Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Monday, March 26, 2007

Standing up for yourself?

Please read "I am Anthony" before reading this.

Question: At what point does the responsibility to stand up for yourself get transferred to those around you?

and does this post have anything at all to do with Jesus' words regarding turning the other cheek?

I think it is always an individual's responsibility to stand up for those who are being being bullied.

I do think this has something to do with Jesus's words, "Turn the other cheek." I'm not sure what Jesus would say about the idea of "standing up for yourself." The New Testament definitely teaches the idea of not returning evil for evil.

Can anyone think of any Scripture regarding the idea of standing up for yourself? Perhaps an example of someone who did and did it right? I'd like to hear some thoughts on this matter. I'll be fairly busy this week, so I think we should get a robust discussion going on this one.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I am Anthony

I feel that it is now time to reveal another of my deepest, darkest secrets. Besides watching the Today Show every morning and American Idol every week, my wife and are dedicated Survivor fans. I started watching the show during the first season and have been hooked ever since. I justify this by saying that for me, the show is a fascinating sociological experiment. The truth is that I know I am just one of millions of Americans that, instead of getting out and socializing with my neighbors (like people used to do in the "good ole days"), I prefer to sit in front of the tube to enjoy mindless entertainment.

If you did not catch Survivor this last Wednesday (recorded on my DVR, no, I did not skip church for this...I am not that sacrilegious) let me tell you that I have never been more upset about a "reality" T.V. episode than I was after I watched this last episode.

The episode revolved around two characters, Anthony and Rocky. Anthony is a skinny and sensitive African American male who lacks social skills. Rocky is one of those macho men who enjoys cutting people down and making people feel inferior. For several episodes, Rocky had been shown teasing and taunting Anthony and making him feel whimpy and inferior. Anthony, although he could have retaliated, for the most part, held his peace.

During this last episode, things really came to a head when a tribal trade-off occurred and poor Anthony found himself in a tribe with all men. While the men were off fishing, they asked Anthony to stay back and boil water. Knowing that Anthony was the weakest tribe member, and thus unfit to help in the immunity and reward challenges, the rest of the men knew that Anthony needed to be voted off the island, but were not particularly mean or cruel to him.

During the tribal council the real showdown began. As Rocky went on a rant calling Anthony all kinds of names (like girly, effeminate), he asked Anthony, "Why don't you stand up for yourself?" Anthony's reply was that he didn't want to become a jerk like him. By this time, even the other guys were hanging their heads in shame at Rocky's treatment of Anthony. It probably didn't occur to Rocky at the time that while he was spewing hatred and insults at the supposedly inferior Anthony, he was baring his wicked soul to the exposure of millions of viewers.

In the end, Anthony was voted out and Rocky stayed. Typical. Yes, we really do live in a world of the survival of the fittest. This being said, it is not the Anthonys of the world that I fear for. I fear for the Rockies. I fear for those who feel they have to trample on others to make themselves look strong and powerful. History shows that men such as this will always come to a tragic end if they do not amend their ways.

Perhaps the reason why I was so upset watching the episode is because I remember being the last one picked for sports. I remember being told that I was whimpy and girly. I was the brainy kid compared to Screech on Saved by the Bell. Although I don't recall coming across people as belligerent as Rocky, I know that there are millions of young people across this nation who have. Rocky was constrained by a camera. Most of the Rockies in this world are not. They use their fist to intimidate.

Anthony left the show with tears in his eyes, but his head held high. He defeated Rocky without becoming like him. Although there are probably many viewers who despised Anthony for his failure to stand up for himself. Let me say to those who feel this way that I am proud to say to the world that I am Anthony.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The cheapening of fame

I have a confession to make. When I was growing up I wanted to either be either a baseball player or a movie star (that was after the phase of wanting to be a trashman) I realize that I am probably not the only one who had childhood dreams of fame and recognition.

Now that I am older, I think that I, along with the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who butcher Edwin McAin's "I'll Be" in front of Paula, Randy, and Simon on American Idol, need to find something else to live for.

In an age of You Tube, where grown men putting on leotards and acting like ballerinas can have over a million people watching them, fame is now a cheap commodity.

Perhaps Jesus really did know what He was talking about when He said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses His soul." This world is passing away. It will do us much better to live for the next one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The gospel in Darfur

Besides Baghdad, if there is one place on this earth that could be described as hell on earth, it would be the region of Darfur in the country of Sudan. Unless you have been living in a cave and have never heard of the actor George Clooney, you probably have heard about the senseless slaughtering and displacement of the Darfur people carried out by the Janjaweed, an Arab militia group tied to the Sudanese government.

Into this atmposphere of chaos, a few brave missionaries have gone to deliver much-needed humanitarian relief along with the true bread of life-the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I just received a report last week about how missionaries from a certain agency are risking their lives every day to deliver much needed humanitarian relief to the people of Darfur. According to the report, several Muslim sheiks have approached them to ask them about how to find peace in their lives. When the missionaries told them about how Jesus could release the burden of guilt over their lives because of what He did on the cross, they did not respond with "How dare you come into our country and try to convert us!" or "You are just an arm of the CIA (an often propogated Muslim myth)". Instead, the response was "How do we get the word out to our villages?"

I've been hearing reports like this from all throughout the Muslim world. People and cultures are not artifacts to be kept in a museum. Behind a lot of what we see happening in the world are real human beings longing for peace. Too often in our over-stereotypical western media culture, we forget that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is the world improving?

Let me give you a shocking statistic. In 2007, despite the dismal gloom of health professionals that say that Americans are the sickest people on the planet, the raw numbers reveal that the average life expectancy in America is 77 years.

Can you guess what the life expectancy was in 1900? The answer is 47 years. I am 28 years old right now. If I were living in the first half of the 20th century, I would be past my mid-life crisis by now (a crisis I am very much looking forward to when I turn 50).

A provocative new book called The Improving State of the World suggests that, despite what advocates of the modern green movement say, economic development actually helps the environment, not hinders it. The book suggests that it is actually the richer nations that are more environmentally friendly.

As a missionary who has been around the world, this news came as no surprise to me. As a general rule, I have found that the poorer the country, the more pollution there is. I'm not sure if this outweighs the fact that the U.S.A. has only 4% of the world's population, yet we burn 25% of the world's fossil fuels. That would be an argument for the other side of the debate.

In the debate of economic development verses environmental stewardship, I am not sure who is right. Perhaps they both are right in their own ways. Like all things, the truth is probably somewhere in between The Improving State of the World and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. This being said, I doubt an economist would ever win an Oscar.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A woman's courage

I was watching Glenn Beck last week on CNN and he was at a summit in Florida for secular Muslims who are trying to reform Islam and make it into a more tolerant faith. I have had conversations with secular Muslims in the past, so the idea that there are moderate Muslims trying to change things was no surprise to me. One of the interviews was with a young girl (around 23 if I'm not mistaken) who has been an outspoken leader in the reformation movement. She also happened to be a lesbian.

Scripture does not permit me to share the woman's sexual values, but I couldn't help but admire the woman's courage. Just for speaking out against the oppression of women by people of her faith, she has received numerous death threats, including threats of bodily mutilation-and yet she still did the interview despite the threats. I think that Christians can take a valuable lesson from this courageous young woman. We should be just as willing to sacrifice our personal security and comfort for the cause of Christ.

One thing the woman said I thought was profound. The reason why she receives so many threats by Muslim men is because she shows them that a woman can actually have a mind. Her point was that the root of oppression for women is based on the idea that women are sex objects and have little to offer in terms of intellectual value. When women speak up and show that they actually have an intellect, insecure men are threatened and the only thing they can do about it is to assert their sexual power over them-hence the threats.

Jesus would agree. When Martha challenged Jesus for why He allowed Mary to sit and listen to His teaching while she was doing her domestic duties, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part. In His day, that was a revolutionary concept-the fact that women could actually learn.

Jesus stood up for women's rights, and so should we. I find it odd that secular Muslims are getting the message out while many Christians are sitting on the sidelines.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A cause for our times

For the past year, I have been studying about the issue of global poverty and how our government's economic policies are enslaving the world's poor. The things that I have studied have led me to give my heartfelt support to the One campaign, the only bipartisan movement that I know of that has people like Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, the Pope, the Dalai Llhama, and Madonna all supporting the same side. Concentrating on this issue has led me to believe that the issue of global poverty is the greatest moral issue of our generation.

I was wrong.

If you haven't seen the film Amazing Grace yet, you need to. William Wilberforce was a man who read his Bible and came to the conclusion that Jesus wanted His followers to rescue the oppressed (Luke 4). His passion ended slavery.

Or did it?

In my studies, I was shocked to find out that over the hundreds of years that the British African slave trade was legal, approximately 11 million slaves were shipped overseas.

Guess how many people there are in the world right now who are victims of human trafficking? 27 million!

For a generous kick in the rear, read this article about a 15 year old named Zach Hunter who is leading the charge to end modern day slavery.

As a Christian evangelist, I feel it is my responsibility to pick up the baton and speak out on these two moral tragedies of our generation. I would like to incorporate advocacy for these issues, the issues of global poverty and human trafficking, in my festival events, including Riverfest, an event I am hosting at Keener Plaza in downtown St. Louis on September 8th.

I would like to ask you, my readers, for advice on how to best go about advocating for the poor and the oppressed during my evangelism campaigns. I believe that, together, we can make a difference.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Throwing tantrums part 2

Please read the post "Throwing tantrums" before reading this. You will find it right underneath this post. I went ahead and posted this conversation from the comments section of my last post because I think it is relevant to the discussion. Feel free to weigh in on the discussion.

Pete said...

I have two thoughts on what you posted.
1. I always oppose bills for hate crimes. To hate is a right, no matter how wrong, so the the crime is what we punish. The whole idea weirds me out.
Prosecutor-"I intend to prove that this man killed John.."
Court- [murmurs]
Prosecutor- " and I will also prove that it was a hate crime!"
Court- [ entire crowd gasps and somewhere a baby starts crying ]

Is the murder of the person not enough to put someone behind bars for life. What an insult to the victim!

2. There are two main classes of people who are against these kind of challenges to Christianity- The Simple and the Scared.
The Simple are those who got saved because it sounded good and they want to be on the winning team. They feel good being called a christian and haven't really studied it for themselves and this is the level that is comfortable for them. They stand against anything that challenges their faith because it is inconvenient for them and causes them to have to get out of their comfort zone in order to maintain their faith.
The Scared are those who have studied Christianity and want to believe it so bad that they may go their whole life saying that they do, but have never felt God move in their life because they are unwilling to give up certain sins. These people know that their faith hangs by a thread and are scared of anything that will challenge it, because they are hoping that eventually their life will change based on the fact that they proclaim to be a christian. They are convinced of the reality of God, but what they aren't convinced about is that they will ever have a relationship with him. If someone shows them something that challenges their knowledge then they may stop claiming their christianity and just give up because they know that they will never be able to get themselves to stop sinning with all of the knowledge that they have. Therefore it is easier for these people to simply stamp out anything that may possibly challenge their religious knowledge before it ever meets with their eyes or ears. These people live very tortured lives because they are proud of their knowledge yet are caught in a lie about who they really are/aren't in Christ.

People who truly believe in the Bible and have studied it meet these challenges head on with glee because it usually stands to strengthen their faith.

Wow, I can see my house from on top of this soap box!

10:09 AM
Aaron D. Taylor said...


Thank you for your comment. I think what you said was well thought out.

Let me give you some food for thought on the hate crime issue. I understand exactly what you are saying and have thought the same things before. I agree that murder is murder and we shouldn't make it a crime to hate someone. Having said that, I do understand the logic behind hate crime legislation. Someone who kills for ideological reasons (like neo-nazis and klansmen) are far more dangerous to society than someone who kills because of a personal vendetta. I think that those who kill just because they hate black people or homosexuals are more likely to kill again for the same reasons. This is why I feel that hate crimes should receive harsher punishement , for the protection of would be targets of hate crime. I think there can be sane standards to determine what is a hate crime and what is not.

Having said all that, I certainly understand those who take your position. That is not what disturbed me about the e-mail from the American Family Association. What disturbed me was the hypocrisy. The same bill that the American Family Association said would supposedly make homosexuals a special class with special rights applied equally to Christians. No concern was displayed in the e-mail about making Christians a special class, only homosexuals. It's like they were saying, "We don't mind if we get special rights. We just don't want anyone else to have them."

Even if you disagree with hate crimes legislation, the question still remains. If Jesus were around today, would He be spending His time bombarding people's e-mails trying to lobby the government against protecting gays?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Throwing tantrums

I received this e-mail today. I thought it was very interesting. I have to admit that I signed the petition described in this e-mail. I now think that was a mistake. I've received e-mails from the American Family Association before and have signed some of their petitions, but some of them I have not signed because I found them disturbing. For example, one petition was against a bill that would make killing a homosexual a hate crime. They said that it would lead to making homosexuals a protected class and listed numerous special privileges they could eventually receive if the bill was passed. I actually read the bill and, the ironic thing was that the same bill mentioned religious groups as potential hate crime targets as well. So, the American Family Association wanted special protection for Christians but not homosexuals? I wrote them back and said "you ought to be ashamed of yourselves", but, of course the e-mail was bounced back to me. Feel free to weigh in on this issue of Christians bullying non-believers. I fear that much of what passes for American evangelical Christianity has become radicalized in a way that is not consistent with the portrayal of Jesus in the four gospels. Do you agree? Let me know what you think.

Wailing at the Tomb?

Christians Should Face the Facts in The Discovery Documentary

By Gregory Koukl

The documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” hadn’t even aired yet and many Christians were already in a panic. Just the suggestion that someone found Jesus’ bones in a limestone box had believers by the droves shaking their fists or sticking their heads in the sand in a don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts posture.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus Apparently, many Christians don’t even need to see the evidence to pass judgment. When one Evangelical web site polled its visitors with the question, “Do you believe the ‘Tomb of Jesus' documentary, which denies the resurrection of Christ?” 97% said no. This was three days before the documentary even aired. Blind faith is so convenient, isn’t it? You never have to actually confront your critics.

Then there’s the bullies. One media watchdog demanded Discovery “cancel this slanderous ‘documentary.’” Another prominent Evangelical organization composed this letter for their constituents to hammer Discovery with:

"I resent the Discovery Channel's attempt to demean and belittle Christianity by saying it is based on a lie. It is hard for me to believe that The Discovery Channel would dare do such a 'documentary' on any other religion.

"It may turn out that you have done Christianity a favor by awakening millions of Christians to your anti-Christian bias and bigotry. Perhaps they will no longer stay silent."

This kind of bullying is profoundly embarrassing to me, a follower of Christ, and should be discomfiting to every thoughtful Christian. It is not only a dismal retreat from a legitimate challenge that must be answered; it’s obscurantist.

Look, if the Bible says it and you believe it, that might settle it for you, but it doesn’t settle it for millions who might be interested in your ideas and are waiting to hear a thoughtful response to what appears on the surface to be a fair challenge.

There are good reasons to doubt the conclusions of this documentary, but no one will ever know them if Christians pull up the drawbridge and bellow from the parapet. Having seen the documentary, here are some problems that quickly come to mind:

Scholars have known about these tombs for over 25 years. There’s a reason they haven’t taken these names seriously. Only three have any direct biblical significance: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And that cluster of names is statistically unremarkable. In fact, it would be odd if a family with those three names was not found in a tomb together, given their common use (there are at least four ossuaries discovered inscribed “Jesus, son of Joseph,” and one in four women were named Mary, so it’s even money that one of these tombs would have that combination). And connection of Jesus to any of the other names? Wild speculation. So what you have here is a creative guessing game.
The entire argument is based on the statistical significance of the names in a cluster. If Jesus was married, and if Jesus was married to a woman named Mariamne, and if Mariamne was also a nickname for Mary Magdalene, and if Jesus had a brother named Matthew, and if Jesus had a son named Judas, and if the now-famous James ossuary belonged to James the brother of Jesus, then you’d have all the members of Jesus’ family together in one tomb. But that’s a lot of “ifs.
Even though this is called the “Jesus Family Tomb,” there is no hard evidence that any of these so-called “family members” is even related. The only DNA testing that’s been done—between Jesus and Mariamne—came up negative. Let me repeat that: The DNA test came up negative. That is fact. The rest is speculation.
The documentary claims, “Jesus and Mary were married, as the DNA evidence suggests.” This is nonsense. Think about it. How can DNA evidence suggest someone is married? DNA can’t “suggest” anything about legal relationships, only biological ones. In this case, the DNA evidence showed Jesus and Mary were not related by a mother, not that they were husband and wife. The truth is, she could have been married to any one of the males in the tomb, or to none of them for that matter. The DNA “suggests” nothing.
The researchers claim they’re just trying to connect the dots? Fair enough. But why connect the dots the way they did? I’ll tell you why. Because it tells their story. There are many other legitimate ways to connect those same dots—some much more probable than the way the documentary connects them, but won’t give the story they’re promoting. But, of course, that wouldn’t create breaking news, would it?
Jesus’ family was a poor family from Nazareth, not a middle- to upper-class family from Jerusalem. So this tomb is the wrong kind of tomb located in the wrong city.
The documentary claims Jesus spoke in codes. This is false. Jesus spoke in parables, like many of the teachers of His day, not in codes that needed to be deciphered. They say Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ most trusted apostle. But you have to wait 400 years before this evidence pops up in any alleged historical record. They said that Jesus’ family members were executed because He was a pretender to throne of Israel. This is pure fiction. Notice what this accomplishes, though. All of these little exaggerations and inaccuracies make an unlikely tale sound more plausible when, on its own unembellished merits, it is not.
What we have here are two different characterizations of what happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth 2,000 years ago. One is based on artifacts—the ossuaries—and one is based on documents—the historical records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul. Now granted, these kinds of things are not entirely exact science, but all things being equal, which do you think gives us more precise information, bone boxes or written records? The written records, obviously.
The claim of Jesus’ resurrection, was part of the earliest, most primitive testimony regarding Jesus. And it was made by those very same people that the documentary suggests knew Jesus’ bones were actually secretly buried in Jerusalem. Why would so many of them die for this lie when they knew it was a lie? It doesn’t add up. But that’s what you must believe if you take seriously the conclusions of this documentary.

If Christianity stands or falls on the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection, as the Apostle Paul said, then Christ’s followers have no liberty to retreat behind blind faith or hide behind an angry scowl.

No, if you’re a Christian you shouldn’t run, whine, scream, or have a religious tantrum. Instead, you should be thanking the Discovery Channel for giving you the chance to step up to the plate and knock this soft ball out of the park.

Things I learn than on the Today Show

I've got five minutes to write this, so I need to think fast. I'm at a hotel in Chicago and will be leaving in a few minutes. Can't think of anything profound (at least not off the top of my head) so I must recourse to writing a list of what I learn from daily watching Meredith, Al, and Matt on the Today Show every morning. Here is a brief list.

1. Men really do like chick flicks, even though they don't want to admit it.
2. Eat healthy
3. Eat healthy
4. Eat healthy
5. Bald isn't really that bad (just ask Matt Lauer)
6.If I want to be famous, I should do something really outrageous on You Tube (like belly dancing or pretending I'm Luke Skywalker)
7. Stress is bad
8. Stress is bad
9..Stress is bad
10. If I want to be on TV, all I have to do is talk about sex from an "evangelical perspective" (that will be sure to book another interview)

Friday, March 02, 2007

A painful discovery

Although I am only 28 years old, I have read hundreds of books on theology, philosophy, history, ,current affairs, and just about every subject in between. I feel I have a fairly decent grasp at what is going on in the world. I've even authored two books. I said all that to say that over the past two evenings I have made a very painful discovery about myself- I am not smarter than a 5th grader.

Yes, it is true. I, along with millions of other Americans (at least I hope) have discovered just how little I actually know by watching Jeff Foxworthy's (remember the red-neck guy?) show on Fox Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Even worse, I couldn't even answer some of the first and second grade questions. To put it rather mildly, I've been humbled.

Can anyone think of a spiritual lesson that can be learned from a guy who thinks he's intelligent to find out that he is not actually smarter than a 5th grader?

Again, seeking redemption.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

In praise of C.S. Lewis

In a world of uncertainty and confusion, every once in a while voices rise from the ashes and stand out above all the rest. During the first half of the 20th century, a time when the world was falling apart and people were being slaughtered like animals, that man was C.S. Lewis.

What makes C.S. Lewis so great is that he presented to the world a reasonable faith without the dogma that is often associated with the more rigid belief systems within Christianity. C.S. Lewis's book Mere Christianity is a book that nearly all Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant can point to and say "this I believe."

It is also the best book to give to an honest seeker whose intellect is hindering him or her from accepting the essentials of the Christian faith. Just to keep myself fresh, I plan to read this book over and over throughout my life (perhaps at the start of every year). To those interested in propogating and defending the Christian faith, I would encourage to do the same.