Monthly Archives: August 2009

Listen to my interview with Sam Rodriguez!

The Reverend Sam Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hispanic NAE (National Association of Evangelicals). Sam Rodriguez represents approximately 15 million Latino evangelicals in the U.S.

In interviewed Mr. Rodriguez last week on my new Blog Talk Show. I asked him several questions about the cultural, theological, and political differences between Latino evangelicalism and white evangelicalism–and his answers were fascinating!

You can listen to the interview here:

It’s 30 minutes long.

Enjoy!

The Love of God from the Book of Hosea by Nedra O Brien (guest contributor)


Below is a devotional my mother in law, Nedra O Brien wrote for her church bulletin before she passed away in 2005:

The Book of Hosea is about a people who need to hear the love of God and the unique way God chose to demonstrate His love for them. They thought love could be bought, as in verse 9 of chapter 8, which says, “Ephraim has hired lovers…”, not understanding that God had freely promised them His protection and provision.
They also thought love was the pursuit of self-gratification…chapter 2 verse 5 says, “I will go after my lovers who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil, and my drink.” They didn’t seem to comprehend a love that has nothing to do with self, that serves others and is unconditional.
They mistakenly thought that loving unworthy objects could bring positive benefits, such as in their worship of the idol Baal Peor, despite the fact that God Himself Bestowed special favor on them. Verse 10 of chapter 9 says that they become an abomination like the thing they loved.
God wanted Israel to know His love, which reaches out for unlikely and unworthy objects. Chapter 11 verse 1 says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him.” And He wanted them to know a love that guides with gentle discipline, described in 11:4 as “bands of love”. He also wanted them to experience the kind of love that persists in spite of running and resisting. In fact, in chapter 11 verse 8, He says, “How can I give you up?”
The problem was how to get this message of God’s love to a people who were not inclined to listen, and probably wouldn’t understand even if they did listen. God’s
solution, of course, was to let the prophet Hosea be his own sermon, by having him marry Gomer. In his extraordinary love for her, he showed the kind of love God had for Israel.
We can learn several lessons from the Book of Hosea:
One…if the people around us do not see the love of God, they won’t find it anywhere. We have to show the world by our actions and our attitudes the authentic love of God in Christ.
Two…we can’t separate our witness and our ministries from our lives. Hosea’s strongest sermon was his relationship with his wife. The source of his power for preaching was his home and his family.
And three…the only perfect example of love is found in God Himself. We can draw from the well of love He has for us, offering it to others.

Whistle blowers, corporate greed, and Matthew 18–a call for Christian accountability


Wendell Potter worked for 15 years as the head of public relations for CIGNA, one of the largest health insurance companies in the U.S. Wendell’s job was to keep high profile complaints from becoming major news stories. So when policy -holders were denied care or were kicked out of the plan for getting sick, Wendell’s job was to make sure that the fewer the people who knew about it, the better. For years, Wendell convinced himself that working on behalf of his company’s shareholders over and against the health needs of actual human beings was the right thing to do.

All of this changed at a health exhibit in Wise, West Virginia. When Wendell assumed that he would see things like routine blood pressure checks, what he actually saw astounded him. Wendell saw the people that were being treated in animal stalls and on gurneys, and the “long, long lines of people waiting to get care.” That’s when he had his epiphany. Wendell suddenly realized, “There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.”

Wendell Potter is now one of the nation’s top whistle-blowers advocating for health care reform. Whether you agree with Wendell’s politics or not, there’s something about Wendell’s story that I think should serve as a lesson for Christians of all political persuasions. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus laid out a principle that, if applied correctly, could go a long way in correcting many of the problems associated with corporate greed.

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

As I reflect on Jesus’ words, I can’t help but to think of Wendell’s story. It took seeing real people for Wendell to realize that his line of work was harming people instead of helping them. I don’t know if Wendell Potter is a Christian, but let’s assume temporarily that he is a Christian and that all those years of covering up claims of health care abuse for the purpose of lining shareholders’ pockets, Wendell regularly attended a Christian church. Might it not have been appropriate for a Christian that had been unjustly denied care by Cigna to confront him on the basis of the Matthew 18 principle? And had Wendell refused to listen, might the next step not have been to bring two or three witnesses and then to talk with his pastor or the elders of the church? Had Wendell refused to listen at that point; then perhaps the pastor or the church elders could have chosen some form of church discipline, like excommunication or denying communion.

If such an approach seems far-fetched, it’s probably because of the gigantic gap between modern Christianity and New Testament Christianity. In New Testament times, Christians were admonished not to drag their fellow Christian to secular courts (I Corinthians 6:1-6). Moral disputes and reparations were supposed to be kept within the Church. Nowadays, most Christians are so accustomed to appealing directly to Caesar for justice that we virtually skip the process that Jesus and the Apostles laid out for dealing with sin in the Church.

I wonder how many American Christians are doing jobs similar to that of Wendell Potter, or any other number of jobs that work against the interests of the poor—be it here or a far away country—and haven’t given it a second thought? It’s to these Christians that I think the Matthew 18 principle could go a long way in helping them see the error of their ways. The issues then become less about politics and more about personal discipleship. The fewer the Christians there are participating in unjust corporate structures, the brighter the Church’s light will shine. May God raise up Matthew 18-type ministries everywhere!

Sample e-mail to Governor Crist–please protect the 17-year old girl!

Dear Governor Crist,

My name is Aaron Taylor. It has been brought to my attention that a 17-year old girl has sought refuge in the state of Florida because of her conversion to Christianity. I have been on the mission field for many years and I can attest to you that the danger that this girl faces from her family is real. Many of my friends overseas have been brutally persecuted by their families because of their decision to leave the Islamic faith. In Islam, the penalty for conversion to another religion is death. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you fail to do your duty to protect this young girl, you may have innocent blood on your hands. Freedom of religion is a human rights issue, and it is the cornerstone of our democracy.

Please do the right thing.

Aaron

Urgent appeal for a 17-year old girl facing persecution

Saints, if you get this in time, take a moment and please write your own email to Gov. Crist. A young lady, age 17, has converted from Islam to Christianity, and claims that her life is endangered from family and others. She ran away to Florida and is seeking protection. The governor has until circa 3 pm to decide to protect her or send her home.

This is a real issue, that demands action. I have enclosed copy of my email to Crist. Please consider writing your own and send it to him at charlie.crist@myflorida.com
We know Islam better than most people do. We can’t assume that Crist or advisors know how real the threat is.

Thank you.
I can affirm threat

Verse of the day. Isaiah 40:31

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint.

Debunking the Iranian regime’s claims of Western interference

I thought that Fareed Zakaria did an excellent job in this segment of debunking the Iranian regime’s claims that the West, in particular the U.S., is behind the current post-election resistance movement in Iran. The man he debates in this video is an Iranian stooge. In my view, it gets a little comical, being that it’s so obvious the man from Tehran is saying exactly what the clerical regime wants him to say.

Way to expose the Iranian regime’s lies Fareed!

I apologize


In the Pentecostal Christian tradition, there’s a practice that has gained some ground over the past few years called identificational repentance. Taken from the examples of men like Daniel and Nehemiah in the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the Old Testament), identificational repentance is when a group apologizes for the sins of its ancestors or when an individual apologizes for the sins of his or her family, church, or nation.

The term is a bit controversial because the word “repent” literally means “to turn the other direction.” Nobody can change his or her ways on behalf of another, so perhaps “confession” is a better word to use. Theology and semantics aside, the direction that Christianity has taken ever since the fourth century when the Church and State became one has produced an ugly monster that looks nothing like the movement that Jesus and the Apostles founded. There are many people trying to bring world Christianity back to its non-violent roots, but before that happens I think an apology is in order. So allow me.

I apologize for trampling on the teachings of Jesus and turning “love your enemies” into “kill your enemies.” I apologize for twisting Romans 13 to justify every single act of violence committed against my fellow man—as long as a “legitimate authority” perpetrates the violence. I apologize for listening to Augustine, Luther, and Calvin instead of the Apostles Peter, Paul, and James. I apologize for silly “arguments from silence” concocted by “just war theorists” to evade the clear-cut teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.

I apologize for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch trials, the religious wars of the 17th century, the genocide of Native Americans in the Western Hemisphere, centuries of anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust, and all of the American wars that we rallied around with our crosses and our flags. Speaking of the cross, words cannot express how sorry I am for turning what should be the supreme symbol for non-violent redemptive love into a banner for blind patriotism. I apologize for confusing the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of America. I apologize for wrapping Jesus in an American flag and turning Him into a tribal deity that we ask to bless our bombs.

I apologize for the T.V. evangelists that fleece the poor and use the money to finance Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I apologize for rallying around the Iraq war, calling for pre-emptive strikes against Iran in the name of God, failing to speak out against torture, and demonizing those that advocate for nuclear disarmament and an end to wasteful Pentagon spending. Perhaps most importantly, I apologize for my complicity in expanding the culture of empire, an empire that looks a lot like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Rush Limbaugh, very little like Jesus.

I realize that some of the things that I have mentioned are stereotypes that not every evangelical, let alone Christian, falls under. Indeed, followers of Jesus have also done much good in the world. Even in the midst of all of the terrible things I just mentioned, there have always been Christians that have shown the world a different path. For every Oliver Cromwell there’s a Mother Theresa. What grieves me is that the clear-cut teachings of the New Testament have been so perverted by so called Christians throughout the centuries that many people might confuse the perversion with the real thing, and never give the faith that I love a second glance.

My hope and prayer is that through this heart-felt apology, the harlot church might be exposed so that the church of the enemy-loving, foot-washing Jesus might shine brighter. One of Christianity’s best-kept secrets is that the New Testament is in fact an anti-war, anti-nationalist document, and that Christians for the first three hundred years unanimously and categorically rejected violence and warfare in honor of their founder. Rather than cursing the darkness, it’s time for a dedicated few to rise up and reclaim the faith. It’s time for a Reformation!

It’s time for an international arms embargo against the Burmese regime

Soldiers entering villages and killing people on sight. Landmines blowing pregnant women to smithereens. There’s no way this is really going on. The world would never tolerate this. These were the words flashing through my mind as I watched the fourth installment of the Rambo franchise. The film portrays the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in Eastern Burma targeting the Karen people, a situation that is every bit as bad as what’s happening in Darfur. Little did I know that in just eight short weeks, I’d actually be standing on the same soil as the Karen people, talking with victims of the junta’s atrocities and listening to their stories.

My wife and I are freelance Christian missionaries. In a nutshell, we travel the world and look for ways to share our faith and/or help people in practical ways. About a week after I saw the Rambo movie, I met a missionary at a conference in Texas that lives in Thailand and works among the Karen people living in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border. At the conference an invitation was given for volunteers to go to Thailand and teach an oral communications workshop at a Karen Bible School. Within three weeks the door to our previous commitment to travel to Brazil was slammed shut—providentially I think—and we were able to credit our tickets to travel to Thailand instead.

While in Thailand we spent six days at a Bible School with Karen pastors in training. Many of the young men and women had been driven out of their homes when they were little children. Some told us stories about their home villages being burned to the ground. Others were too young to remember life outside of the refugee camp, but longed to return to their homeland nonetheless. The constant theme we heard was that the junta troops are continuing to systematically drive Karen people out of their villages and are placing landmines in the villages to keep the people from coming back. Amazingly, we were able to cross the border into Burma and hear many of the same stories from Burma’s Internally displaced Persons. Many of them fear that if the world doesn’t act soon, there will be a final campaign in 2010 that will wipe their people off the map forever.

Speculation aside, here are the facts:

• In Eastern Burma, the military regime has destroyed, burned, or relocated over 3,000 villages;
• At least one million refugees have fled the country;
• An additional million people remain inside the country as internal refugees. They face abuse in the forms of rape, torture, extortion, and murder. Many are also forced into forced labor for government projects and army
campaigns – a modern form of slavery;
• The military junta in Burma has recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world – up to 70,000;
• Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war in Eastern Burma, terrorizing thousands of women and their families;

So how can the world community bring down such an evil regime? Do we have to propose another military intervention? Not necessarily. History shows that when brutal regimes are denied the money and the weapons to carry out their atrocities, the people are able to rise up and take back their country. The British and French governments are currently calling for the UN Security Council to impose a global arms embargo on the regime, with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stating that “nothing less than global arms embargo” should be imposed on the Burmese regime. Brown also said “I also believe that the UN Security Council – whose will has been flouted – must also now respond resolutely and impose a worldwide ban on the sale of arms to the regime.”

You and I can make that happen. Now that Burma’s pro-democracy leader has been sent back to house arrest for another 18 months, there’s a window of opportunity for the U.S. and the world media to give Burma the attention it deserves. Go to http://www.uscampaignforburma.org and sign the petition to tell Ban Ki Moon to pass a resolution to stop the genocide in Burma. The clock is ticking. God have mercy on us all if we stand by and do nothing.

Both sides of the "culture war" need to broaden their human rights agenda

Last week, radical Muslims in Pakistan began terrorizing the Christian minority in the town of Gojra. At least 9 people were killed, over a hundred homes were burned to the ground, and several church buildings were destroyed. The reign of terror has lasted several days and has spread to neighboring areas. I get daily reports from my Christian friends in Pakistan and, as far as I can tell, what’s happening is eerily similar to the anti-Christian violence that took place in India last year where, according to Asia News, around 500 people were killed.

Unless human rights advocates worldwide and the U.S. government in particular puts pressure on the Pakistani government to clamp down on attacks against Christians—and to repeal the blasphemy law that allows Muslims to trump up charges against anyone who supposedly “insults Islam”—more Christians will likely be killed. Pakistan’s Christians have been complaining for years that the Western media has largely overlooked their plight. They also say that their government fails to protect them from Islamic extremism, discriminates heavily against them when it comes to jobs, civil services, and even aid relief when natural disasters strike. Think Earthquake 2006.

To be sure, Christians in the global south aren’t the only group suffering under the weight of religious oppression. Even in Pakistan, some say that the Shiite minority has it harder than the Christians. In Sri Lanka, people in the Tamil minority (comprised mostly of Hindus) feel that the Buddhist majority oppresses them. There’s also India’s caste system and its treatment of the Dalits (the untouchables in Hinduism); arguably history’s longest standing system of religiously motivated apartheid. Still, when it comes to oppression against religious minorities, the ones doing the oppressing seem to get a free pass—especially when it comes to persecution against Christians. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot in the media about the persecution of gays and women in Iran, hardly a peep about Iran’s brutal crackdown on Muslim converts to Christianity.

That’s my beef with the so-called “secular” media and, to a lesser extent; secular human rights advocates. Now for the bombshell directed at my own side. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m an evangelical Christian. I despise the label because it conjures up a lot of negative stereotypes, but for lack of a better term, that’s what I am. I think that many, if not most, Americans see evangelical Christians as either indifferent to or ignorant of human rights issues. I got a sense of this when I attended a local Amnesty International meeting a few months back. It was my first time there and the leader made a snide remark against “Jesus people” because she assumed that there couldn’t be anyone like me at the meeting.

I left the meeting feeling sad. I realized that somewhere, somehow, a lot of people got the impression that the more a person loves Jesus, the less that person’s going to care about human rights. I decided to test this impression by sending out an e-mail to hundreds of my evangelical friends asking them to sign a petition for the release of Aung Sun Suu Kyi, Burma’s leader of the democracy movement that has been unjustly imprisoned for the last 19 years for the “crime” of winning a democratic election. I received very few responses, but one response stood out. “I want to make sure this is actually from you and not some left-wing propaganda.” I don’t fault the person for doing his due diligence. I’m just saddened that such a clear-cut unambiguous issue had to be cast into terms of left verses right, liberal verses conservative. A genuine human rights issue was slain at the altar of the “culture war.”

So here’s my proposal. Many evangelical Christians like me would like to see secular media and human rights advocates put a greater emphasis on the vastly under-reported persecution of Christians worldwide. On the other hand, I sense that secular media and human rights advocates would like to see evangelical Christians like myself take a larger role on issues like nuclear disarmament, torture, women’s rights, racial discrimination, and the freeing of people that have been unjustly imprisoned because of their religion, political persuasion, and—yes—sexual orientation.

Frankly, I agree. I’d like to see my evangelical brothers and sisters play a larger role in human rights issues. Abortion and gay marriage will likely always be a stale mate, but that doesn’t mean that evangelicals and non-evangelicals can’t work together on a vast array of other human rights issues. Thankfully, there are organizations like Jim Wallis’s “Sojourners” and Ron Sider’s “Evangelicals for Social Action” that are ahead of the curve on this one. Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t large enough to change the current stereotype of evangelicals as that of depraved indifference to human rights issues. If both sides would broaden their agendas, remove the planks from their own eyes, and reach out to the other side, perhaps we could work together to make a better world.

Aaron D. Taylor is the author of “Alone with a Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War.” Aaron can be contacted at http://www.aarondtaylor.com Follow Aaron on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aarondtaylor

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