Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Off to Cornerstone!

For years I've heard about the Cornerstone music festival, although I've never really been interested in attending, largely because I am way too boring to get into Christian punk/grunge/heavy-metal. I liked this kind of music when I was an adolescent. When I was 12 I used to tease my parents for liking Twila Paris over Stryper and now I am downloading Twila Paris songs on Itunes and listening to Josh Groban and Celtic Women. It is official. I am completely and utterly unhip. In fact, I think I am so unhip that I'm not even sure if hip is a hip word anymore. Wasn't that the 80's?

Be that as it may, although I haven't head-banged in years and I have no idea how to "get jiggy wit it", I will be going to Cornerstone to convince those that do that global poverty is a moral issue of Biblical proportions. The issue of economic justice is one of the primary concerns of nearly all the Old Testament prophets. I'm just glad that God hasn't called me to do what they did. Somehow I think that laying down on one side naked for a year eating dung might not be very good PR for an aspiring world evangelist (think Isaiah and Ezekiel). I'm glad that all I have to do is get a few punk rockers to sign a petition. I would appreciate the prayers of my readers. I'll probably need a lot of it.

I leave today with the words of Kip, the cousin of Napolean Dynamite whose faithfulness to his inner gangster has inspired millions of white guys with no rhythm like myself.

Peace out!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Random thoughts

1. Rhiannon and I drove to Chicago today. When we were forced to detour, there were no signs to direct us where to go. After a few turns, we thought we were lost but discovered that we were right where we should be. I wonder if there is a spiritual lesson in that?

2.Psalm 94:19 says, "In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul." I've never heard this verse quoted before. I think it interesting that a person can be anxious and comforted at the same time. That's good news.

3. Psalm 103:6 says, "The Lord executes justice for all who are oppressed." Watch City of Joy with Patrick Swayze and you will have a decent understanding of this verse.

4. I wish Jo Frost from Supernanny wasn't British. She'd make a great U.S. president.

Religious freedom article

Here is an article about religious freedom. I couldn't have said it better myself.

By Robert Seiple, Thu Jun 21, 4:00 AM ET
Richmond, Va. - The conversation was both memorable and sad. It was 1999 and I was in Moscow representing the United States and attempting to promote international religious freedom. In 1997, Russia had adopted a new law on religion, mostly in response to an opportunistic West that had flooded the former Soviet Union with missionaries following the fall of communism. The Russian Orthodox Church and Islam – the two established majority religions – felt threatened and conspired with the Russian government to produce the law. Most religious law from authoritarian countries turns out to be bad legislation, and this was no exception. It essentially provided government protection for established religions, while tearing up the welcome mat for anything new.

My meeting took place with high-ranking officials of the Orthodox and Islamic faiths. The discussions were candid and clear. The Russian Orthodox Church wanted to maintain a government-sanctioned monopoly on things spiritual. It was obvious that the Western missionary onslaught had generated great angst. The Russian Church felt dismissed at best, overrun at worst. Missionaries' cultural insensitivities contributed much to this hurt, ensuring this legislation as a result.

Similarly, Islam felt a need to push back. The imam of Moscow told me unabashedly that he was losing some of his flock to Western evangelizing efforts and needed the 1997 law to maintain "market share" (his phrase). This was the sad part of the conversation. I asked rhetorically, "What does this say about your faith, your theology, when you need legislation from the government to elevate your beliefs over other beliefs, or to guarantee your market share in the marketplace of spiritual matters?" This was legislation that could just as easily be applied to import quotas and price controls! This was certainly not the finest moment for two majority faiths.

In a culture of religious pluralism, majority faiths bear special responsibilities. Unfortunately, all too often it is the dark side that emerges. India's Hindus, for example, have recently petitioned the government for a series of anticonversion laws. For the world's "largest democracy," this violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is appallingly ironic.

Pakistan's antiblasphemy laws have likewise sullied the moral standing and reputation of Islam. Clumsily written and easily abused, this legislation has most often been used to settle scores with individuals from minority faiths.

In the US, Christianity is the majority faith. As a nation that trumpets the rule of law, our "dark side" tends to reveal itself in the political process. For instance, in next year's presidential sweepstakes, there may be a Mormon on the ticket. Polling data suggest that a significant number of Christians will not vote for a Mormon. If this is true, we can also assume that a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist candidate would lose votes from the Christian majority. This raises an ironic question: Is religious identity the last hurdle for a country that prides itself on having "no religious test" for political office and in which religious freedom has been woven into the fabric of the rule of law? What does it say when a country is more likely to elect a member of a racial or gender minority than a religious one? At the least, religious majorities need to implement their faith without creating fearful minorities.

Martin Luther King Jr. summed up why the majority should stand up for all faiths. "When one is not free, no one is free." Silence in the face of religious oppression hastens the day when all religions will be diminished. Mutual support among religions does not necessitate religious compromise. No faith needs to seek a lower common denominator in order to protect all people of faith, but followers of every religion should respect others' beliefs.

Any steps toward respect preclude establishing one faith over another. A hierarchy only exacerbates differences. Distinctions are important, but points of commonality should be identified as well. The golden rule, sanctity of life, respect for sacred texts, reconciliation commitments, and other values are represented to some degree in all major religions. Focusing on commonalities creates collective power, instead of a destructive wedge.

Finally, majority faiths have an obligation to show their best qualities, to demonstrate why the "news" of their faith is "good news." Theological protectionism suggests an insecure theology. On the other hand, having all the answers precludes the humble embrace of the great mysteries of existence. The awesomeness of God is diminished by human absolutes and judgments proffered in easily digestible sound bites. It just may be that our own faith is more attractive to others when respect is evident, humility is the norm, and actions incarnate are our spiritual language.

One way we grade another country's commitment to human rights is by how that country treats minority populations. Similarly, there is a religious test for majority faiths and how they interact with minority beliefs. And this test is one that all religious majorities ought to prepare for – because lots of folks are watching.

• Robert Seiple was the first US ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. He is currently president and CEO of the Council for America's First Freedom.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Give me that old fashioned faith teaching

I used to hear the song, "Give me that old timed religion" and think of a 90 year old woman with spectacles hanging off her nose and a yardstick in her hand ready to give some unfortunate 5-year old a Holy Ghost whoopping. I think it interesting that our generation often thinks of old-fashioned in negative terms whereas, for nearly all of human history (and as it still is in the vast majority of the world living outside the West), the concept of old is identified with wisdom, not archaism.

It could be that I am just a sentimental person, but I rather miss the concept of the old-fashioned revival. More specifically, I miss a lot of the old-fashioned faith teaching that is simply out of vogue in today's contemporary seeker sensitive style of doing church (even charismatic churches). For the past year, I have been on a mental overhaul thinking about how the Christian faith relates to the geo-social-political issues of our time, (more specifically, how the Christian faith (especially American fundamentalist Christian faith) impacts Western civilization and what this means for the current clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. In the process of this contemplation, I have rejected a lot of the militarism (in particular as it relates to expanding American hegemony in world affairs) associated with the particular brand of Christianity that I grew up in (and am currently a part of now). In my upcoming book, "Reformation" I will explain this in more detail.

None of these considerations mattered yesterday as I was sitting in an old-fashioned revival meeting listening to a message about how Jesus defeated the Devil through the power of speaking God's Word. "You can't out think the devil, but you can out talk him," said the preacher. Amen to that! Although I flat reject some of the preacher's other ideas that he preached the previous nights (like bombing other countries for the purpose of opening them up to the gospel), I found it unusually refreshing to be reminded that when the devil is on my back, I can give him a good old-fashioned whooping by using the sword of God's Word against him.

When the preacher was finished, I practically ran down the altar to get my overdose of the Holy Ghost....and to get the devil off my back. Look out devil, I'm armed and dangerous now! You'll be hearing a lot of "No weapon formed against me shall prosper" from me from now on. Better get used to it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letter to an Iranian televangelist

Below is an article written by an Iranian televangelist and the subsequent letter I wrote to him. Since I doubt I'll get a response, I figured I could post it for my readers. Have at it guys. This should promote a lively discussion.


I have just returned from a very blessed trip to the Holy Land, Israel. I conducted four Islam Awareness Seminars in four different churches in the cities of Tiberias, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. I also spoke at the CFI (Christian Friends of Israel) conference in Jerusalem. I taped many Farsi programs, in Jerusalem, for TBN Nejat TV, interviewing Messianic Jews concerning the covenant of God with Israel, the peace of Jerusalem, Zionism, etc. I was also interviewed by various magazines such as Jerusalem Post, Israel Today, Christian Embassy, and also CBN News. Special thanks to Eric and Terri Morey for organizing this trip. I believe that this trip was ordained by God. Even though I have been to Israel many times, on this trip I received much insight into the physical and spiritual condition of the Land. Here are some of my observations:

The church in Israel is young and needs our prayers.
There is a rift between the Arab and Jewish churches mainly as a result of Christian Zionism coming out of America.
Israel is not in the best financial situation at this time with so many immigrants coming to Israel in such a short amount of time. As a result the churches (both Arabs and Jews) need financial support.
Christian Zionism in America, due to its lack of knowledge of Arab Israeli relations, is increasing the rift between the Jewish and Arab believers and churches.
Arab churches are, for the most part, ignored by the church in America. This matter does not help their sense of being “second rate” citizens in Israel.
A major reconciliation process between the Arab churches and Messianic churches needs to be put into effect, if we are to see a major change in Israel.

I feel like a double agent. On one side I plead the cause of Israel with millions of Farsi speaking Muslims throughout Iran and around the world. And then, on the other hand, I bring the cause of Muslims before the people of God. How could peace come to Israel when the church is not at peace with itself in the land? How can we have peace in Israel?

As far back as Israel was formed as a nation, Israel has faced oppositions. That is partly because of her calling by God and the weight of that call. And today is no different. After becoming a nation again in 1948, Israel has already faced several major wars. Now facing the looming threat of a nuclear Iran and predictions of a coming war with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, Israel is being challenged again for her very survival.

In a time of crisis, there are always various voices being raised, some for edification and restoration, and others unto confusion and ignorance. The question is what voice do we follow in such a time? When Israel was in the process of being taken captive by Babylonians, there were many “prophets” and “prophecies” concerning Israel proclaiming peace and comfort to the people of God. Yet there was one man by the name of Jeremiah who proclaimed the true word of God. There are many popular and comforting words in support of Israel today, but are they from God? Just because they say that they are pro Israel, do they have a legitimate voice to create a new path for the people of Israel? The Bible commands us to judge all prophecies or spiritual declarations (1 Cor. 14:29). James gives us a scale by which we can judge these voices and revelations that are being spoken these days:

James 3:17 (NKJV) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Note the words “peaceable” and “full of mercy.” When Jesus was refused by Samaritans in Luke chapter 9, James and John were ready to call fire from heaven to consume these “dirty gentiles!” There are many Christian political voices, mainly from the U.S., which today in the name of “Zionism” advocate war and contentions with such countries as Iran, Syria, Iraq, etc. What did Jesus do when they rejected him in Samaria?

Luke 9:54-55 “And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

In our efforts in supporting Israel as a nation and also as a people, we must be careful that we do not discriminate against others for whom Christ gave His life. I was told by several leaders in Israel that some of the preachers in America who are considered “Zionists” are causing dissensions among the body of Christ in Israel. Zeal without knowledge is a harmful force. The wall that separates the Jews from the gentiles was broken down through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. To raise that wall again is nullifying the redemptive work of Christ. That is a dangerous thing to do. Please read Ephesians 2:11-18.

How can we then support Israel and at the same time love Arabs and Muslims? Here are some suggestions:

A) Proclaim the truth in love. I have been doing that in our broadcasts. Muslims will understand God’s covenant with Israel, if we teach it in the spirit of the New Covenant.

B) Pray for the spiritual and physical leaderships of both Israel and the Arab nations and Iran.

C) Support both the Messianic and Arab congregations in Israel. You can obtain a list of these congregations through our office.

D) Build a bridge of hope and love among the people in Israel.

E) Pray for the evil nature of Islam to be exposed in the eyes of the Muslim people.

F) Help to spread the Gospel both among the Jews and the Arabs. There are those who believe that the Jews do not need to come to God through the sacrifice of Jesus and therefore they refuse to pay the price and preach the Gospel to them. Remember what Paul said in Romans 1:16.

G) When you visit the land of Israel, please make an effort to visit both a Messianic and an Arab congregation.

God has called us to reconcile, not to be politically motivated and tear apart and divide. Israel became a nation before most of these so called “pro Israel” Christians were on the scene. That is not to say that we shouldn’t stand for Israel and support her. That we do, but not in a spirit of the world and the political system of the world. God never contradicts Himself. He will not have us stand for Israel while we are turning away millions of Muslims for whom Christ gave His life. That is not the nature of the Gospel. Jesus died for the Jews as well as the Muslims. And they both will be judged if they reject Him. So there is no difference. Jesus took that division on His body on the cross. Christian Zionism in America is recreating that division and that is dangerous. Yes, God has rebirthed the nation of Israel, and He will fulfill His calling upon them. Yes, we will bless Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But let us not run ahead of Him. Let God do His business and let us do ours. Remember these words of the great Jewish Apostle:

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NKJV)

18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (bold letters are added for emphasis

Aaron's Response

Aaron Taylor
to reza
More options Jun 18 (2 days ago)
Dear Pastor Reza,

I appreciate the spirit of the letter you have written regarding the
situation in Israel today. It seems to me that you are struggling
between your faith and your conscience-a struggle I can very well
identify with because I was raised in a Christian Zionist environment
and also attended Christ for the Nations, a Bible school heavily
influenced by Christian Zionism. I have been a missionary for years
(including working among Muslims) and I have a burning desire to reach
people with the gospel. I never really thought about the moral
implications of Christian Zionism until I read Brother Andrew's book
"Light Force." Reading Brother Andrew's book forced me to ask the
question of whether it was God's will for Arabs to be driven out of
their homes by the tens of thousands in 1948 or whether it continues
to be God's will for Palestinians to be facing near starvation because
many living in rural villages can not leave their villages because the
roads are blocked by huge concrete blocks put there by the IDF. Or
furthermore, is it God's will that people's lands be seized by Jewish
settlers who don't seem to care that the Palestinians living outside
their settlements are starving?

What I think I hear you saying, Pastor Reza, is that we need to have a
change of heart towards Arab (and I presume Palestinian) Christians. I
agree. The question I am asking though is: Is it possible to have a
change of heart without a change in theology? As you and I both know,
the only hope for Jews and Arabs is Jesus. Once Arabs (including Arabs
living in the Gaza strip and the West Bank) turn to the prince of
peace for salvation, things will all be fine....or will it?

If we ask the hypothetical question: What would happen if through a
moral revival or a mass conversion to Jesus, Palestinians living in
the West Bank and the Gaza strip all of the sudden decided they wanted
to live at peace with Jews? What would be the Christian Zionist's
response? Would it be to annex the territories to Israel (if indeed
Scripture commands believers to suport the reclaiming of the Biblical
promised land)? This is something the Israeli government doesn't want
simply because the Jewish state would no longer be Jewish. Would a
two-state solution be possible? This is something the Christian
Zionists do not want because it would invalidate God's covenant with
the Jews to restore the former Promised Land.

I find it interesting that in Ezekiel's vision of the restored
promised land, foreigners are treated as equal citizens (Ezekiel
47:1-22). Is this what is happening today? Furthermore, I find it
interesting that when the Apostles asked Jesus when he was going to
restore the kingdom to Israel, He replied "It is not for you to know
the times and the seasons of which God has put in His own authority,
but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,
and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samarian, and the
uttermost parts of the earth."

Jesus put the priority on preaching the gospel, not on building an
earthly kingdom in the Middle East. It seems to me that fulfilling
the land covenant with Jews is God's perogative, not the Church's. It
also seems reasonable to me that Jesus is perfectly capable of
settling land disputes when He comes back to earth. I also have to
wonder why so many Zionists are so adamant about Jewish possession of
Jerusalem when Jerusalem is going to be the seat of the Antichrist
during the second half of the 7-year tribulation (if indeed the
dispensational interpretation is correct)? Furthermore, those who
finance Jewish immigration to Israel are sending Jews to their deaths
since 2/3rds of the Jewish population is going to be slaughtered at
the end of the tribulation according to the prophet Zechariah.

I wonder if dispensationalism can be reformed in such a way to uphold
the land covenant and at the same time not give way to Christian
Zionism, which puts a greater priority on land conquest than the
preaching of the gospel. Since you seem to be struggling with this
issue (as have I), I think this is a question worth devoting some
thoughtful study.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Blessings in Christ,


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Golfing in the Night

The strangest thing happened last night. I was driving golf balls in my back yard (why I wasn't at a golf course, I don't know) going merrily along my way when all of a sudden a police car showed up. Out of the door stepped some neighbors I have never met who wanted to give me a piece of their mind. Apparently, as I was driving golfballs, I was unknowingly hitting their property every time, crashing into their windows, and damaging their property. Next to them was a lawyer, a woman who looked to be about in her 40's. Between the three of them, (the husband, the wife, and the lawyer) they were discussing how much to sue me for. The bid started out at $30,000, but then the lawyer suggested they could get a hundred times more than that. As I raised my voice with the objection that having to fork out all that money would ruin my life, the three acted like I wasn't there and continued to raise the amount.

And then I woke up. I'm not sure why I've been having these types of dreams lately, but it seems that nearly every night I face a crisis and then wake up relieved. Perhaps that is a good start to the day-the sense of relief knowing that you are not being sued for tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe mundane isn't so bad after all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

In defense of ordinary

Growing up in church, I have heard nearly hundreds of times a phrase that goes something like this: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. As an idea well grounded in Biblical truth, I have no problem with this statement. I do have to wonder, however, why I have never heard a sermon on how God uses ordinary people to do ordinary things. We all know that Moses and David were ordinary men who did extraordinary things....that is...if you consider growing up in Pharoah's court or rescuing lambs from lions' jaws ordinary (I'm not planning on attempting the second one any time soon).

I have a theory that ordinary gets a bad rap. I know this because I need look no further than myself. Like most aspiring preachers, I have a nearly obsessive tendency to compare myself with others, and because of that, I am often subjected to lengthy internal lectures (from the Holy Spirit I presume) on why comparing myself to others is not a good idea. One of the things I have been hearing on the inside over and over is this simple statement: For every Peter and Paul, there are a hundred widows with two mites. In other words, God uses ordinary people to do ordinary things -but ordinary things really matter.

One of the most striking characteristics of Jesus' teachings is his uncanny ability to make heroes out of ordinary chaps like you and me-a housewife searching for a lost coin, a good Samaritan helping an unfortunate traveler, a stoned-out prodigal making his journey home, a laid off estate-planner ensuring his financial future, a generous boss compensating his last-minute hired hands, an individual giving a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple.

I have a hunch that God is far more interested in ordinary things than we are. If this is true, and I think it is, I wonder how this realization can change the way we view our lives? This may be another hunch, but I think that a life of contentment and service to others may not be as ordinary as we might think.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A promise kept

Over 50 years ago, Harold Taylor made a promise to Betty Lou. Not only did Harold promise to love Betty Lou and help raise her two children, but he promised to be a church going man for the sake of his family. Harold was non-religious at the time, but not necessarily antagonistic towards God. Betty Lou was a devout Catholic and was not about to marry a non-church going man, no matter how handsome he was.

When Harold and Betty said "I do", little did Harold know that they would have 10 additional children together, my dad being one of them. Harold was a navy man, so he would be gone for months at a time. Although Harold was not able to spend much time with his children while they were growing up, Harold kept his promise to faithfully love his wife and to take care of his family.
He also attended a Baptist church for the rest of his life.

The rest of Harold's life ended today.

Thank you Grandpa for teaching me the value of integrity.

I'll miss you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why do they hate us?

I wish I could say this isn't true, but most Americans (and Europeans too) are oblivious as to why much of the rest of the world hates the West. In liberal academia, the culprits are usually Western imperialism and Western economic domination through international lending institutions (such as the World Bank and IMF) and international corporations. Even fewer Americans know that much of the Muslim world view 9/11 as retaliation for Western abuse of power, not as anarchic terror. The stated abuses are as follows:

1. The unbalanced support of the U.S. for Israel in oppressing the Palestinians
2. The U.S. sanctions and bombing campaing in Iraq in the decade of the 90's that killed hundreds and thousands of Muslims.
3. The U.S. support of corrupt and oppressive regimes throughout the Muslim world
4. The presence of U.S.troops in Muslim lands (which is viewed as a desecration of sacred soil)

These four points are exactly what Bin Laden used to justify 9/11, and they are still being used to recruit moderate Muslism to radical Islam today. Every American should at least know this, but very few do.

According to author Meic Pearse, the last four points mentioned are merely symtoms of what is really driving anti-Western sentiment around the world. In his book, Why the Rest Hates the West. Pearse argues that the real reasons why the rest of the world (especially the Islamic world) hate us are largely cultural. Values that we take for granted, such as freedom, human rights,individualism are viewed by others as a prescription for moral anarchy. Freedom means disrespect for authority, human rights means entitlement, individualism means breakdown of the family. Now that Western society is largely secular, most Westerners scorn traditional morality (especially in regard to sexual values and the integrity of the family) and are ever too willing to impose their "freedom" on others...whether they want it or not. For Pearse, the rest of the world views Westerners as morally contemptible barbarians with little respect for family, religion, and tradition. In other words, the real root of global rage lies in cultural imperialism. We believe our values are universal and can't understand why the rest of the world doesn't want our values.

There is much to this thesis, but it does underscore a point I made in my speech for the film "Holy Wars" and that is that there needs to be a serious attempt at dialogue between the twin civilizations of the West and Islam....our very survival depends on it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Call your representative today!

Below is a letter I received from the religious arm of the One Campaign. I urge my readers to act on this. I've studied this issue and I can tell you that the current U.S. agricultural subsidies are pricing third-world farmers out of the market and worsening the hunger problem (especially in Africa). Not to mention the policy is very hypocritical considering that the U.S. government is the single greatest promoter of trade liberalization in the world today. This is an issue of economic justice of Biblical proportions (think the Prophet Amos).

This week, hundreds of Bread members from around the country have gathered in Washington for The Gathering 2007. On Tuesday, they'll walk the halls of Congress to let their representatives know that it's time for a new farm bill!

Even if you won't be able to make it to Washington, you can still be a part of Lobby Day. We are asking all Bread members to call their senators and representative on Lobby Day, June 12. At the end of the day on Tuesday, we want all of Capitol Hill to be talking about Bread for the World and the need for broad reform of the farm bill!

Please call your senators and representative on Tuesday, June 12 at 1-800-826-3688. Find out who your members are. [Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your senator or representative's office in order to relay your message.]

Ask your member of Congress to reform the farm bill to better meet the needs of hungry and poor people. With changes in commodity payment programs, the farm bill can:

provide more targeted and equitable support for U.S. farmers;
strengthen communities in rural America;
provide an adequate, nutritious diet for hungry people in this country;
make U.S. food aid more effective and efficient and,
remove obstacles to poor farmers in developing countries working to earn their way out of poverty.
We've reached a critical point for the consideration of this farm bill. This is it – it's crunch time. Subcommittees in the House of Representatives will be writing both the nutrition and commodity titles of the farm bill this week.

Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees will be marking up the complete farm bill later this month. In July, we expect the bill to go to the floor. This means you'll be hearing from us frequently over the next six weeks – especially if you live in the district of a member of the Agriculture Committee. We'll be emailing updates and asking you to act quickly. Please check our website, , frequently for the latest information and actions.

Taking on the farm bill is one of Bread for the World's most ambitious – and challenging – campaigns to date. We have already had huge success this year with broad calls for reform in the media and promising conversations with members of Congress. Now is the time your call can make a difference.

None of us can do it alone, but together, and across many faith traditions, we can raise our voices to see that hungry people are fed. We can urge those who act in our name to tackle hunger on a grand scale, and do so with our blessings. If we want fields ripe for harvest, we must first sow the seeds. Let's get busy sowing. Let's help farmers and end hunger.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Living in two worlds

I must admit that living here in America often makes me feel like I am living in two separate worlds. The one world is the world I live in and interact with people every day. That is the American world, and it consists largely of going to church, eating Taco Bell, and watching Spider-Man. The other world that I live in is the near-daily communication I have with Christian leaders living in places like Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Senegal. With the exception of Nepal, I have been to these places more than once, inluding actually living in one of the places. With my memories of my travels and my near daily communications, I am reminded how the concerns of my brothers and sisters living around the world are drastically different than my rather petty concerns here in America.

I receive a report from a ministry we support in Pakistan and I am reminded how my Pastor friend (who is around my same age) is concerned with building a Bible School, an orphanage, and helping the poor. I receive a report from Nepal and, although I am delighted they are using the mega-voice players that I sent them (a tool from the God Story Project that plays the gospel story in multiple local languages), I am reminded that some of their pastors have just been beaten for the sake of the gospel. I am delighted that a pastor in India is in the process of translating my book "The Road Back Home" and plans to distribute it among the pastors under his organization, but then I am reminded that in my world back home, how many pastors do I oversee that would be interested in reading one of my books? Rather than relishing in my new celebrity status in one tiny part of the world, I know full well that my Indian pastor friend would be delighted to receive any Christian literature from an American Christian, since gospel literature is so scarce in his corner of the world. Living in two worlds can be quite humbling at times.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Demonizing Islam

In today's post-9/11 world, one of the most popular ways for an American Christian leader to get attention is to demonize the Islamic religion. The standard way of doing this is usually to cite a few war-like passages in the Koran and then to say how 9/11 proves that Islam is a violent and evil religion. Part of the inspiration in writing my Good Muslim post, taken from the story of the Good Samaritan, came from a conversation I had with a friend who couldn't understand why I disagreed with his view that all Muslims have a propensity towards violence. For my friend, since the "spirit of Islam" itself is demonic, then it follows that Muslims themselves can not be trusted. Most of my moderate Christian friends would agree that we must judge individuals by the content of their character and not by their religious affiliation (which is one of the points that Jesus was making in the parable of the Good Samaritan), but I have to ask a further question, is it right to "demonize" Islam?

The first part of the question is theological. I've dealt with this issue in other posts, so I will not revise my arguments here, except to say that from a Biblical standpoint, there is a mixture of truth in error in other religious traditions outside of Biblical revelation. That is to say, both the grace of God and the deception of the devil are present in varying degrees depending on the tradition in question.

The second part of the question is a more practical one. Does it do any good for Christian leaders to demonize Islam by citing passages from the Koran? I say no and here is why. Pretend for a moment that I am an anti-Semitic fascist dictator (for some this might not be such a stretch, but humor me for a moment)and I want to make a case not simply against Jews, but against Judaism. All I would have to do is to point to the Old Testament and to show how God ordered the Jews to slaughter entire tribes (in some cases, they were ordered to leave nothing breathing alive, this would include women, children, and animals). I could then point to hundreds of verses to show how Jews are ordered to spread their religion around the world. For example, there are hundreds of verses that tell Jews to "proclaim his goodness among the nations" and there are numerous verses that speak of Israel's priestly role as light to the nations. I could talk about who Judaism teaches that Jews will one day rule the world (think about the Messianic passages in Isaiah) and make the conclusion that Judaism is a violent and evil religion seeking to take over the world.

And the conslusion would be wrong. Even though Orthodox Jews today continue to read the Old Testament, I have not met one Jew interested in establishing a world-wide theocracy. Much less, I've never met a Jew even remotely interested in converting non-Jews even through peaceful means. And yet, this is exactly what Jews are commanded to do in the Old Testament.

What does this mean? It means that somewhere, somehow, in the course of history the religion of Judaism liberalized. Jews found a way to interpret their Scriptures in a way that is compatible with societal norms. If Jews can do this with the Old Testament, which is every bit if not more violent than the Koran, then certainly Muslims should be allowed (and indeed encouraged) to interpret their holy book in a way that is compatible with today's world. Even if one believes that Islam is indeed violent and incompatible with the modern world, it still does no good to demonize the religion because this only drives moderate Muslims into the arms of the radicals. Do we really want to make Bin Laden's case for him?