A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (Book Review)

A Farewell to Mars

There was a time when Brian Zahnd prayed war prayers, asking God to bless America’s militarism. He, like so many other American Evangelicals, had a picture of God that was much more akin to Mars, the god of war, than to Jesus, “that preacher of peace.” But Brian has repented of his nationalistic idolatry, and he invites us to do the same.

This book was of interest to me, as I too have recently become convinced that Jesus taught a gospel of peace and nonviolence. We simply cannot fulfill his command to love our enemies if we kill them. A Farewell to Mars promises to chronicle Brian’s “own journey from war crier to peacemaker” as he “reintroduces us to the gospel of Peace.”

Having now read it, I’m simultaneously delighted and disappointed. Delighted because I enjoyed every page—and disappointed because the book failed to do what it promised. This is a fantastic book; it simply is not the book that was advertised.

First and foremost, I wanted to read Brian’s personal journey, but the book included very little about that. I saw a few events prior to his conversion to nonviolence, and I certainly saw where he stands on the subject today, but I saw almost nothing about the conversion itself. All I know is that he is sorry for things he previously said and did.

Second, I expected to see an introduction to Christian nonviolence, but that too was missing. Nonviolence is pretty much taken for granted from the start. While he discussed some of the relevant texts, I don’t think these discussions would be very convincing to the average Christian who is still steeped in nationalism.

But don’t let these disappointments keep you from reading it. Taken for what it is, this book is truly excellent. No, it is not a primer on Christian nonviolence (but for that we have Preston Sprinkle’s wonderful Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence). Rather, A Farewell to Mars fleshes out Jesus’ call to nonviolence into a full, rich theology.

More than anything else, this seems to be a book of eschatology. Don’t misunderstand that word; we’re not dealing with things that are yet to come. Brian’s eschatology is one of the here and now. According to the Apostle Peter, we are already living in the last days (Acts 2:14ff). And we Christians are to be bringing Jesus’ kingdom of peace to earth right now—we must not simply wait for Jesus to do that when he returns.

While I can’t say I agreed with everything Brian had to say, every bit of his book made me think, and that’s the kind of book I love to read. I especially appreciated his insights regarding the Valley of Hinnom, though I won’t spoil those for you here.

To the correct person, I would definitely recommend A Farewell to Mars. If you are currently unconvinced of Jesus’ call to nonviolence, then maybe it isn’t for you—not yet anyway. Start with Preston Sprinkle’s Fight instead. But if you have already come to embrace Jesus’ gospel of peace, then you should absolutely pick up a copy of this book. You’ll be glad you did!

A Farewell to Mars is available in both Kindle and paperback formats. I’d like to thank David C Cook for sending me a copy to review.