As violence rages in Gaza and the war in Iraq comes unravelled, many Americans evangelicals are rethinking their positions on war and violence. In the midst of this moment, pastor Brian Zahnd of Missouri’s Word of Life Church encourages Christians to take a “journey from embracing violence to pronouncing peace.”
In his new book, A Farewell to Mars, Zahnd questions how violence and power seeped into our understanding of faith and grace. He argues that the message of Jesus differs radically from the drumbeats of war we hear all around us. Here we discuss his provocative proposal.
RNS: This book details your “journey from embracing violence to pronouncing peace.” What do you mean by “embracing violence?”
BZ: I accepted violence as a legitimate way to shape the world for good. I was comfortable with celebrating, memorializing, and endorsing American war violence. I believed that the infliction of American violence—whether upon Hiroshima or Hanoi—was just and justifiable. For most of my life I simply did not feel there was any tension between being a follower of the Prince of Peace and enthusiastically endorsing the waging of war. But in my long and winding journey I’ve come to understand that to live gently in a violent world is part of the counterculture of following Christ.
RNS: Tell us about your 9/11 prayer and why you think it was a failure?