Some of you will hate this book. Some of my closest friends will despise it. I’m guessing many will put it down in disgust before they see it through to the end.
The reason A Farewell to Mars is so offensive is that Brian Zahnd tears the masks off of our idols. Idols always wear masks. They always come to us in disguise. We don’t hold our idols up and yell, “Here is a false god!” We clean our idols up, dress them up, give them honorable titles and eventually worship them. They begin to look holy to us. That’s the nature of idols.
Brian Zahnd does not set out to offend us. He tries to be gentle. With much humility—and even confession—he shares his journey toward understanding the gospel of peace—the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is no finger-wagging, holier-than-thou diatribe. But the masks still come off. And what we see is the church worshipping the god of war rather than the Prince of Peace.
Many centuries ago the church crawled in bed with Constantine. Well, not all of the church. There has always been a faithful resistance—those who saw the difference between Christianity and Christendom. Many paid dearly for their resistance. Brian Zahnd has joined that resistance and invited us to consider the same.
Brian’s journey reminds me of my own. In theological seminary two professors challenged my thinking in ways that made me challenge my values. Upon graduation I registered with my denomination as a conscientious objector. There was no draft in 1981 and I was twenty-five years old, so even if the government was conscripting I would not have been forced to serve. (Teenagers are usually called up first.) But I felt like I had to make that statement. As small and insignificant as it was, I still needed to make it. It was not based on the fear of serving. It was based on my understanding of the Sermon on the Mount and the cross of Jesus Christ. So I became a “Conchie” (not a Commie!).
I know I stand in the minority in my church, my denomination and in American Christianity. I don’t have any illusions that we will soon be the majority. But I do see signs of hope. Young Christians—and Christians of all ages—are beginning to have doubts about the kingdoms of this world. They are seeing that we will not Christianize our nation. We must serve a different Kingdom while we dwell in this nation.
The debate between Constantine and Christ has been raging for centuries. Brian Zahnd’s book is not the last word on it. But it is a vitally important word. It is a word of repentance that we need to hear and repeat. It is a word of sanity in our post-Hiroshima world. You don’t have to agree with all of it, but please read it—cover to cover. Wrestle with it. Read more. Read the great thinkers on war and peace. But most importantly, read the Sermon on the Mount. Then read it again and again and again. Allow the Spirit of Jesus Christ to expand your understanding of His gospel—His good news.