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Book review: Alone with a Jihadist

In Church and State, Military on December 7, 2009 at 10:48 am

At the risk of being a spoiler, the last paragraph in Aaron D. Taylor’s book, Alone with a Jihadist, left me with such optimism, I must reveal it now.

“… why wait till the age come? The world is crying out for peace today. Let there be peace on earth – and for the love of God – let it begin with the Church!”

Last month, shortly after Cara and I founded Lifted on Eagle’s Wings, I was reading one of my daily newsletters and found a Sojourner’s column written by Aaron D. Taylor. I was so impressed with what he had to say, I sent him a short note of praise.

We communicated in short emails and I ordered his book. I must be clear from a personal place. I never thought for a moment this young Pentecostal evangelist, from the most conservative place theology could imagine, would resonate with me for an entire book. I ordered the book more so I could understand that “other side” of Christianity. It was a way for me to sit back with my maturity and my Christian confidence with my answers about God and be ready to refute every point this person made.

Taylor shocked me to the point that I am recommending his book to atheists. Yes. The wisdom, honesty and Biblical truth that he illuminates in his book astound me.

Taylor has traveled the world as a missionary. He answered a call to be part of a documentary called Holy Wars and spend a day with a radical Muslim jihad. His book touches upon his experience but expands upon the idea why Christians should never go to war. Never. Never kill, never fight with violence. Even after sitting down with a powerful extremist who considers it his mission to destroy our nation, our religion, and us, he still feels we should never go to war, to never fight violence with violence.

In the United States, we hold democracy side by side with our Christian teachings. We believe that we truly are One Nation Under God. We Trust in God and we fight for that freedom. Our flag waves side by side with the cross. It’s interesting to note that the largest democracy in the world is not the United States, but India. Yet, we Americans consider democracy our God-given right. It’s easy to trace the origins of such a mindset. Our currency, our pledge, our justification for our actions all refer back to God, from our earliest memories. Not much unlike the schooling of Muslim. They also learn at an early age about their faith and their nationalism.

One of the most informative statements from the first chapter reveals the views a jihad holds towards American Christians. “You still haven’t described how you would implement the Bible as a way of life or in government… What is godly government? I don’t understand… I don’t expect you to know the reason why you don’t know because the answer is not in there… Let me tell you what we do with homosexuals, okay? They are to be taken to the top of a mountain and thrown off and killed. It’s capital punishment. For the one who is an adulterer, if they are unmarried, a hundred lashes. If they’re married, stoned to death. This is Islamic Sharia. It’s comprehensive… I’m trying to be honest with you because you are holding a completely corrupted message that doesn’t tell you what to do in these situations.”

The jihadist’s point was that the Muslim religion is very clear how to deal with aberration. Christianity is unclear, therefore an invalid form of government.

The jihad continued, about America, “Nothing is addressed. Evil is allowed to run rampant, okay? And you just keep propagating peace and love and all that sort of thing and it’s not really good enough…”

With that sort of introduction, the book humbles the most militant Christian. As the book continues, Taylor examines why militant and Christian need not include violence.

Taylor repeatedly cites Biblical evidence to make the case for peace. Jesus turned the other cheek, preached for us to love our enemies, and even rebuked Peter for defending him. Jesus never endorsed violence. Instead, He gave us the gifts of scripture, worship, and love.

Taylor also juxtaposes the American Revolution for freedom from England with the peaceful non-violent evolution from Canada and Australia. He considers the financial cost of war versus peace. He addresses it all.

Highlighting peaceful revolutionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and even American writer Henry David Thoreau, Taylor explains a different way, a truly Christ-like way. He probes our nationalism, our faith, and our core beliefs in a way that remind us indeed that Jesus did not just come to forgive our sins, but instead to teach us how to live.

I highly recommend his book if you’re a Christian who just doesn’t understand why we shouldn’t violently fight the evil forces of our world. I recommend this book to anyone who embraces the idea of peace, but doesn’t know why we bother. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever questioned why we are at war. 

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Overcoming the Politics of Tragedy

In Military on November 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

For the past week, Nidal Malik Hasan has been a central figure in the media yet many of the reports have chosen to engage in combative analysis between political ideologies rather than cultivate talking points that nurture us toward unity. To me, this is disturbing.

At a time when we should be unanimously joined as a country in mourning, we have news outlets asking questions like: Was this a criminal act or an act of terror? Is political correctness to blame for these deaths or did the overwhelming stress of a pending deployment cause Hasan to snap? Yes, I see value in these questions as an analysis to the situation but not as an immediate response to the event and definitely not as a central discussion each and every day thereafter.

Unfortunately, sensation sells and with news outlets hurting for dough, the tendency is to stoke controversy above all else. It’s no secret that our post-911-culture possess predictable hot buttons and that pressing them draws dollars. I admit it. The moment I saw Hasan’s name, my conservative hot button lit up expecting to be pushed. I thought: “Let me guess. The guy is a radical Muslim!” I’m also pretty confident that there were folks on the left who heard his name and thought “Let me guess! The guy will be labeled a radical Muslim!”

This is the political predictability that our press depends upon and successfully exploits in order to keep us glued to their coverage. However, a factual baseline that our journalists just don’t seem to get is this: even though these thoughts of Islamic radicalism pricked our minds, those thoughts did not dominate us.

For most of us, our prevalent concern upon hearing the news of Fort Hood was heartfelt regard for the victims and their families. We immediately lifted them up in prayer and ached in tandem as citizens who, together, suffered loss. This is the real relationship amongst the American people and we will continue to seek our solace and healing together.