Book Review: Alone with a Jihadist

Once I got into it, this was a sensational, gripping read that gave me hope for the universal church in the 21st century – beyond tags of liberal or conservative, progressive or fundamentalist, this book is about the power of God to transform.

Author: Aaron D. Taylor
Title: Alone with a Jihadist: A biblical response to holy wars
My Source for the book: Speakeasy. My Standard Disclaimer Applies.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Review Crossposted on: Goodreads, Amazon

My Format: a pdf on my kindle. 215 pages
Author Interview: coming soon! (woot!)
Favorite Quote: “Jesus was very political but what the vast majority of Christians today fail to realize is Jesus was political in an anarchist sort of way.” [italics original :) ]

I gave this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars instead of the full 5 stars because I don’t think I was really the intended audience and sometimes that was distracting. Not distracting enough, however, because it was just a fantastic book.

Taylor started the book out with the feel of a confessional biography and catalogued his experiences leading up to, encountering, and going away from that day, alone in a room with a jihadist. (This he did for the making of a documentary, Holy Wars, directed by Stephen Marshall, which you can go and watch.)

So, we begin with an emotionally fraught debate between a conservative Christian missionary and a radical Islamic jihadist who are, by mutual consent, stuck in a room together for, really, a lot of hours, for the sake of this documentary. But then the missionary comes home with all of his own questions and dissatisfactions from his time, ‘Alone with a Jihadist.’

Is Democracy really the opposite, the Christian ‘answer’ (if an answer can arrive before the question) to Islamic Sharia Law? What does a Christian nation look like and what would a people wanting to create a government in light of the Bible really come up with? And where does Jesus fit in with government?

And so he looked… and researched… and studied… and prayed… and discovered that Jesus wasn’t really a big fan of government to begin with… but he also wasn’t seeking to overthrow it. At least, not by any previously attempted or recognized means.

But it is more than just this – challenging one aspect of faith-lived-in-the-world, Taylor is taking on all the rest while he’s at it. He challenges the forced expansion of democracy, recent American defense and foreign policies, a nationalized Christianity, the effects of Christian Zionism, and the deep lack in America of self-awareness on an individual and collective level – all of this before he delves into what anarchy really is and this profound truth:

“When Jesus took a towel and washed His disciples’ mud-encrusted feet, he wasn’t just redefining earthly power, He was rejecting earthly power. By taking on the form of a slave, Jesus forever elevated the status of the powerless over the powerful–just like his mother did (Luke 1:51-53). The act of washing His disciples’ feet was a prophetic act that symbolized the way things are supposed to be–like the way it was in the Garden of Eden when human beings didn’t rule over each other, but loved and served each other. Jesus taught His followers that the system of dominion and authority was for [outsiders who don’t understand], not for the newly constituted people of God (Matthew 20:26-27).” [italics original]

Alone with a Jihadist was certainly an excellent, thought-provoking book worth reading and introducing into some book groups.

Stay tuned for the interview with Aaron Taylor, coming soon!

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