📘 Books 📘 Christian Nonviolence
Here are my book notes for "A Farewell to Mars" by Brian Zahnd.
Ch. 1 - The Preacher of Peace
- It's easier to believe what scripture teaches about Christ than to believe the ideas Christ taught.
- Since 4th century (Constantine) we have a problem with divorcing Jesus from his ideas for societal structure and politics. We use Jesus for a reservation in Heaven, and to endorse our own ideas about how to run the world.
- Luke 19 vv 41-44 - Jesus fortells the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70) because people reject the way of peace.
Ch. 2 - Repairing the world
- Jesus is the savior of the world, not simply handing out tickets to heaven.
- The apostles didn't preach the "sinner's prayer" gospel. There are 8 gospel sermons in Acts and none are focused on the afterlife.
- Instead, they preached the Kingdom of God on earth, the Reconciliation of All Things.
- Christ is the savior of God's good creation.
- God is not abandoning creation to a hyperviolent armageddon. The world is to be redeemed. We repent not to escape a doomed planet, but to participate in God's reconciliation plan.
- Humanity's worst sins occur when we deny the shared humanity of others. Like Cain, we refuse to be our brother's keeper.
- Christianity is not a private religion - it's meant to save the world. It has already done much good in transforming our viewpoints as humanity, so what we used to see as "the triumph of the strong" are now recognized as atrocities.
- Slavery, racism, and totalitarianism have been fought by Christians who refuse to let the world burn.
Ch. 3 - Christ against the crowd
- The majority is often wrong - it's interested in power, not truth. Crowds react to fear
- Being a peacemaker means often dissenting from the majority, and the "angry crowd" in particular.
- Of course, lynch mobs usually imagine they are simply good people committed to truth and standing against evil.
- Jesus was crucified because he did not share the crowd's "truth" of killing in the name of "freedom".
- If you follow an angry crowd, you're likely wrong - even if not about the actual issue, you are wrong in spirit.
- Jesus does not lead his people as an angry crowd.
- Jesus died as a scapegoat - an outlet of violence for a crowd. He returned and did not seek revenge.
- Do not engage in scapegoating. We do not control others through fear and political power. We have hope through Christ.
- The biggest difference between a peacemaker and a fearmonger is whether or not they really believe in the unconditional love of God.
Ch. 4 - It's hard to believe in Jesus
- We are mad if we believe the God of love revealed in Jesus will bless us in waging war.
- Christ died rather than kill his enemies.
- It's hard to trust Jesus' ideas, particularly regarding nonviolence and enemy love.
- Jesus was a nonviolent Messiah, which confused many people at the time.
- Jesus often didn't challenge "symptomatic" sinners: tax collectors, drunkards, prostitutes, etc. Instead, he challenged the guardians of "systemic" sin: Power brokers of religion and politics (particularly those of his own religion and people).
- Jesus said "Love your enemies" - instead of retaliatory violence, the world is to be founded on cosuffering love.
- Jesus is speaking against the things that we honor in memorials and anthems.
- What if Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to our "Christian nation"?
- Why do Christians worry about electing enough of one party, when neither party can enact the Kingdom of God? The entire system is incapable of implementing what Jesus taught.
- Following Jesus is hard.
Ch. 5 - Freedom's just another word for...
- Discussion of John 8 - Jesus speaking to new disciples / converts.
- In john 8:32, Jesus said: "The truth will set you free". For context, he is speaking to a particular type of enslavement. He says "It's great that you have chosen to be my disciples, but I'll teach you the truth and it will illuminate things that you need to be free from".
- Jingoism is idolatry, particularly when it replaces the worship of God in a church.
- To Jews in Jesus' day, "freedom" was political power over national enemies, including lethal power. To Jesus, freedom is liberation from sin - particularly the sin of collective killing (See John 8:37)
- Freedom attained and maintained by killing is a form of enslavement
- John 8:39-40: The text clearly associates "freedom" with killing from the Israelite's point of view
- John 8:44-45 - "Your father the devil" is where this appetite for violence comes from.
- Pattern - we will call our neighbors "enemies", kill them, and tell ourselves lies about it. We justify our killing in the name of freedom and hide the bodies behind myths, monuments, and anthems. "We are not our brother's keepers", "They are not 'us'", "For the sake of our freedom, they had to be killed".
- But Jesus says this "freedom" is from the devil and He wants to truly set us free.
- John 8:48 - the people "them"-ify Jesus
- Violence in the name of freedom always circles back to Hell.
Ch. 6 - The things that make for peace
- Discussion of Palm Sunday.
- Pacifism can be associated with cowardice but it's brave to differ on the dominant view of state-sponsored violence.
- On Palm Sunday, the crowd was performing a remembrance of the Maccabbean revolt. Jesus said they are not recognizing the "things that make for peace" Luke 19 v42
- Christians may claim that war is necessary but cannot claim that Jesus endorses the idea.
- The means NEVER justify the ends. Means are the ends in process of becoming. Matthew 26 v52
- The people on Palm Sunday hailed Jesus as king - but that's not enough. We also must believe in the Jesus Way.
- In the antebellum South, Christians believed in Jesus but they didn't know the things that made for peace.
- Nationalism has a tendency to hide the things that make for peace.
Ch. 7 - Clouds, Christ, and Kingdom Come
- Understanding the Kingdom transforms our view of Christianity.
- Jesus has his own political agenda, vision for arranging human society, criteria for judging nations. So it's hard to give our allegiance to worldly partisan politics.
- We want to win the game, but Jesus wants to change the game. God's will can be accomplished even if our side doesn't win.
- The Kingdom has already come. So we don't pursue a worldly agenda while we're waiting for it.
- Jesus is a kingdom ruler. But if we reduce his role to "personal savior" we are free to pledge our political allegiance to an empire.
- German Christina movement helped Hitler's rise to power in the 1930's. Before we use the "What about Hitler" argument against nonviolence, we should consider why Christians supported him in the first place.
- Matthew 25 Jesus gives "Sheep and Goats" parable about judging the nations under the following criteria:
- The Poor
- The Sick
- The Immigrant
- The Prisoner
- How should we vote? To benefit these people. It's not "the economy".
- Jesus' political priorties: Care for the poor/sick/immigrant/prisoner and renounce ambition to dominate the world militarily or economically.
Ch. 8 - A Farewell to Mars
- Wherever war is given sanctity in the name of God, Mars is there.
- Constantine's use of Christian symbols for his military ambitions is tantamount to idolatry.
- Air Force chapel in Colorado - sword instead of cross
- The cross represents forgiveness of enemies, not elimination
- The sword represents elimination of enemies, not forgiveness
- Isaiah 2 - swords into plowshares. In the Kingdom of God, weapons are useless.
- Jesus was willing to die for that which he was unwilling to kill for.
- Jesus is the firstborn of new humanity as gardeners.
- Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom of God already and Isaiah's words apply to us now.
Ch. 9 - Us and Them
- There is no them. there is only us.