Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Liberals for Jesus-Cornerstone Festival

Last week I went to the Cornerstone Music Festival, an annual event held in Bushnell Illinois, for the first time. There are many things that I saw that I expected. Hundreds of tents playing everything from Celtic ballads to heavy metal, 15 year olds and 40 year olds with mohawks and tatoos, and just about every type of individual in between.

What I was not expecting was the intellectual sophistication of the workshops in the mornings and early afternoons. I sat in on Jonathan Case, a religion and philosophy professor at Houghton University discussing the implications of the shift of Christianity from the Global North to the Global South. I also sat in on several workshops listening to a Wheaton professor discuss the theology of N.T. Wright, one of the most widely acclaimed (and controversial) New Testament scholar alive today. By far the most interesting for me was Stephen Sizer's workshop on the dangers and fallacies of Christian Zionism. His workshop called "I Left Rapture Theology Behind" was surprisingly popular. Stephen Sizer made a compelling case for partial preterism, a view held by both R.C. Sproul and Hank Hannegraph which sees the bulk of Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation as describing the events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D.

According to partial preterists, believers should be preaching the gospel and occupying until He comes while at the same time looking for the imminent return of Jesus to usher in a New Heaven and a New Earth. Date setting based on current events leads to error, and possibly a man-made apocalypse. Having grown up listening to Christian Zionists and their repeated calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (though they dare not use the term) and their repeated efforts to thwart peace-making efforts between Jews and Palestinians (peace-making is the antichrist's work in their view), I couldn't agree more.

I was happy that there were very few people I had to convince that poverty was a moral issue. Hundreds of people signed the One Declaration and many indicated that they would call their congressmen to advocate for the world's poor once they get on the mailing list. Given the fact that the renewal of the Farm Bill, which desperately needs to be reformed, is being discussed in Congress right now, I was thrilled to be able to attend a workshop that actually encouraged me to write a letter to my representative on the spot. I honestly hope that Senator Bond will read my letter and consider the implictions of 3 billion subsistence farmers around the world being put out of business due to extravagant U.S. Farm Subsidies.

I also talked with several individuals from Christian Peace Maker teams, an organization advocating non-violence. I was humbled to actually talk to people who have stood in front of Israeli tanks to stop them from plowing over Palestinian markets while at the same time building friendship with Jewish settlers. Talk about the Sermon on the Mount 101. There were more than one Anti-War groups there that, although I still have many questions about pacifism verses the just-war theory, I admired the cogency of their arguments-and their passion for peace.

Cornerstone is like a Christian Woodstock. In fact, the people that run the festival, the Jesus People are linked to the original Jesus Movement that came out of the Hippie Movement. This doesn't mean that everyone at the festival was a committed Christian liberal. I would venture to say that most were not. I do think it fascinating however that this is the only gathering that I can think of where someone like Michael Moore could conceivably sit down and have a meaningful conversation with an American pastor without the two reaching out to grab each other's throats. Now that is peace making!


Pete said...

I'm glad it was you that went and not me. I have a hard time with many of those types of people as they are mostly looking for the most convenient God to believe in and leaving the true God in the dust. Just my observations though.
Oh yeah, one other thing.
"3 billion subsistence farmers around the world being put out of business due to extravagant U.S. Farm Subsidies"
The business of a subsistence farmer is simply to feed his own family. Now unless the U.S. Farm Subsidies are paying to have these 3 billion little home gardens destroyed so that the U.S. is the only source of food for these people, this is simply a lie. I would like to hear the other side of this story because it seems strange to me that something that is such a good thing for everyone is having to be pushed for so hard by people who are misinforming the public. Not that YOU are doing that, but I would be interested if you know what the possible downsides of this bill reform is.

Aaron D. Taylor said...


I probably should have mentioned this in my post, but the vast majority of the subsidies go to large corportions not small family farms. In fact, a lot of the smaller farms are being put out of business because of the current structure. 78% of these subsidies go to just 8% of producers. Currently the amount is 20 billion dollars that gets paid for five cash crops (corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soybeans). The subsidies are based on production quotas and encourage over production. This drives the price of these commodities artificially low as the commodities are flooded into the world market. It is not true that the current policies benefit everyone. In fact, most producers of non-cash crops are not even interested in subsidies because of the way the current system works.

Brazil recently sued the U.S. over this issue in the World Trade Organization and won. The issue is real. I'm not making it up. Just because a person criticizes a U.S. policy doesn't necessarily make them anti-American. There are many people seeking reform on this issue.

Pete, I have to wonder what you mean when you say "many of those types of people are mostly looking for the most convenient God to believe in and leaving the true God in the dust." By that, I presume you mean the anti-war crowd (just an assumption). I have found the exact opposite to be the case. The Christian Peace Maker Teams is rooted in the Mennonite tradition which was the Pentecostalism of its day. These people are putting their lives on the line for what they believe in. I have never seen more commitment to social justice combined with such courageous action as I have seen with those who actually believe something can be done to fight poverty, racism, and militarism (the three twin evils according to Martin Luther King). Taking seriously the Sermon on the Mount is not subsituting the real God for a God of convenience.

Pete said...

I don't recall saying that the issue wasn't real or that you were making it up. What I did say is that I would be interested to know if you knew the other side of this issue so that you were not being a party to someone else's agenda simply because they had a smooth speech. For instance, that's a great statistic about 78% of funds going to 8% of producers. It makes the whole thing sound really lopsided, but it's a worthless statistic. What I would really like to know is if 78% of the funds go those who are producing 78% of the product, regardless of how many companies make that up. And the whole "putting subsistence farmers out of business" thing is just ridiculous. You can't put someone out of business who ISN'T IN BUSINESS!
Listen, I'm not saying that this is a bad bill reform. What I'm saying is that I don't know, and if you can't answer the questions from more than one angle than neither do you. Let's get some info from the other perspective and then make an informed decision.
Also, taking seriously the Sermon on the Mount and building one's own philosophy based on just that section of the Bible instead of the WHOLE BIBLE are two completely different things. Now note that I used the words "many" and "most" with the Jesus hippies. There are those who are truly seeking the heart of God, but many are creating there own idealogy and then proof texting through the Bible in order to use it ( whether by bending it around or picking and choosing certain passages while leaving others out ). And just so you know, I'm not trying to shout down the anti-war crowd as unbelievers. That's not my point at all. I don't care if they are pro-war or pro-licorice, if they are creating an idealogy first and looking to the Bible second than they are putting themselves first and God second.

Aaron D. Taylor said...


The farmers I am talking about are farmers in the Global South who are unable to sell their products to the local markets in their own country because they have been priced out of the market.

The assumption you are making is that just because I've taken a position on this issue (and everyone else who is concerned about this) that we haven't looked at it from all angles. The assumption that those with an opposite viewpoint of your own are ignorant is not a cogent argument. Why don't you study this issue for yourself and then get back to me? The vast majority of people seeking reform on this issue are rural farmers right here in the U.S.A. Also, we are not talking about ending subsidies altogether. We are talking about restructuring the subsidies to make them more equitable and effective, and especially to help rural farmers in the U.S., many of them who are selling their lands because of an inability to compete with the corporate giants.

I think using the terms "many" and "most" is an oversimplification. You are assuming that those who based their beliefs on war and peace on the Sermon on the Mount do not have a broader theological perspective taken from the whole of Scripture-a vast assumption indeed. The prooftexting argument goes both ways my friend. I can tell I've ruffled your feathers a bit. I think you need to reevaluate how you view other people who read the same Bible, but come to different conclusions.

Pete said...

Wow! Where is this assumption I've made? A simply asked you for the other side of the argument and you never have provided it.
These farmers you are talking about can be from anywhere. What I'm telling you is that a subsistence farmer is someone who tries to grow food for themself, so when I see a statistic with them getting put out of business, I see a problem regardless of where they live. I didn't assume that you were ignorant because your view disagrees with mine. I DON'T HAVE A VIEW ON THIS!!!! I asked questions of you because I would like to have a more informed opinion and your site specifically states that I can ask any questions I want.

"You are assuming that those who based their beliefs on war and peace on the Sermon on the Mount do not have a broader theological perspective taken from the whole of Scripture-a vast assumption indeed" That's pretty much called the reflexive property and it isn't an assumption, it's a law. People who base their beliefs on one thing only cannot have based their beliefs on something else. Sorry dude, I think you meant something else there but I don't know what it is.

"The prooftexting argument goes both ways my friend"
And your point in saying that was????

"I can tell I've ruffled your feathers a bit". Actually nope, I'm laughing my way through most of this. I still think that you're a great guy and I would shake your hand if you walked in the room right now. I mean no disrespect in any of this, I'm just trying to have a good convo and understand where you're coming from.

"I think you need to reevaluate how you view other people who read the same Bible, but come to different conclusions"
Why? I realize that every single person who has ever read the Bible has come to different conclusions than everybody else, but the vast majority of it is the same because the Bible is not a negotiable document. So my view is to question those who disagree and gain their insight and then judge whether what they believe is a more accurate translation of the Bible or a more convenient translation of the Bible. I think that it is a fair way to view those people's beliefs, but let me know if you disagree.
P.S. How are you and all of the other pinko liberals planning on disrespecting America tomorrow? ;) HAHAHA!

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Another assumption you made in your last comment is that I came to my understanding of the need for Farm Bill reform just by listening to a workshop. In actuality, I have been studying U.S. economic policy for over a year now reading books and articles on the World Bank, IMF, neo-liberalism, free trade, fair trade, globalization,debt cancellation, and a host of other issues from a wide variety of perspectives. I've also been studying Scripture to inform my perspective on all these issues. On many of the positions advocated by those active in the One Campaign movement, the Jubilee Campaign, (or Oxfam for that matter)there just isn't a whole lot of disagreement among leaders of the faith community.

Joseph Craig said...

Wow what an interesting conversation! I must admit i just spent about the last 20 mins typing up a comment and now have decided to scrap it and go with something different and with a lot less words. I agree with you Aaron this whole U.S. Farm Sub thing is a bad deal for many except for the giant corporate owned farms who are owned by mostly chemical companies and will be receiving the benefits. Their goal in my opion is for these companies to literally take over the whole farming market and make seeds and produce only available from them. The stuff companies like Monsanto are working on is bad news for small farmers every were and is down right wrong.

Also in the U.S. we receive a decent wage as well as have a middle class that most countries do not have, so we may have an opurtunity to only purchase produce from local farms with in 100 miles of us and use our money as our voice that may cost a little bit more and be healthier for you. but i fear those in other countries with their lack of decent wages and middle class will not have a choice and will have to purchase the imported stuff because the chemical company farms will be able to produce there veggies very cheap and easily with their mad science which will totally put out any idea of local farms in poorer countries.

With that said i apologize for my spelling errors and run on sentences and hope we can all share one big hug and go protest something. lol just kidding

toby said...

is it getting hot in here?

pete, i believe there is flexibility built in to the bible. yes, there are core beliefs and values that are non-negotiable; but there is a lot left to the believer to decide for (him/her)self.

as far as looking at others' opinions and testing them against the bible, that's great. but i think there are some/many issues where a believer could go either way and be justified by the scriptures. it's the whole either/or vs both mentality.

take for example, gun control. from what you say, you use the bible to determine whether it is right or wrong to support gun control. but what i'm saying is that an individual can choose either side and be right. maybe there is not right and wrong on some issues; it's all trade-offs and what you value (security vs peace, BOTH OF WHICH ARE VALID VIEWPOINTS).

now this gets dangerous when you take this type of thinking to more critical christian issues (the way of salvation, sin, etc). but we toss around a lot of political topics here.

thoughts anyone?

craig, good to have you.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

"i believe there is flexibility built in to the bible. yes, there are core beliefs and values that are non-negotiable; but there is a lot left to the believer to decide for (him/her)self."

Excellent point Toby. Flexibility is a good word. I think you've hit the nail on the head on this one.

Pete said...

Toby and Aaron,
Interestingly enough, I highly disagree. I think there IS flexibility built into salvation and God's love. I DO NOT believe that there is flexibility built into the Bible. The flexibility comes in what IS NOT in the Bible. Toby, you used the gun control issue. Go back to that post and note that what I said is that there is no direct support in either direction in the Bible and therefore the only flexibilty that is there is us flexing God's word around our own desires- Note: this has a tendency to cause horrible things to come to pass. It is not a "both" issue, but a neither issue. At some point people need to stand up and say that what they want is what they want and stop trying to pass the buck and say that it's what God wants when they have no clear support for it. It really bothers me when I see people twisting the Bible in order to qualify their own desires.
These issues that can be supported either way through MISuse of the scriptures are what I would call secondary and therefore, let's just be honest, my viewpoint is a valid as anyone else's since neither side can be justified properly. However, if something I have believed is clearly in violation of God's Word, than I need to do some fixin'.
So yes, I do believe that God allows some flexibility in what people believe, but there IS NO flexibility in what the Bible says. The flexible region is that which cannot be found in the Bible.

toby said...


seems from your post that we may be saying the same thing in different words.

you make a nice clarification about what is NOT in the bible being flexible instead of what is in it; very nice, in fact. i make a quick note that we have not mentioned interpretation (and i don't want to right now); some passages are quite clear and some are more vague.

i also like the way you wrote about the bible and gun control. the bible says basically nothing, so the individual can choose what to believe. and yes, each perspective is a valid one. i'm with you on this: don't put words into the bible's mouth and don't twist what it says to fit your tastes or agenda.

marhaban said...


Thanks for the post. I totally agree that the farm subsidies need to be reevaluated. I think it impacts not only our global neighbors but it also has profoound diet implications for us as well.

Have you ever wondered why twinkies are cheaper that carrots? It's because carrots are not subsidized. The subsidies make certain products readily available and cheap while healthy alternatives cost money.

I know you are not advocating the elimination of the subsidies necessarily.
But, that being said... What would our world be like if they were gone? How much would corn chips cost? How much would beef or pork cost? What about soft drinks, diesel fuel...