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The Style of Subversion: An Introduction

August 4, 2008

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Going Public with My Privates (part 2 of 3)

July 31, 2008

…on becoming post-(whatever I was).

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Going Public with My Privates (part 1 of 3)

July 25, 2008

colorful pants…on becoming post-(whatever I was).

Feeling rather left out, I began to worry. Perhaps I was still within my Evangelical cocoon. Or worse, maybe I was still crawling around on branches eating leaves. While my friends flew with new wings, was I still waiting to take off? Yet I felt as if I had emerged already, but by a different process; perhaps I had become a moth?

My question is, if I were to claim metamorphosis into a post/progressive-Evangelical/Conservative/Liberal existence, how did it come about?

Or, to change metaphors, most of my friends who claim a (re)birth trace their lineage through a secret promiscuity with Protestant Liberalism. But I was always much too self-righteous for that. So, is there another family line that can be traced beyond Evangelicalism not issuing from a liaison with Protestant Liberalism?

To make sense of this other possibility of a passage beyond, we have to look closely at the issue concerning how the Church publicly expresses its private beliefs; or, how we go “public with our privates.”

Going Public…

Now, the common complaint leveled against Evangelicalism is that it perpetuates a privatized faith without public effect. But of course this is not entirely true because the highest form of devotion for Evangelicals is to share their faith publicly at school, at work, in the heath club and every other arena of life. Discipleship is completed only when a believer confidently and regularly shares her faith in public. In a sense, Evangelicals are always willing to share their privates in public.

It could be argued that, in regard to matters of faith, Evangelicals are the true disciples of the sexual revolution. Thinking themselves much less repressed or socially inhibited, Evangelicals are willing to drop their religious pants at any time, while Protestant Liberals have much more modesty concerning their private beliefs. PLs are very reluctant to whip out their privates, but rather are reserved and careful, always referring to their beliefs in socially acceptable terms. Evangelicals, liberated from the embarrassment of their privates, are willing to freely expose themselves at any time: on the beach, at work or during dinner. It is the poor PLs who are repressed, denying the goodness of their private life, blushing whenever someone asks about the “hope they have within”.

Of course this evangelistic manner of “going public with the private” is not what critics of Evangelicalism are upset about. Rather they complain that Evangelicals all too typically fail to affirm the goodness of the world/society, and therefore fail to do any good in regards to economic, racial, gender, and environmental problems. Evangelicals go public with their privates on an individual to individual basis. But my maturing faith (fostered by reading OT prophets which are rarely, if ever, preached in Evangelical churches) left me disenchanted and demanding a social/communal aspect to Christian confession.

Coming Soon:
(part 2 of 3) Going Public with My Privates: Evangelical Liberalism/Fundamentalism
(part 3 of 3) Going Public with My Privates: Beyond the Private

Changing the wind?

July 21, 2008

Did you catch Al Jazeera’s special on U.S. politics and religion a few days ago?

Probably not. AJ generally isn’t included in most of our cable packages, and definitely doesn’t pass the bunny-ear test.

The videos of the special, titled “Inside USA: Christianity, Politics and Power,” are available in two parts on YouTube and certainly worth the 25 some-odd minutes it takes to view them.

I was struck at how different AJ’s questions were from U.S. news organizations. It seems as if the U.S. media can’t get beyond, “Yeah, but which candidate are you going to endorse?” (see Shane Claiborne’s Monday post on the God’s Politics blog). Al Jazeera, however, went a bit deeper in its questioning.

Right off the bat, while describing the rise and fall of the Moral Majority over the last 30 or so years, the story put front and center the glaring hypocrisy of Christian compliance and participation with a U.S. political system where money and lobbying rule the day. It is suggested that the church’s identity as following Jesus and politics’ propensity for greed and underhanded tactics are inherently incompatible. We’ve certainly seen that this is the case on the Christian Right over the last quarter-decade.

The thrust of the story, however, is what we’re all hearing quite a bit about in these days leading up to the November election: the changing political face of Evangelicalism. No longer are “Christian” and “Republican” synonymous, they say and write. Rising up is a movement of Christians asking different questions and seeking different politics to answer them.

But Al Jazeera’s report seems to cut through some of the apparent hypocrisy on the Evangelical Left as well, an insight rarely seen outside a few underground blogs, podcasts, and, of course, zines like Jesus Manifesto.

Host Avi Lewis interviews Tony Campolo in the second part of the piece. Strolling through the green lawns of Campolo’s Eastern University in Philly, Lewis almost immediately addresses the conflict of interest in Campolo’s political action and endorsement.

Lewis: You’ve written strongly about ending partisan politics in the church, calling on church leaders to end partisan affiliations. But then you endorsed Hillary Clinton before she dropped out.

Campolo: Yeah, and I think that as individuals, outside of the church, we’re able to do that. There’s a big difference as an individual speaking as a representative of a religious body, and calling upon the members of that body to support a particular candidate or party. And an individual standing up and saying, “This is who I am—“

Lewis: But you’re a leader. You have followers, you—

Campolo: I realize that that has implications —

Lewis: And you’re clearly a Democrat.

Campolo: Obviously. Everybody knows that.

Lewis: And you’re hoping that more Evangelicals will vote Democrat this time.

Campolo: I certainly do.

And with that, the damage is done. Viewers are seeing what Lewis and Al Jazeera had already recognized: That much of the “Religious Left,” of which Campolo, sojourners founder Jim Wallis, and author Brian McLaren are the elder statesmen, is succumbing to the very same pitfalls and trappings as the Religious Right. Campolo dichotomizes the “individual Christian” from the “public Christian,” suggesting that if he simply states that he’s endorsing a candidate as an “individual outside the church” and not as a respected leader, ordinary followers will be able to tell the difference.

Indeed, the public face of our faith is the only witness we have to a broken world crying out for release from its dead-end power plays. Campolo does nobody any good by playing by the same old dead-end rules. Lewis calls him on this a few minutes later in the interview:

Lewis: I’m just having trouble understanding how Evangelical moves in the political arena, which you strongly support and hope go in a slightly different way politically than they have, are different from having Christian values turned into government policy, which is an exclusive version of religion in public life — not a catholic one with a small “c.”

Campolo: Let me say this: There is a lot of common ground. Whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Muslim, whether you’re Christian, you would agree on this: That helping the poor is a divine order. That we are compelled by Scripture, whether you are going to the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, or the Koran, you’re compelled to respond to the needs of the poor. Let’s start there. And furthermore, when I deal with my agnostic friends, even my atheistic friends, they say caring for the poor is essential. Fine, can we start there? Can we start with caring for the environment, which all religious traditions ask us to do? Are there a number of things we can hold in common? …Sometimes, I think it’s about time Christians start getting back to what the Bible says instead of listening to the pulpit. And that’s why certain Evangelicals like myself and Jim Wallis say, “Let’s go to the Bible.” So in short, we sound like Billy Graham, saying, “It’s about time we look at what the Scripture says instead of what the spokesperson for the Religious Right are telling us.”

Right before this portion of the interview, Campolo had referenced Jim Wallis’ oft-quoted metaphor about how politicians change their views based on the direction of the wind, but the mandate for politically active Christians is to change the wind.

Do Campolo’s words sound like a wind change?

No, his words – along with much of the conversation surrounding progressive Christianity – reflect slightly different wind direction (as the interviewer points out), but the same wind nevertheless. Like Lewis, I too had a hard time understanding how what Campolo is advocating is any different than the strategies of the Religious Right: Seeking to build up a movement to bring about godly principles through legislative means. What Campolo also fails to recognize here is that the Religious Right uses Scripture every bit as much as progressive Christians to justify its political action.

What is needed, and what a few crazies on the margins are calling for, is a “third way” – a solution to our global crises and biblical mandate that subverts rather than joins the “powers and principalities of this dark world.” What is needed is a “back to the Bible” campaign showing that Jesus’ movement of love spread not through political coercion or leveraging power, but by sacrifice, martyrdom, and simple acts of charity.

I wish Shane and Psalters were given a little more face time in the Al Jazeera report, because they are leading this campaign. But alas, I suppose most viewers really only want to hear about who’s endorsing who in “politics as usual.”

I guess this love movement is going to have to stay underground for a bit longer.

Author Bio:: Steve Holt is a disciple, writer, husband, and proud father to an apricot mini poodle, and he lives and conspires in East Boston, MA. You can find his musings about faith, culture, and mission at harvestboston.wordpress.com.

The Dark Knight of America

July 15, 2008

This weekend thousands upon thousands of movie-goers will flock to see the Dark Knight. According to early reviews, the flick has the potential for greatness.

The Dark Knight combines all the dark grittiness of the best crime dramas with all the eye-candy of superhero-flicks, and processes it through the dark macabre vision that has become a hallmark of the best of the Batman films. Read more

How a Radical Jihadist Led Me to Jesus (part 3 of 3)

July 2, 2008

bible readingNow that Khalid knew he had my attention, he decided to walk me through the finer points of his worldview as a maestro would with an inquisitive pupil.

“Islam is not religion, you probably think Islam is a religion. It’s not. It’s a pure divine belief.  Comprehensive. We had a divine social system, economic system, political system, private system, and a system of what to do when somebody invades your land, what to do when somebody invades your home. We’re onto the concept which a lot of people are talking about today, the issue of fighting or jihad in Islam. Jihad in Islam is one of the things that protects the Muslims around the world.”

“So jihad is primarily defensive?” I thought to myself, “Does that include 9/11?”

Khalid and I had an extensive debate on that one—and a host of other topics. For hours upon hours, for two straight days, Khalid and I went back and forth on just about every topic imaginable: the prophethood of Muhammed, the crucifixion, the divinity of Jesus, the inspiration of Scripture, Osama bin Laden, Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Terror, democracy, freedom of religion, the role of women, the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands, the finer points of Sharia law.

In many ways, I felt that I took a beating in my debate with Khalid, though I still walked out of there with my head held high. Rather than feeding the fire-breathing stereotype of a my-way-or-the-highway American evangelist, I decided in the end to make a symbolic attempt at reconciliation, at least on a societal level. Though Khalid left me with little hope of reconciliation between the West and Islam, I found out later that my presence did have a disarming effect on Khalid—somewhat. Khalid conceded that I wasn’t what he expected and, at the very least, he confided to me that I helped him see that American Christians are also concerned about the moral issues he’s concerned with and that not every American Christian agrees with U.S. foreign policy.

Then I returned home.

For weeks I walked around in a daze. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that if Khalid and his repeated threats to fight with all means necessary until U.S. troops are removed from Muslim lands, if his ideas represent only 10% of the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world, then we are looking at a problem of global significance. Hearing the rage and frustration of Khalid helped me to see that the anger and frustration of millions of Muslims directed at America and Western Civilization didn’t emerge from a vacuum. And how many jihadists does it take to execute a terrorist attack capable of destabilizing the world order? Only a handful. All I could think of was America is not ready for this.

But then another thought struck me.

As I poured myself into watching documentaries, reading scholarly journals online, and scrutinizing the TV news, I realized that something was changing on the inside of me, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. After a couple of months I realized that something had happened during my debate with Khalid that I never thought would happen. Khalid had presented an authentic challenge to my faith and I knew that if there was to be any victory at all, like the victory that was prophesied, then I would have to get to the bottom of the issue. Khalid’s charge was simple. Jesus didn’t leave the world with a comprehensive social system, economic system, political system, or any other kind of system to regulate society. At least Muhammed attempted to solve the world’s problems.

Tell me, preacher man. How would you implement the Bible from a governmental point of view?

I poured over the Scriptures for months with this question in mind. Did Jesus really leave us with nothing in terms of how to implement the Scriptures from a governmental point of view? Certainly he left us with something. Or did He? If He did, then we Christians in the West had better find out what it is and get off our lazy derrieres and do something. If He didn’t, then why didn’t He—and how come the vast majority of my charismatic brothers and sisters seem to think that He did?

After months of pouring over this simple question, I realized that my entire world had been turned upside down. But the twist in the story is my life was turned upside down not because I discovered that Khalid was wrong, but because I discovered that he was right. I realized that not only did Jesus not leave a comprehensive system in place to regulate society; He flat out refused every single form of earthly power that people tried to impose on Him. Not only was He not interested in establishing an earthly throne as Israel’s rightful King; He wasn’t even interested in taking on the role of a judge (Luke 12:14).

It’s not that I didn’t know this before. It’s just that suddenly the thought of the Son of God coming to earth to live, die, and be raised from the dead—without suggesting some type of economic, judicial, or political system to give humanity a helping hand—took on a new and profound significance. If Jesus didn’t attempt to solve the world’s problems through seizing the reigns of political power, then He must have found a better way. That better way, I’ve at last discovered, is the cross. At the cross, Jesus taught humanity that it’s better to suffer injustice than to be the cause of it, it’s better to relinquish power than to pursue power, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s better to die than to kill.

I find it odd that after 25 years in the charismatic movement—including three years of Bible school, ten years of traveling the world, and countless conferences for Christian leaders—I’ve heard hundreds of sermons on the cross, but never have I heard a sermon connecting the cross to an ethic of non-violence. I’ve heard the occasional sermon about taking up the cross and denying myself (usually that translates into thou shalt pray and fast a lot). I’ve heard numerous sermon examples about how some saintly follower of Jesus way over there somewhere chose to bless his persecutors rather than to curse them, but never have I heard a sermon about the cross as a challenge for Americans to think differently about violence, war, and—God forbid!!—Patriotism.

Since my time with Khalid I’ve traveled back to Africa to build a radio station, started a vocational training program to help suffering Christians in Pakistan, and—much to the consternation of friends and family—traveled to the West Bank with Christian Peacemaker Teams. After I wrote a scathing newsletter last year detailing the suffering of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, our ministry has lost a considerable amount of support. Most of my family and friends (including my most trusted mentors) simply don’t understand why a promising missionary like me would put his entire career on the line to challenge such sacred cows in American evangelicalism. Rarely do I feel I have the right words to say when responding to my critics. Even now, all I can think of is, on November of 2006 in a cold, abandoned London warehouse, a radical jihadist led me to Jesus.

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Author Bio:: Aaron D. Taylor is an author, speaker, a missionary/evangelist, and the founder of Great Commission Society. Aaron is currently writing a book about his conversion to pacifism. Aaron is moving with his wife to the West Bank next year to serve the Palestinian Christian community. To book Aaron D. Taylor to speak at your church or event, please contact him at 636-208-6828 or fromdeathtolife@gmail.com

How a Radical Jihadist Led Me to Jesus (part 2 of 3)

June 30, 2008

warehouseUnfortunately for me, there was little time for second-guessing. Within a few short weeks, Stephen came to my home to interview me and ask me just about every question under the sun regarding my faith, family, and political views. The last thing I wanted to do was to isolate myself unnecessarily from those outside the conservative evangelical fold, so I tried to be as diplomatic as possible when asked questions about 9/11, the Iraq War, free-market capitalism, George Bush, and the Republican Party. Little did I know that the microscopic examination of my faith that weekend was only the tip of the iceberg. There was still much, much more to come.

Within a few short months, Stephen traveled with me to Pakistan to observe my preaching and to get a first-hand look at the oppression of Christians in a nation largely populated with radical Muslims. It was during the trip to Pakistan that Stephen began speaking to me about a very outspoken jihadist who lived in London named Khalid. I had seen Khalid on CNN and knew that he was an Irish convert to Islam who had grown up in a Catholic family. After the trip to Pakistan, I honestly thought my role in the film was over. In my mind, I had perhaps countered a few negative evangelical stereotypes and had a rare opportunity to expose the plight of the Pakistani Christians to the world.

Little did I know that a few months later, after delivering a sermon at a Pentecostal church in Brazil, a man would walk up to me and tell me that I was supposed to go to London before the end of the year and that, if I would go, then God would give me a great victory. Taking this as a word from God, I thought that maybe I could go and talk to Khalid, find out how he thinks and see if I could persuade him to accept the way and teachings of Christ. It wasn’t long before the producers caught wind of the story and decided to set up a meeting between the two of us for the purpose of capturing the conversation on film.

I don’t think words can describe the pressure I felt during the two days of what turned out to be an intense debate with Khalid. Not only did I have to make my case for Christ to Khalid (and all the other Bin-Laden followers who may watch the film), I also knew that I had to be a faithful representative of Christ to the average non-Christian watching the film, many of whom are already convinced in their minds that those who hold to a fundamental belief in Scripture are destined to drag the world into a premature Apocalypse. To top it off, I knew there were American soldiers in Iraq putting themselves in harm’s way and the last thing I wanted to do was to dishonor their service. The fact that the weather was unusually cold and gloomy, and that we were meeting in an old abandoned warehouse, made the atmosphere tense from the start. When Khalid walked into the room with his fiery eyes, intense gaze, and a grey t-shirt with the words “Soldier of Allah” written on the front, I knew the next few hours were not going to be a picnic.

Well…let’s just say the meeting didn’t quite go as I planned. It took all of about two minutes for me to realize there wasn’t going to be the Dr. Phil moment I had imagined with me helping Khalid to see that deep down inside there’s an inner child waiting to be loved. Within no time, Khalid began venting all of his anger, frustration, and rage against my religion, my country, Western Civilization—and me. In the beginning, I did my utmost to keep the conversation on a theological level. Having lived in a Muslim country and studied the basic tenets of Islam, I knew how to engage Muslims in friendly conversation regarding the merits of Christian belief. Most Muslims I had met up until this point were surprisingly generous about their view of the Bible and the fate of Christians on judgment day. Khalid, on the other hand, made no apology for his belief that every single Christian who has ever lived is heading straight for hell. The way Khalid raged about Iraq, Afghanistan, George Bush, and Tony Blair, I was sure that, in Khalid’s mind, the hottest flames in hell are reserved for those who put them in office.

The most frustrating part for me was the more I tried to shift the conversation to theological matters, the more determined Khalid was to condemn the evils of Western Civilization and, in particular, U.S. foreign policy. After sitting and listening for what seemed like hours, besides the occasional interjection here and there, I finally decided to engage Khalid on one of the primary moral objections to political Islam, and that’s the issue of religious freedom. Ready for a good debate, I finally stopped Khalid in mid-sentence and blurted out, “Freedom of religion in Islam is a façade. There is no such thing as freedom of religion in Islam.”

Expecting to hear a rebuttal, I was genuinely taken aback when Khalid so nonchalantly replied, “No there’s not. We don’t believe in freedom and democracy. We believe democracy is just a manifestation of man-made law.”

“Freedom and democracy equals man-made law?” I thought to myself, “now that’s an idea I haven’t heard recently.” As an American Christian culturally conditioned to think of the words “freedom” and “democracy” as inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, the idea that another human being could consciously reject these values was intriguing to me. The association of democracy with man-made law also had a ring of logic to it. After all, we all know that the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament don’t wait for a heavenly finger to write on tablets of stone before passing legislation.

Still trying to keep the conversation on a theological level and with little time to think, I responded, “You see that’s the difference, because the Bible says in the New Testament, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Wasting no time, Khalid replied “Yes, but what does that mean? Nobody knows what that means. Not very clear.”

“Not very clear?” I thought to myself, “what’s not clear about living in freedom from legalistic rules and regulations?” The Apostle Paul’s meaning when he wrote these words is obvious. Outward conformity to a written code is no substitute for a relationship with God. Slavish obedience to a written code leads to hypocrisy and inflexibility when divorced from a heart-felt love for God and a genuine love for people. It’s obvious to me. Why isn’t this obvious to Khalid? I thought perhaps I needed to state it another way.

“If society is going to change, then hearts have to change,” I said.

Khalid wasn’t buying it.

“You still haven’t described how you would implement the Bible as a way of life or in government. I’ll be honest with you. I’m gonna pin you down. I don’t think you can. I don’t think you can, because you can’t. With the Bible, how would you address the pedophilia, the prostitution, the homosexuality from a governmental point of view? How would you address that? You’re in charge tomorrow all right? You are the president of the United States, how would you address these problems?”

How would I implement the Bible from a governmental point of view? Now that was a good question. In my mind, I could hear the calm reassuring voice of my senior pastor saying something like, “Now, Aaron. Remember that Christianity isn’t about trying to regulate society by setting up earthly governments. It’s about forgiveness of sins and a right relationship with God.”

“That’s right pastor,” I thought to myself “but that doesn’t really answer his question. If I’m going to make the claim that my faith is the right one, certainly I need to show that if everyone, or at least the vast majority of people, embraced my faith, then society would be better off. After all, there are moral implications to living out the gospel, and these implications aren’t limited to the private sphere.”

In my heart I knew that Khalid’s question was far from insignificant. Even though I knew the standard answer that Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for our sins and rise again on the third day. Even though I knew what every self-professed born again evangelical Christian knows, that the gospel is about God’s love for sinners, not about sinners striving to achieve moral perfection. Even though I knew that the theme of the Bible is grace and redemption, not condemnation and legalism, there was something in Khalid’s question that caused my heart to sink. I knew that Khalid’s challenge wasn’t something I could dismiss lightly.

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Author Bio:: Aaron D. Taylor is an author, speaker, a missionary/evangelist, and the founder of Great Commission Society. Aaron is currently writing a book about his conversion to pacifism. Aaron is moving with his wife to the West Bank next year to serve the Palestinian Christian community. To book Aaron D. Taylor to speak at your church or event, please contact him at 636-208-6828 or fromdeathtolife@gmail.com

How a Radical Jihadist Led Me to Jesus (part 1 of 3)

June 24, 2008

jihad“What have I gotten myself into this time?” were the words flashing through my mind as I sat across the table from Stephen Marshall, the director of a feature length documentary film (currently in post-production) examining the role of religion in the post 9/11 clash between the West and Islam. Stephen and I were sitting in an underground café in London discussing what I was about to do the next day. In less than 24 hours, I was about to be stuck in a cold abandoned warehouse for hours upon hours with a radical jihadist who wanted to destroy me, my country, my religion, and everything else I held dear.

As a 28 year- old evangelist born and raised in Jefferson County Missouri, a rural county outside the suburbs of St. Louis, the idea of representing Western Civilization in an epic debate seemed a bit far-fetched. I imagined what the cultural elite in Europe would think if they knew a Christian missionary from the Bible Belt was their de facto representative for defending their civilization over and against Islamic civilization. The thought suddenly struck me as humorous. How in the world did I get here?

It all started when I was a young child attending a missionary conference at my charismatic mega-church. As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a knack for adventure and a zeal for the things of God. When I was between the ages of 8 and 10, my church invited missionaries from all over the world to display exhibits and share about their ministries at an event they called the World Harvest Conference. Seeing the missionaries dressed in exotic costumes and hearing their stories made me want to “abandon it all for the sake of the call” just as they had done. For a young child who rarely traveled, the prospect of spending my life in a far away place and learning another language captured my imagination and gave me a vision for the future. By the time my uncle Charlie took his first trip to Africa, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a missionary too.

My first missionary trip was in 1993 to the country of Poland. A missionary from our church named Jack Harris was scheduled to conduct an evangelistic crusade in the town of Wroclaw, so he decided to take a group of young people from the church with him so they could experience a taste of the mission field too. While in Poland, I read a book by an evangelist named Mike Francen called “A Quest for Souls.” Mike was personally trained under the legendary T.L. Osborn and saw many of the same miracles that T.L. and his wife Daisy had seen throughout their 50-years of ministry together. For a 15 year old raised in the charismatic movement, looking at pictures of 100,000 people lifting their hands to receive Jesus as Savior was like an aspiring adolescent baseball player looking at a picture of Babe Ruth knocking the ball out of Yankee Stadium. For me, the choice was very simple. How could I stay in America and preach the gospel to those who have already heard when there are millions of people around the world who have never had a chance to hear the gospel once? From that day forward, I decided to dedicate my life to becoming a world evangelist.

As soon as I graduated from high school, I was out the door and ready to change the world. During my formative years, my parents made tremendous financial sacrifices to put my brothers and me through Christian school, so we never really traveled much. But now that I had the freedom to determine my future, I found myself traveling to places far and wide—places I never in my wildest imagination dreamed I would ever go. Places such as India, China, Tibet, Vietnam, Cambodia, Uganda, Grenada, and Laos. Some of these countries were places where those who decided to follow Jesus often paid a terrible price of suffering and persecution and, yet, the joy on their faces reinforced to me that following Jesus is worth the cost, no matter what the cost may be.

Although I could have continued my travels solo, God had other plans. I met my wife Rhiannon in Dallas, Texas while I was a student at Christ for the Nations Institute and we married on October 6th, 2001, approximately three weeks after 9/11. Shortly after our wedding, we decided that we wanted to put our School of Missions training to use by taking the gospel to those of the Muslim faith. We wanted to minister in a country that has a Muslim majority, but also enjoys religious freedom; so after a year and a half of quiet and peaceful suburban living, we packed our bags and moved to the country of Senegal, a country located in the westernmost region of Africa.

For a year and a half in Senegal we labored, we cried, we prayed, and met a lot of fascinating people. Some were fellow missionaries laboring in a very difficult field. Others were Muslim converts to Christianity, many of whom had dreams and visions of Jesus and personal testimonies of miraculous healings. Most of our family and friends thought that we were crazy evangelizing Muslims, especially since this was shortly after 9/11, but the fact is our interaction with Muslims was entirely peaceful. Not once did we come across someone who hated us and wanted us out of the country. Although we only lived in Senegal for a year and a half, my wife and I were able to travel to three other West African nations (including a trip to Mauritania where we battled a plague of locusts), conduct a nation-wide pastors’ conference, and lead a young man to the Lord who is now is a full time church planter in the southern region of the country.

As much as we loved Senegal, all good things must come to an end. Due to a tragic illness in the family and a growing vision for a world-wide ministry, my wife and I decided to move back to the U.S, but it wasn’t long till I was off traveling the world again. This time I found myself traveling to Pakistan, a place I soon discovered was largely overrun by radical jihadists sympathetic to the likes of people like Osama bin Laden. I didn’t want to be a prime target for kidnapping or execution, so I decided to concentrate my ministry primarily on the Christian minority, encouraging them in their faith and equipping them with Bibles and other tools for witness and evangelism.

It was shortly after my first trip to Pakistan that I met Stephen Marshall. One day as I was checking my e-mail, I noticed an ad I had previously overlooked in a mass e-mail for missionary mobilizers. The headline read, “Hollywood production company looking for a young missionary who travels the world to participate in a feature-length documentary.” A few days before I saw the e-mail, I already felt I had a direction from the Lord to begin engaging secular media with the gospel. I didn’t think anyone would respond, so when Stephen called me a few days later, I was pleasantly surprised—and overwhelmed. I knew that representing a Christian perspective to the secular media is a tall order, especially when you don’t have any control over the editing process. Almost immediately after I got off the phone with Stephen I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I can chew.

Author Bio:: Aaron D. Taylor is an author, speaker, a missionary/evangelist, and the founder of Great Commission Society. Aaron is currently writing a book about his conversion to pacifism. Aaron is moving with his wife to the West Bank next year to serve the Palestinian Christian community. To book Aaron D. Taylor to speak at your church or event, please contact him at 636-208-6828 or fromdeathtolife@gmail.com

Denominational Pentecost in a Post-Carbon World

June 20, 2008

Editor’s Note: Below is the 2nd Prize winner in the culture category for the Stepping into a Violent Wind Writing Competition:

When the age of less oil arrived, the Jesus radicals were all together in one place. And suddenly a great wind and tongues of flame spread through the room. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak and worship in ways that cut across tradition and theology as the Spirit gave them power.

Now there were dwelling in Kentucky Christians, devout men from every denomination under heaven. And upon seeing this they all came together, bewildered, because each one was found to belong regardless of tradition. And they were amazed, astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Jesus radicals? And how is it that we find ourselves able to worship and belong here, even according to our various denominations? Baptists and Southern Baptists and Presbyterians, Greek Orthodox and Anglicans, Methodists from Missouri and Pentecostals, too. Roman Catholics and Mennonites, Lutherans, Korean and Black congregations are all here - we hear them telling in our own languages the mighty works of God.”

So may read the best stories of the American church in the 21st century.

But what in the world could ever cause such a diverse crowd of Christians to cram together into one congregation? Perhaps a better question is, what ever let us get so fragmented in the first place? It is from this second question that we can arrive at the first. Read more

Daughters and Sons

June 16, 2008

damenThen that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
~ Sojourner Truth

I am a daughter of Eve.

I am a daughter of the woman who plucked fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because it seemed good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom (and was also kind enough to share with her husband).

I am a daughter of the curse.

I am a son of God.

Through faith, I have been clothed with Christ Jesus and am neither male nor female but Christ, Abraham’s seed, living in me through the Spirit.

I am a son of the promise.

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my spirit in those days.
~ Joel 2:28-29

Paul may not permit me to teach, he may request that I remain silent, but the LORD has promised that I will prophesy… that through the inspiration of his Spirit, I will declare and teach and mediate and communicate about what is to come… about his kingdom. Where I can do this may still be a controversy amongst the Church, but even those opposed to a woman in the pulpit have conceded to her right to wield a pen.

In the information age, a woman’s computer is her pen, and her blog is her voice.

During Shavuot, the Jewish people celebrate the revelation they received from God through the Torah. During Pentecost, Christians celebrate the revelation they receive through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, God continues to reveal himself to us through the revelation of truth.

I am thankful to my sisters who allow the Spirit to inspire them, and who use their voices to share their revelations with all of us. For several years, Julie Clawson has been providing me with a comfortable space (and somewhat incessant nudge) to explore the questions already stirring in my soul regarding woman’s role in the story of the Church… though she would not know it unless she can see through her blog. More recently, Jenell Paris stirred up enough thoughts to make my head spin… in a good way.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
~ Galatians 3:26-29

Why is it that women in vocational ministry seems to be Christianity’s final frontier?

Ok, God, we can accept those Gentile believers, and we can even give up our slaves… but you can not be serious about that female thing?! Surely you’re not going to let Eve off the hook that easily. Did Jesus put you up to this? Do you have any idea how long it took us to live down that whole Deborah thing (and don’t even get me started on her friend Jael…)?

There seems to be a lot of fear surrounding what would happen if women were released to run amok in ministry, at least down here in the Bible belt. Children would be abandoned, meals would go unprepared, men would be disrespected in their own homes and left to pick up their own dirty underwear. Chaos would ensue. Theology would be twisted beyond recognition. Salvation as we know it would cease. Sunday school is one thing, but the entire Body of Christ… that’s just too much to consider.

I appreciated what Brandon O’Brien had to say in Christianity Today, pointing out that:

If Adam and Eve illustrate the essential differences between men and women, Christ highlights their essential unity. All believers are called to imitate Christ by exhibiting the same qualities; Paul makes no distinction between masculine and feminine fruits of the Spirit.

We are all called to abide in Christ, and to bear the same fruit of love and patience and kindness and self-control among each other and among a watching world, just as Christ did when he lived among us. It doesn’t much matter if women prefer to be loved and men prefer to be respected, because we’re all called to do both for one another, and encouraging women to share and lead as the Spirit directs is not going to change that.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now I ain’t got nothing more to say.

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at www.barefootbohemian.blogspot.com.


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