“Book of the Year” Nomination–Vote for Peace!

4 02 2017

awooh-front-cover   I’m happy to share that my recent thriller on confronting ISIS with the non-violent way of Jesus, A WAY OUT OF HELL, has been nominated for “Book of the Year” award in general fiction!

One of the criteria the judges will look at is votes from readers like you! Much like American Idol, I NEED ALL MY FRIENDS TO GO TO THE CONTEST WEBSITE AND VOTE FOR MY BOOK!

Here’s the website: Book of the Year 2017

It only takes about 1-minute to vote!

1) Enter your Name and Email Address

2) Select your identity as READER

3) Scroll down to find A WAY OUT OF HELL by Jim Baton in the FICTION / GENERAL section and SELECT

4) Scroll to the bottom of the page and fill the small circle if you don’t want to receive promotional emails

5) Click SUBMIT

   Winning an award like this is likely to get the message of peace out to more people.

After you vote, if you would please forward this post to those people you know who love peace and ask for their support, I’d really appreciate it too!

Thank you so much!

 





Unifying America

9 01 2017
from HGTV website

Chip Gaines on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”

Generally, those who have reviewed my novels on terrorism and peacemaking have been encouraging if not enthusiastic. However, I was recently blessed by a brutally honest reviewer who objected to some aspects of my newest book, A VIOLENT LIGHT.

This reviewer drew conclusions that because some characters in the book acted the way they did, that I must be anti-law enforcement, anti-veterans, anti-gun owners, anti-self-defense, and anti-sharing your faith. This person decided that because of how some characters tried to build bridges across the religious divide, that I must be a universalist. All of these assumptions were incorrect.

I felt the parallels right away when I read about HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines from the show “Fixer Upper” getting blasted as LGBT haters because they attend a church that preaches that Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman.

I love Chip’s response: “We want to help initiate conversations between people that don’t think alike. Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie.”

Those who attacked Chip and Joanna are similar to the reviewer who struggled with my novel—they perceive issues through dichotomous, black-and-white thinking: “If it’s not this, it must be that.”

  • If you don’t support the war, you must be disrespecting our veterans
  • If you don’t support gay marriage, you must hate those of LGBT identities
  • If you don’t try to convince people of other religions that your religion is superior to theirs, you must be a universalist

We heard plenty of this narrow thinking during the recent presidential campaign. One friend basically told me, “If you are critical of anything Trump has said or done, you must be supporting Hilary,” while another implied, “If you agree with any one thing Trump has said or done, you must be endorsing racism, sexism, xenophobia and a host of other evils.” Neither of these people took the time to actually understand what I thought about either candidate or the issues, having instantly pigeon-holed me with “not this, so that” thinking.

I know some of my Christian friends question why I work for peace alongside Muslims when, according to their thinking, I should be convincing Muslims to agree with my religious views first before working with them. Once again, here’s Chip’s brilliant perspective: “If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position. We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you.

“Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified.”

What a good word for America, and for our world! Disagreement should never limit our capacity to love and serve others. Can we post this on the wall of the Senate and House chambers? How about at city-wide pastors’ meetings? Or at any community event?

The truth is that most issues are complex, most people are complex, and anyone who tries to get a group of people to agree on every single thing is probably a cult leader. Assuming that someone who disagrees with us must be on the opposite end of the spectrum from us, must be intolerant or a hater, does not extend to them the grace that we wish would be extended to us in all of our complexity.

Where I live and pursue peace in Indonesia, our current president Joko Widodo models well what Chip is saying. While the extremists were issuing fatwas forbidding Muslims from even wishing Christians a “Merry Christmas,” our Muslim president ignored them and joined the Christians in their Christmas celebrations. Yasser Arafat did the same every Christmas between 1995-2000 attending Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Armenian church celebrations with the Christian minorities in Bethlehem.

Both cases opened the door to accusations from the black-and-white thinkers. Christians speculated that the president must have become a Christian. Muslim extremists concluded that the president must have left the true faith. Both sides were guilty of dichotomous fallacies; the truth was that though Joko Widodo and Yasser Arafat disagreed with the minority Christians in matters of religion, it didn’t stop them from showing honor, support, and perhaps even love. Nelson Mandela, a Christian, experienced the same treatment when joining prayers at a mosque of minority Muslims in South Africa. But these men rose above such narrow thinking because “this is how a house gets unified.”

Our divided nation cannot wait for us all to agree as a prerequisite to progress. It’s time we “roll up our sleeves and work alongside the very people most unlike us.” As we do, we’ll learn to understand each other, and undoubtedly change each other in the process.





My Voice, Your Voice, His Voice

3 10 2016

It’s always a good feeling to be interviewed—whether on television or by a child doing homework for AWANA—it’s affirming to know that someone wants to hear what I have to say, that my voice is being heard.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about 99% of the issues in our world. I love to listen to what others are saying, and do my best to hear God’s voice amidst the chatter. But there are a few issues that I care deeply about, to which I’ve given my life.

So if you’d like to hear my thoughts about any of the following topics (and much more!), in a moment I’ll direct you to three new places to connect with me!

  • What inspired you to write about ISIS?
  • Is ISIS coming to America?
  • Are jihad attacks more likely to come from refugees, illegal immigrants, or US citizens?
  • Is Islam a peaceful religion, or are its true followers those who promote violence?
  • What could healing Abraham’s broken family look like today?
  • What authors or books have influenced you?
  • What’s your favorite book of all time?
  • What’s your response to this current presidential election?

You can find recent interviews I’ve done at the following websites:

http://mybookplace.net/jim-baton/

https://anita-thoughtsonchristianity.blogspot.co.id/

Also, if you drop by your local Christian bookstore and pick up the November issue (already on shelves today) of Today’s Christian Living magazine, you’ll find my award-winning article, “Christmas with a Killer.”

I take the responsibility of my platform to speak very seriously. If you have a blog, Facebook page, magazine, newsletter, church or small group, and you’d like me to write something for you on the topics of Islam, peacemaking, writing, or prayer, please contact me!

And whatever platform God has given you, I hope you are developing the message He wants you to speak into your sphere of influence. Your voice needs to be heard! It’s time for us to believe that His voice can speak through your voice and my voice.





The Battle for our Children

26 08 2016

021 (2)A lovely young woman (we’ll call her “Star”) wearing a head covering came into our office recently to apply for the position of Peace Generation Coordinator that we had advertised. She already had a master’s degree and seemed to be from a family of some wealth, so I was surprised to hear how she spent her free time.

Star is a member of a social-change-focused group called “the Gus Durians” after Indonesia’s former president Gus Dur. As a bit of background, Gus Dur once was probably the most famous Muslim cleric in the nation, and a constant voice for righteousness against a corrupt and abusive government, when an ugly dispute between various parties in the parliament resulted in his name being put forward as a “neutral” choice for president. He wasn’t really equipped to be a politician, and after calling the squabbling legislators “a bunch of kindergartners” he was impeached.

However, Gus Dur is not remembered for that brief political implosion, but for his years of championing human rights and especially minority rights. For example, every year he took flak from his Muslim colleagues for attending Christmas services at a Christian church, in solidarity with this religious minority.

The Gus Durians have carried on his legacy after his death. Star and her small group have actively sought out every minority group they could find in our city to ascertain their needs and offer help and support in whatever way they could. They approached Christians, Buddhists, Ahmadiyah (a Muslim fringe group often persecuted as a “cult”), Communists, LGBT (homosexual activity is illegal in Indonesia), street kids, etc.

It’s the street kids’ story that I want to write about. My wife works with street kids, elementary school dropouts, beggars, trash-pickers, and other poor kids. On the recent Idul Fitri holiday, she served lunch to 80 of them in our home! But there are others working with street kids too.

Star discovered a half-way house for street kids in the high-crime district of our city. She and her friend sat with the leader to ask about his ministry. Then he began asking about their group, and when she mentioned searching for the LGBT community, he edged forward intensely, pressing them about where the homosexuals gather. At first they were taken aback and evaded his questions. As they probed deeper, they uncovered that this leader of the street kids’ ministry was also a member of FPI, the “Islamic Defenders Front,” that had attacked churches, burned down Ahmadiyah mosques, forcibly closed night clubs, and wanted to destroy the LGBT community as well! They felt fortunate they hadn’t given out any more information and got out of there as fast as they could!

All this to say…the battle between peacemaking and terrorism begins with our children. Our Peace Generation curriculum has already taught thousands of kids the values of peace, but we’re not the only voice in our city. Others are teaching the values of prejudice, hate and violence.

It’s too late if we wait until they grow up and join ISIS, then put a bounty on their heads and kill them. We need to act NOW to raise the children of our world to know that God loves them, and that He wants us to love all the other children of the world too. We must do all we can to raise a young generation—Christian, Muslim and other—with a new set of values of peace.





From North Carolina with (Fearless) Love

24 07 2016

welcoming refugees   I just got back to our work in Indonesia after an encouraging month’s tour in the USA, promoting my book A WAY OUT OF HELL and meeting people with a similar passion for peace.

The most exciting stop on my tour was in North Carolina, where I reconnected with my dear friend and Peace Catalyst International colleague, Thomas Davis, an extraordinary bridge-builder and peacemaker both in his hometown and in several nations around the world. (You can read Thomas’s amazing stories at his blog: http://www.incomparabletreasure.com/. You can see his Muslim Christian Dinner Club, read his post on “Jesus–Messiah, Feminist, Friend of Outsiders, Savior of the World” and so much more.)

Thomas invited about 20 Christian friends to a dinner to hear me share about our peacemaking work in Indonesia, but I went home astounded at what Thomas’s friends are doing in their own communities!

  • Some are helping international students, including Muslims, to adapt to their new surroundings in America and find local friends who will care for them
  • Others are involved with some Iranian Muslims reading the Qur’an and the Bible together
  • Still others have joined Thomas’s Dinner Club, where several families from the church and from the mosque regularly eat together, rotating to different members’ houses, with no agenda except to enjoy one another’s friendship
  • Out of this Dinner Club came the idea of joining together to help refugees fleeing the Middle East. Can you imagine a Syrian family arriving in America, and at the airport a local Muslim family and a Christian family are waiting side-by-side to welcome them to America and help them start a brand new life? Isn’t that outrageously beautiful?

My last post asked some tough questions of my fellow Americans; my trip to North Carolina reassured me that there are still those Christians in America who have rejected fear and have chosen to reach out in love. “Love your enemy” was always meant to change us, for if we no longer see an enemy, but the object of our affections, we begin to see the whole world as “friends and future friends.”

If you feel emboldened to start something small in your hometown that builds bridges between Christians and Muslims, please let me know! Perhaps Thomas or myself or others would be able to help you take that first step.





The Jihad of Jesus

11 04 2016

The Jihad of Jesus book cover   I remember well the Q&A session in one of the many interfaith events we’ve organized over the years. An angry Christian stood up and declared, “As long as the word jihad exists, there will never be peace between our two religions!” The room was deathly silent, demanding the right response given in the right spirit.

From the platform, one of the speakers, the Orthodox Christian Bambang Noorsena, looked at his dear Muslim friend and presenter next to him, and said, “Let me answer this question.

“The term jihad is a perfectly wonderful term found not only in the Al Qur’an, but also in the Bible.” The audience was shocked. Bambang then quoted a verse from his Arabic New Testament about our “struggle” in the faith. I can’t recall which verse he quoted, since there are more than 10 mentions of jihad in the New Testament, but it might have been one of these:

“I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight [jihad] we’re in.” I Timothy 1:18, The Message

“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish [jihad] against the Devil and all his angels.” Ephesians 6:12 The Message

“I have fought the good fight [jihad], I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

There is a “holy struggle” we all engage in—not against people who are different than we are—but against worldly values, temptations to our flesh and the devil. In Indonesia, we’ve actually published a book called True Jihad which shows from the Al Qur’an that jihad today should only be fought against the world, the flesh and the devil! There are many Muslims who believe and practice this positive understanding of jihad.

But the best book I’ve ever read on the topic is Dave Andrew’s The Jihad of Jesus. His book allows us to look in the mirror as both Christians and Muslims at how our “holy wars” have gotten away from God’s desire for us to struggle with faith, hope and love. Then he shares the struggle we should all be on.

>>For Muslims, it’s struggling to live out the Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (“In the name of God, the most Merciful, Most Compassionate”). This declaration of who God is begins every chapter but one in the Al Qur’an, and is recited countless times a day by the faithful. One Muslim told Dave he strives to interpret every passage of the Al Qur’an “consistent with the grace and compassion of God.” What if in every relationship, Muslims reflected God’s character of mercy and love?

>>For Christians, it’s struggling to follow Jesus—to love God, neighbor and enemy as Jesus first loved us. What if Christians put all other religious activities second to that? Dave presents a beautiful quote from Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s work Ma’an ‘ala-l-Tariq: Muhammad wa–i-Masih (p.52): “Christ was himself the message. He was the supreme example he left. He was the love which knows no hatred, the peace which knows no restlessness, the salvation which knows no perishing. And when we (Christians and Muslims—together) realize all these things on this earth, we shall then comprehend the return of the Christ.”

My early candidate for Book of the Year—you can find it at Amazon or even hear Dave share his amazing stories of peacemaking at www.jihadofjesus.com .





A Shining Day for America

14 10 2015

bremertonmuslimsupportLike anyone, America has its good days and its bad days. October 10, 2015 was one of our good days.

Let me quote from one report about the anti-Muslim protests across our nation:

“Most of the planned protests simply didn’t happen after all. Among the few rallies that actually came together, the counter-protesters well outnumbered the anti-Muslim activists.”

In Michigan, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington DC, hardly anyone showed up to protest, but concerned neighbors and churches were there anyway to show support.

Phoenix, AZ was the only place that actually felt like a protest, but though a lot of guns were seen, thank God it passed peacefully.

In heavy rain falling on Bremerton, WA, about 35 locals came, concerned for their Muslim neighbors (photo above). No protestors braved the storm. “We don’t mind getting wet,” one of them told Hatewatch. “It’s worth it to defend our friends.”

One of the best stories came from the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Michigan, where one lone protestor showed up. A Caucasian man exited the mosque to start a conversation with her. She thought he was Muslim and responded with “Get behind me Satan!” The man told her he was actually Jewish, and after some dialogue got her talking with some of the Muslim women from the mosque who also affirmed how much they were against the violence and murder of ISIS-type groups. The story ends with the protestor coming into the mosque to join a special breakfast they had prepared for all the protestors! She thought she was taking a stand against the enemy and discovered new friends.

Meanwhile, many interfaith groups across the country planned events to show their support for the Muslim houses of worship, some including positive social action plans.

The Huffington Post concluded that the end result of the protests, in fact, was a large outpouring of love and interfaith support for the Muslim community.

Well done, America! Thank you for your prayers for peace this weekend. Thank you to those who showed up at a mosque. Way to turn hate away and show that #LoveYourNeighbor is still worth standing in the rain for!