Monthly Archives: January 2009
Some friends sent this video to me. It’s the most truthful presentation I’ve seen yet on the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East. It also confirms what I’ve written in my book “Alone with a Jihadist.” I was floored that a major media outlet in the U.S. reported on the 100 Arab homes that are demolished in East Jerusalem every year. This has been going on for the past 40 years and very, very few Americans know about it. The report only mentions last year, but according to an Israeli human rights organizations ICAHD, which stands for Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, it happens every year. Still, I didn’t think a major U.S. media outlet was ever going to report that. Guess I was wrong.
I started a tradition a few years ago of reading one classic novel a year. Some of the novels I’ve read over the past few years include Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and John Knowle’s A Separate Peace. This year I chose Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
For years I’ve heard that not only was Dostoevsky a Christian, but he is also considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. To be labeled a classic novelist puts a person in a pretty elite class, but in this case the label isn’t wasted. Crime and Punishment delivers.
The story is about a brilliant, but conflicted student striving to make his place in the world but is constrained by his impoverished background. The main character Raskolnikov develops a theory that the world is divided into two classes of men, inferior and superior. According to the theory, the superior class (which is an elite group of extremely rare individuals) isn’t subject to the same laws as the inferior class because the superior class is able to contribute to society in ways that the inferior class can not by virtue of their intellect.
Early on in the novel, Raskolnikov decides to put his theory to the test by murdering a despised pawnbroker. Raskolnikov figures that the cynical, vile woman is a drain on society and, after all, her money and possessions can also be used to feed a lot of poor people. Since Raskolnikov is one of the superiors, his moral judgment is also superior, which makes him above the law. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov fancies himself in the same category like a Napolean Bonaparte or a Russian general that makes a siege on a city for nationalistic interests. He figures that if generals can lay sieges on entire cities, killing whomever they please, for the purpose of advancing human civilization, then why can’t he murder a useless old pawnbroker?
Herein lies the genius of the book. Crime and Punishment was published in 1866. Woven throughout the book are characters that represent the major ideological movements of his day–including capitalism and communism. By creating characters that intellectualize to the point of near insanity, Dostoevky virtually predicted the Cold War about 80 years ahead of its time. Even more importantly, he revealed the moral bankruptcy of people that spend too much time intellectualizing and not enough time mixing with real people with real problems.
Throughout the novel I kept asking myself if there was any hope for Raskolnikov? Will this young man finally see the error of his ways and repent? When is this guy going to get off his intellectual high horse and face up to the fact that he committed a horrible crime? Will Raskilnikov forever remained imprisoned in his own thoughts?
The answer may surprise you.
Read it and let me know what you think.
On behalf of white evangelical Christians everywhere, I’d like to congratulate the black church for a well-deserved victory. The election of Barack Hussein Obama as the first African American president of the United States is a watershed moment not only for America, but also for oppressed people everywhere.
I’m 30 years old, so I wasn’t around during the decade of the civil rights movement, but here is what I’ve heard. At a time when your people were considered less than human by mainstream America, you chose to love your oppressors. You faced the dogs and the fire hoses. You refused to ride in the back seat of buses. You walked into segregated schools with your heads held high. You sang in mass to the tune of “We Shall Overcome”—and overcame you did.
My message to the black church is simple, but urgent. To my fellow black Christians I’d like to say thank you and please. Thank you for winning the struggle for civil rights but please, oh please, do not give up your non-violent heritage that made it possible. In a world where the very presence of nuclear weapons puts the human race in jeopardy, if there ever was a time for the message of non-violence to reclaim its rightful place in American history, that time is now—and you’re the ones that can make it happen!
The irony is now that you have a man commanding the most powerful military in the world, the temptation is all too great to forget that, unlike the American revolution where victory came at the barrel of the gun, your victory came not by the power of might, but by the power of right. Your victory is a victory that came not from violence, but from non-violence.
Last year I was struck by the irony of hearing a speech by John McCain praising Dr. King for his life and legacy when, as I recall, it was Dr. King who said, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.” Dr. King was the most vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy in his day and yet how often is he praised for his courage to face down his own government?
This year I’m struck by another irony. In a blog post entitled “The forgotten heart of King’s dream,” author Greg Boyd points out that every year he and his wife attend the annual Dr. Martin Luther King breakfast. This year the keynote speaker was four- star general Colin Powell. In Powell’s speech, he attributed the greatness of America to the greatness of our soldiers throughout history, and even equated soldiers today with Kings call to service. Colin Powell is perhaps one of the most honorable men to ever grace the U.S. military, and of course there are many honorable men and women serving in our armed forces today, but isn’t it ironic that a message praising U.S. military might would be given at a service commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King?
All of the evidence from his books, speeches, essays, and sermons suggests that Dr. Martin Luther King believed that violence never achieves lasting solutions. Dr. King taught that non-violent redemptive love is the most powerful force for good in the world—especially when directed towards one’s enemies. We all seem to know intuitively that Dr. King changed the world for the better, but few today seem to pay much attention to how he changed the world. Since September 11th, King’s values of loving the enemy and turning the other cheek are now viewed as hopelessly naïve by mainstream American culture—including by many in the black church.
As a lifelong member of the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition, I consider the historic shift of much of black Pentecostalism from pro-peace to pro-war to be nothing short of tragic. I have a hunch that the influence of Christian Zionism has a lot to do with this, but regardless of the reason, it’s high time for black Pentecostals—and the black church everywhere—to reclaim it’s non-violent heritage.
American Christianity as we know it today is in desperate need of a reformation. For the first three hundred years of Christian history, followers of Jesus were thrown to the lions because they renounced the sword and embraced the cross. The vast majority of American Christians today have forgotten this. Who better to remind us than you? The media may mock you. The world may laugh at you. But one thing you can know for sure. If you can once again bring non-violence to the forefront of the American psyche, there’s a white boy from Jefferson County Missouri cheering for you every step of the way.
Aaron D. Taylor is the author of “Alone with a Jihadist”, scheduled to be released in mid 2009. Aaron can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember when Rhiannon and I were living in Senegal we always got a laugh at the foreign exchange students that would come to Senegal to learn the culture. Nearly all of them followed the liberal academic consensus that Christian missionaries are guilty of cultural imperialism. One day we met a Nigerian Christian girl that was taking a class with these students and she openly challenged them by saying that she was an African Christian and that she was glad that the missionaries came and evangelized her people. The irony in all of this was that here these students were criticizing Christian missionaries for our supposed “patronistic” attitude towards other cultures and worldviews and yet they refused to listen to the cultural perspective of an African Christian. Here was an African Christian speaking highly of Christian missionaries and somehow, these students still didn’t get it!
Here is an author that actually gets it. You can read the article here.
What makes this even more astounding is the author is an avowed atheist!
I guess this shows that intellectual honesty can truly come from bizarre places sometimes.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were this honest?
Hi Mr. Taylor, Greetings in the name of Jesus .
I would like to ask you a question on baptism, but first I will explain a brief history of conversion.
In 1996 I believe, I went to church and listened to a reverend preach during a crusade and if I remember correctly he asked the congregation a question about being saved, I stood cause I knew I wasn’t at the time. After, we prayed the prayer of repentance and repeated Romans 10:9: ‘that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved.
Days later I was baptized, spent time in the church for a number of years but , have backslided and now I have repented and I believe I have fully surrendered my heart to God and want to serve him. The Bible says one Lord , one faith , one baptism and in rev, it says repent and do thy first works.
I think that I may not need to be baptized again, but, if I did not mean it or had fully surrendered to God before immersion the first time, should I be baptized again? I always believe that Jesus was the son of God but was God in the flesh is this also correct?
I thank you
so much for your time and answering,
May God Bless All
In principle, normally I wouldn’t recommend getting baptizing again, but after reading the very last line of your question, I suggest that you get baptized again. Here is why. I don’t believe that a person can truly be saved without acknowledging that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God is not enough because unless Jesus is fully God and fully man, then His blood doesn’t qualify to be the atonement for the sins of the world. Please refer to one of my previous posts Why the deity of Christ matters. My suggestion is that you solidify in your heart that Jesus is God in the flesh. And once you’ve done this, you can be baptized into the fuller revelation of who Jesus is.
May God bless you as you commit your life to Christ fresh anew!
A wise man once said, “The first one to plead his cause seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him.” That wise man was Solomon and the saying comes from the book of Proverbs, a book respected as the Word of God by both Christians and Jews alike. As an evangelical Christian born and raised in the charismatic movement, I grew up hearing only one side of the Israeli/Palestinian story, primarily the Israeli side. I always assumed that God gave the land to Jews and if the Palestinians don’t like it, well, they can sit on a tack, because everyone knows that Palestinians are the devil.
Sunday school songs aside, what’s happening in the Gaza strip is serious. That’s why we need a grown-up Christian response. Sadly, that’s exactly what’s lacking in this crucial hour.
So here goes.
I believe that Israel has the right to exist in safe and secure borders. I also believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. I understand the sentiment of President-elect Obama when he says that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were asleep, he would do everything he could to prevent it. I believe Hamas is a terrorist organization that espouses an ideology diabolically opposed to freedom and progress. I despise the fact that they persecute my brothers and sisters in Christ living under their thumb and, of course, firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians is never justified. Period.
So is Israel justified in their heavy- handed approach towards the citizens of Gaza? Judging by the fire breathing on both sides of the debate, I don’t see a consensus on this one coming any time soon. As for my fellow Christians, we can debate the subject until Jesus comes back and the debate will have largely missed the point. Sure Israel may—or may not—be justified in their aerial bombing campaign and subsequent invasion of the Gaza strip, but that question alone shouldn’t determine the proper Christian response. Why? Because Christians are called to live by a higher standard than what’s merely justifiable.
Jesus would have been completely justified in slaying the bloodthirsty Romans of His day. The crimes that the Romans committed against the Jews were every bit as bad, if not worse, than the crimes Palestinians commit against the Jews today. But when Jesus hung on the cross, He showed the world that there’s a higher law in God’s moral universe than brute justice. And that law is mercy. When it comes between following the suffering redemptive love of the cross and the enemy crushing way of the sword, Christians are supposed to choose the cross—at least that’s what Christians used to believe.
No I don’t think that followers of Jesus would be prudent to impose New Testament standards on non-Christians, but what I find particularly odd is that when Palestinian Muslims embrace Christianity (like the case of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader who recently made his testimony public) we expect them to embrace a new attitude towards their former enemy Israel. We expect them to love, bless, do good to, and pray for their enemies—like Jesus says to do. But when an Israeli Jew embraces Jesus as Messiah, most of my Christian friends don’t expect them to be less militant towards their Palestinian neighbors but more militant. We expect them to fight for their land and liberty even if that means that on the other side homes are demolished, land is confiscated, Palestinians participating in non-violent demonstrations are either tortured, imprisoned, or assassinated (this happens all the time in the West Bank by the way) and, as in the case of Gaza, women and children are denied food and medicine for years on end.
My Christian friends would say that problems in the Middle East would be solved overnight if every Jew and Palestinian would simply confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Without meaning any disrespect to people of other faiths, as a Bible believing Christian, I’m compelled to agree. But here is where the argument falls apart when the wrong people use it. Some of the same people who use this argument are also the ones bombarding the White House with e-mails urging our Secretary of State to let Israel fight. They never seem to ask themselves the question of who would Jesus bomb? What a shame that is! Because how can we as Christians say that the world would be a better place if everyone became one of us when we’re the ones cheering when the bombs go flying?
I came across a serious, yet hilarious column the other day written by conservative commentator Cal Thomas. In the column, Thomas shares a story about how CIA operatives in Afghanistan have actually used Viagra to win the hearts and minds of Afghan tribal warlords–and they are giving away useful information regarding the whereabouts of Taliban militants as a result!
You can read the article here.
Oh how I wish this column had been written while I was writing my book “Alone with a Jihadist”! What a great example of nonviolence in action. If only the vast majority of Christians in America could free their minds to think more Biblically, we might just conclude that violence isn’t the only way to solve problems.
All hail the King of Peace!