A Farewell to Mars: Book Review

July 23, 2014

afarewell to mars cover

As you may know, Mars is the Roman god of war which makes this an interesting title for a book by a Christian pastor. On the other hand, interesting books deserve interesting titles and this is a quite amazing book. Author Brian Zahnd clearly and passionately makes the case for Christians to actively follow Jesus’ way of non violence. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changed the world and thus we are to be peacemakers here and now.

Zahnd does a good job pointing out and demonstrating the ways we combine and confuse Christianity with patriotism and how easily we assume that US military action is appropriate and right. This was Brian Zahnd’s assumption for much of his life.

The most interesting and wonderful thing about this book is the story of Zahnd’s conversion from a Christian American to a Christian who lives in America. He was serious and intentional about Bible study, prayer and spiritual disciplines and God changed him. Zahnd has made a 180 degree turn from someone who believed that military action especially by America was necessary and right to an advocate for non violence. Do make this change is not easy for any of us, but for the pastor of a large church to publicly make this turn requires serious commitment to a different kind of gospel. Zahnd calls us to a faith in Jesus that is (to borrow the phrase) personal but not private. His understanding of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ message doesn’t stop at personal salvation but recognizes that God intends to save the world.

Zahnd draws on history, literature, and most importantly good Biblical exegesis to make the case for non violence as the way of Jesus. This book is not a measured polite call for us to talk about peace. This book is a passionate and forceful call to conversion. Zahnd is preaching with conviction and power.

We forget that when we see Christ dead upon the cross, we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies. (Kindle loc 901)

But his [Jesus] death is what shames the whole system of “redemptive violence.” We come to realize that in using violence as a means of achieving justice, we are capable of murdering God! (Kindle loc 1257)

What I’m trying to say is that Jesus is  Lord. Today. Right now. For real. Jesus will appear for the final judgment, but he is already ruling and judging the nations in righteousness. (Kindle loc 1644)

If you think these quotes from the book make sense, you will enjoy this book.

If you don’t understand or find these quotes offensive, you need to read this book.

Painting and re painting

July 12, 2014

I looked at the front of my house and saw some peeling paint. I looked again and saw more peeling paint. This did not make me happy. Just four years ago I painted the house. I know that proper preparation is critical for painting success. I spent days, no, more like weeks on prep. I power washed. I hand scraped the entire house. Up and down the ladder. I scraped  most of the south side of the house down to bare wood. Then I bought good paint, expensive paint. Paint that was supposed to last 25 years. I didn’t really expect 25 years but I was expecting more than four.

So last week I washed the front of my house and started removing the peeling paint. It came off in pieces as big as my hand,down to bare wood  in about 20 places along the front of the house. When I looked at the pieces they were made up of both the new paint and the old paint. I figured I must not have prepped and painted as well as I thought I had. That’s what you hear about painting: poor prep= poor results.  Just because I just think like this, I also thought there is a metaphor in all this about our spiritual lives.

We do what we think we are supposed to do, as well as we can and still the paint peels. Growth in faith isn’t a one time process. You can’t spend one summer working diligently on your spiritual life – scraping, washing, painting- and expect it to last 25 years. So with a philosophical sigh I began re washing, re scraping and re painting and thinking about spiritual formation as a never ending process.

Hoping to figure out my mistake I googled “peeling paint”. I discovered that my current problem was most likely due to my using really good latex paint. The new paint bonded to the old paint (like it should) and  expanded and contracted with the weather (like is should). But the new paint ended up pulling the old less flexible paint off the house. As you might imagine I was annoyed. I spent significantly extra money to avoid problems and ended up with other problems. The only way to avoid this, according to the painting sites, is to scrape the entire house to bare wood. And painters on the sites confessed that this is seldom done- too much difficult and too expensive. They implied that perhaps a paint of lesser quality wouldn’t cause this problem- or at least as much of a problem. Now that’s sort of depressing. Every few years I’ll have the opportunity to repaint parts of my house. Short of vinyl siding, I’ll never be done.

I don’t like this new information as metaphor for spiritual growth, but there it is. No matter how hard I try, how attentive to the details I am, how meticulous I am, how carefully I prepare, things will still peel and crack. I will still need to wash, scrape and re paint from time to time.

I knew that. I know that spiritual formation, like painting is never done. But I must confess, I was sort of hopping I could, at some point, take a break and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Of course I still can enjoy the fruits of my work, just not for as long as I had hoped.

The front is repainted and it looks good. I am happy  about how the house looks every time I pull into the drive. And I think, “I did that. I painted my house.” And next week, I start working my way around the rest of the house.


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