Off to the God of War in an Age of Religious Violence by Andrew Klager

Zahnd, Brian. A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. New York: David C. Cook, 2014. ISBN: 978-0781411189
Rarely do books on such timely topics combine the right mix of incisiveness, accessibility, and brilliant analysis in a single literary package, but Brian Zahnd has achieved this elusive synthesis in his most recent offering, A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. On the heels of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings on D-Day, Zahnd has given us a remarkable overview of Jesus’ peaceable kingdom as an alternative to the nationalism, patriotism, and militarism that define the political ethos of his own American homeland, even if it exists to a lesser degree in other countries around the world as well. “What Jesus called evil,” Zahnd observes, “are the very things our cultures and societies have honored in countless myths, memorials, and anthems.”
Poetic and perceptive, insightful and courageous, it’s as though nearly every sentence is a tweet-worthy aphorism with the power to generate life-changing (or at least life-reexamining) cognitive dissonance among his many readers: “We sequester Jesus to a stained-glass quarantine and appropriate a trillion dollars for the war machine,” Zahnd laments. Pervading the pages of this thin yet rigorous volume is a careful deconstruction of one of the most ingrained impulses in societies built on the soul-destroying munitions that rouse endless warfare: gratitude toward “our side” — which is mistakenly equated with “God’s side” — for killing other human beings in order to preserve our so-called “freedom” (read “comfortable, affluent lifestyle”). As Zahnd remarks, “Freedom becomes a euphemism for vanquishing (instead of loving) enemies; truth finds its ultimate form in the will to power (expressed in the willingness to kill). This is a long way from the ideas of peace, love, and forgiveness set forth by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.” Indeed, “If we carefully examine how we use the word freedom,” Zahnd challenges us, “it becomes apparent that we use it to sanction our perceived right to pursue happiness in a self-interested fashion.”
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