Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aaron Taylor on Sojourners: Caught Between Two Worlds: Progressive and Evangelical

Aaron Taylor, a Pentacostal pastor and member of a Christian Peacemaker Team, blogs about his conflicting experience on Sojourners. I do not agree with his worldview and will write a response, but he has a very genuine commitment to peace and writes very well.

I’m trembling as I write this one. I’m already isolated within my own faith community (Pentecostalism) for my views on war and peace; and I know that what I’m about to write here may put me at odds with a lot of people in the progressive evangelical community — a community I’m just getting used to. In addition, there’s always the fear of being misunderstood, so regardless of whether you agree or not with me, know that at least it’s my aim to speak the truth in love.

I love Christian Peacemaker Teams. I especially love their motto: “What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to non-violent peacemaking that armies devote to war?” I wish all Christians on the planet would ask themselves that question. I have nothing but admiration and respect for full and part-time CPT workers that live out that motto every day. When I went on a delegation with CPT in October 2007 to the West Bank, it radically changed my life.

So why am I conflicted about CPT? It’s not that I don’t believe in the organization. I do. It’s not even because I necessarily disagree with their anti-proselytizing policy. I understand that every organization has its own purpose and mandate. But as a long-time evangelical missionary and a recent convert to non-violence, I find myself caught between two worlds. On the one hand, I move freely in circles that “pray through the window” and map “unreached people groups.” On the other hand, my devotion to peace and non-violence cause me to move in peace circles — many of which are comprised of theologically liberal Christians.

Never was this more obvious than when I was on the CPT delegation. It took all of about two hours for everyone in the group to realize that I was the “evangelical” in the group. When I was asked to describe myself, I shared with the group honestly about what I had been doing over the past several years: traveling the world and sharing the gospel. Throughout the week, I had many discussions with individuals in the group about why I believe that Jesus is God and why I don’t believe that all religions are equal paths to the same truth. For the most part, the group was respectful, but there was the occasional anti-missionary remark that reminded me of my minority status within the group.

Maybe peacenik evangelical missionaries like myself need an alternative to CPT. Then again, maybe not. I think it’s at least an option that should be looked into, and I’m willing to dialogue with anybody even remotely interested in pursuing the matter further.

My concern isn’t just with CPT, but with the progressive evangelical movement at large. I’m conflicted because I’m concerned about the implications of progressive evangelicals continuing to endorse groups like CPT as “a new face of global missions” in their books and articles. If young people join these kinds of efforts to experience “a new face of global missions,” how many of these young people will eventually jettison their biblical orthodoxy? Even worse, I wonder how many have already jettisoned their biblical orthodoxy?

I just wonder if in our sincere efforts to promote peace and tolerance between people of different faiths, we’re becoming more “progressive” than “evangelical”? I wonder if we’ve gone too far in laboring to share physical bread with the masses that we’ve neglected to share the “Living Bread” with the masses.

I pray that we in the progressive evangelical community will never forget that despite all of our efforts to save the world, the “form of this world is passing away.” May we labor “not for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27).

Aaron D. Taylor is the author of Alone with A Jihadist: A Biblical Response To Holy War. To learn more about Aaron’s missionary work and his travels around the world, go to www.aarondtaylor.com. Aaron can be contacted at fromdeathtolife@gmail.com

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