Farewell to Mars!

The foreword to Brian Zahnd’s new book, A Farewell to Mars, says this:

Though some may contest the point, and I’ve heard them for years, there is something profoundly unsettling to watch those who follow Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, use weapons of warfare to kill others and think they are somehow following Jesus. At the simplest level of evangelicalism, and by that I mean anyone who affirms salvation in Christ alone, it impossible for me to comprehend how a Christian can kill a non-Christian who is thereby prevented from turning to Christ just as it is also beyond me how any Christian can kill another Christian at the orders of a State military leaders. In both instance the Christian renders to Caesar what is due only to Christ.

As Brian Zahnd says in this aesthetic and courageous book, too often the church – and individual Christians are therefore complicit – has become chaplain to the State.

I sat down to begin reading his new book (again), opened it to what I thought was the opening chapter, read that opening paragraph and said to myself, “Yes, Brian, I totally agree. I wish I had said that well.” Then I turned the page to realize I had read the opening to my own foreword. I kid you not.

Brian Zahnd is one of my favorite pastors in America — I like his history, his story, and his openness to learning and growing and changing. He opens the book by talking about something God whispered to him was his greatest sin: being entertained, eating pizza, with friends, by watching the American invasion of Iraq. Like it was a game on TV.

Brian believes in Jesus Christ, and that makes him orthodox. He also believes in Jesus’ teachings, and that makes him radical. He doesn’t say this but it’s true: there are lots more in the first camp than in the second camp. But the Jesus many believe in is… what?

Thus, our understanding of Christ has mutated from Roman Jesus to Byzantine Jesus to German Jesus to American Jesus, etc. Conscripting Jesus to a nationalistic agenda creates a grotesque caricature of Christ that the church must reject — now more than ever! Understanding Jesus as the Prince of Peace who transcends idolatrous nationalism and overcomes archaic ways of war is an imperative the church must at least begin to take seriously….

Two thousand years have not made the ideas taught by Jesus of Nazareth any less radical than those that so threatened Pontius Pilate and the imperial ideology he was aligned with (33).

But the church has separated the Jesus on the cross from Jesus of the cross. By that I mean, we take him for salvation but not for how to conquer the powers: by dying to be raised by God to new life.

We agree far too often with Pilate than with Jesus.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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