“Alone with a Jihadist” by Aaron Taylor

I remember 9/11 vividly because I was only out of basic training for 1 month before the trade towers went down.  A flight-mate of mine  found me at the university we were both attending, shook me from my studying, and with wide eyes asked me “Are we going to war?!”  I had no idea what he was talking about but I followed him down to the student lounge where all eyes were glued to the television.

Then the second plane hit.  I was terrified.

That afternoon, I went to my church and paced around the sanctuary vociferously praying for God’s intervention and protection.  Years later, I cheered with my friends and fellow soldiers as President George W. Bush announced to the world that global security “requires disarming Saddam Hussein now” .  My colleagues and I cheered, knowing that our cause was just and that God would indeed “continue to bless America” in our endeavor (George W. Bush delivered 17 March 2003 from the Cross Hall at the White House).

After witnessing thousands of civilians and soldiers alike dying for a cause I understood to be “God’s will,” I began to question the assumptions of my social, cultural and religious upbringing.  Religiously, I soon discovered that not only was violence anathema to Christ and the early Christians, a discovery that became all to clear when I revisited the New Testament and the history of the early church with newly opened eyes.  Culturally and socially, the myth of “America as a Christian Nation” quickly dissolved as a I learned the truths about our nation’s own endeavors and initiatives throughout the world that were (and continue to be) completely contrary to the live and love exhibited by Christ, inherent in God, and perpetuated and sustained through the Spirit.

With this experience and relatively recent conversion, I found something alluring about a new piece of literature out there that is tackling some of the most relevant or prevalent issues of the day.  When I saw that I had the opportunity to review a book called “Alone with a Jihadist,” I jumped at the opportunity.

The title of the book makes you think that you’ll be reading a sort of candid interview taking place between (what was assumed to be) a Western Christian and a “Jihadist.”  While these scenes open and close the book and serve as the basis for a good deal of the content, this book is not exclusively an interview.  Taylor uses his interview with Khalid to successfully frame his cogent analysis of ancient wisdom, modern evangelicalism and the apocalyptic eschatology that drives the Christian Zionists.  Early on in his work, he draws distinctions between the “Kingdom of God” and what was pitched to me as “The City on the Hill” in my church, home and school.  He even takes this distinction to the (appropriate) extreme by stating that no earthly kingdom can fully represent God’s Kingdom on the basis that God’s Kingdom is always “Power under” (through service, love and compassion) not “power over” (through war, violence and conquest).  He  illuminates the very clear parallels between the Crusades of the Dark Ages and modern Democratic expansionism, too.

I could move point by point to provide you with a similarly cogent analysis of his work, breaking down his approach, style and content; however, maybe more important to me (and to him, I’d assume as well), you should know that his book has further transformed my view on the role of Christians in the world, our relations with the government in which we live, and our obligation to understand our Muslim brothers and sisters.

I think that this is not only one of the more relevant books that are out there but it’s also one of the most well-articulated books in recent memory about Christianity, non-violence and Islamic relations.

Check out the following links for more information about the work that he’s done and what he’s up to today:

Aaron’s blog: http://www.aarondtaylor.blogspot.com/

Evangelicals for Peace Facebook Page:https://www.facebook.com/evangelicalsforpeace

Registration for Evangelicals for Peace Summit:http://www.peace-catalyst.net/evangelicals-for-peace

Alone with a Jihadist paperback link:http://amzn.to/QNVH95

Alone with a Jihadist Kindle link: http://amzn.to/ORji5W

Unfortunately, I’ve not watched the documentary “Holy Wars” but I hope to get to it this week.   

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Harm

The Hoosier Anti-Racism Movement (or HARM) had been handing out literature all over the town letting everyone know of the “bigot’s” arrival.  The local law enforcement and media were respectively armed to address what was certain to unfold.

Apparently, everyone knew he was coming except us.

From a city 30 miles away, a white-supremacist and Ku Klux Klan member had announced to his compatriots that he would be coming to our city to protest the gays and the lesbians and the minorities and to champion the white race.

On this Saturday morning in spring, I was walking past our downtown courthouse with my wife now VERY 8 months pregnant.  As we strolled, we talked about our plans for our lives and our future: did we still want to name our daughter that?  How in the world am I going to finish my paper on “Jesus Christ Liberator” when our baby arrives ?  What in the world are we going to do when she gets here?

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“Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith” by Anne Lamott

If you’re familiar with Anne Lamott or have read some of her more intentionally theological pieces like “Traveling Mercies” before, you know that she’s quite the eccentric writer but that, just when you think her story couldn’t have anything less to do with God, she levels you with brilliant spiritual truths.

If you’ve never read Lamott before, she’s dabbled in fictionhas offered great guidance and assurance for novice writers like myself, but she’s at her best in her autobiographical vignettes.  Here’s a quick review of  “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith,”  a book chock-full of insight, wit, humor and profound spiritual meaning.  *warning – “profane” language used throughout*

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“Naked Spirituality” by Brian McLaren

When I reflect back on my spiritual journey, his words and works couple have often marked milestones or transformative moments.  With his gentle spirit and meek words, especially amidst the maelstrom of insults, accusations and libel tossed his way, I have grown to appreciate the man, as well.  His works have met me at important points in my life and they continue to today.  Time and again,  McLaren has proven to speak to the heart of issues, simplify areas of complexity, and making complex that which we once thought simple and “Naked Spirituality” does it as well.

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About You by Dick Staub

Fully Human, Fully Alive“The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive” ~ St. Irenaeus

Full of anectodes, stories and life-reflections, Mr. Staub sets out to answer three questions in this “About You,” published by Jossey-Bass:

1) What can humans do to please God? 2) What was the mission of Jesus? 3) What does fully human look like?  All of these are addressed in inter-related ways.

In an attempt to answer what a “full human” looks like, he takes the beginning of the book and catalogs the theological conditions that have left humankind not “fully human” and the evidential experiences of day to day living.  To be honest, I felt like he actually spent too much time talking about what was not “fully human” instead of talking about what was which is where the next 2 questions come into play.

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