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Sunday, January 5, 2020

A FAREWELL to ARMS: AN EVANGELICAL PASTOR'S JOURNEY TOWARDS the BIBLICAL GOSPEL of PEACE (audiobook) by Brian Zahnd



Published by Oasis Audio in 2013.
Read by Dean Gallagher.
Duration: 4 hours, 58 minutes.
Unabridged.


Brian Zahnd is an American pastor of a megachurch in Missouri. I had never heard of him before I ran across this book. I was intrigued by the topic because the election of President Trump has been an interesting experience for this lifelong member of a religiously conservative church.

Over time, Zahnd has become convinced that pacifism is the way that Jesus would have us go. It is not a popular opinion, but Zahnd makes a strong argument for it.


Zahnd's message is essentially that the church is at its best when it acts like the Old Testament prophet Nathan in 2nd Samuel chapter 12. Nathan comes to David to tell him he had done a great wrong and call him on it.

Now, according to Zahnd, t
he church went from being the accuser of wrong-doing - the one that holds it to a high standard - to being the defense attorney of the government. Zahnd describes it as the church is the chaplain for the government. It cheerleads the government and supports it in everything, including going to war, supporting slavery, supporting genocide and more and it has been this way since Constantine the Great co-opted the Church in 313. 

Why is that? Because the government brought the Church into government and made it a stakeholder. The church provides moral cover because it is complicit with the government.  Look at our current political situation and watch religious leaders who are invested in politics use God to promote whatever cause they are involved in.

Here is a great example: In this article, Pat Robertson demanding that we keep troops in Syria. If we don't, President Trump is "in danger of losing the mandate of heaven." Two questions: 

1) Does God crown American Presidents with the mandate of heaven? 
2) Is Jesus a big fan of military action. If so, that puts the American soldier in the position of shooting people for Jesus, which sounds ridiculous when you hear it - but that is what Robertson is advocating.

I was reminded of this skit by a Christian acting duo known as The Skit Guys. The premise is that a boy wants to see a movie with a little bit of nudity in it, even though he knows his family thinks that it is inappropriate for him. His argument is that it is "just a little bit" of unacceptable content. His dad offers him a brownie he has just made and after he bites into it, he tells him that there was some "dog poop" in the brownie batter - but "just a little bit." Governmental and religious entanglement is a lot like having "just a little bit" of dog poop in your brownies. 



The author, Brian Zahnd
Most people think that religion taints the government, but I think that it is the other way around. A little bit of government makes religion act differently. Religion begins to make compromises and promises that it shouldn't make - it begins to say and do things that go against its core beliefs and mission because it is acting in support of governmental policy instead of its religious beliefs. Just a little bit of compromise goes along way to wrecking the entire message.

This book mostly looks at the topic of war and asks if churches should ever support war in any sort of form. Zahnd's own opinion has changed over time. He spends a great deal of time in this short book looking at exactly where he started and where he is at now. He refers to and quotes extensively from this very short Mark Twain story: The War Prayer (Click here to see Twain's story in its entirety). In it, an old man re-states the eloquent prayer for military victory that a church's pastor had just said during a church service - but he uses blunt terminology to show what the pastor and the church were really requesting:

"
O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst...

...We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

Zahnd's point is that he cannot imagine Jesus praying the prayer that Mark Twain wrote. But, that is what the church was asking because they had been co-opted into approving everything the country was doing.

This book opens up a lot of intellectual doors but really only looks through a couple of them. It was interesting, though, and I am going to try to check out some more of Zahnd's books.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: 
A FAREWELL to ARMS: AN EVANGELICAL PASTOR'S JOURNEY TOWARDS the BIBLICAL GOSPEL of PEACE (audiobook) by Brian Zahnd.


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