2 Words Every Pastor Should Say in 2016

Since my trip in December for the COP21 United Nations climate talks in Paris, I've thought a lot about what it will take to truly make a difference. While the agreement offers a start, much more work remains. I expressed these thoughts in an excellent article by Grace Ji-Sun Kim in Sojourners magazine.

One thing I heard repeatedly from Christian leaders in Paris was the importance of the faith community speaking out on this issue since political leaders cannot be expected to actually do what needs to be done. I heard this from climate justice leaders like Bishop Efraim Tendero of the World Evangelical Alliance, Brian Webb of Climate Caretakers, Rich Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and others. Based on what I learned in Paris, I believe that we will not adequately tackle climate issues if church leaders remain silent on the sideline.

Thus, I believe there are two words every pastor - especially pastors in the United States - need to say this year: climate change. And not in a scoffing tone or even just a passing moment, but with moral clarity that clearly notes humans are impacting the climate with devastating consequence for many people in the global South and East.

"Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable," we find in Proverb 31. "Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor."

If we remain silent, millions of our global neighbors will suffer even more from a changing climate. Thus, I want to challenge every pastor to prophetically preach about the importance of loving our neighbors across the globe and across time (since future generations will live with the consequences of our behaviors).

I'm even practicing what I'm preaching (or, in this case, preaching what I'm preaching). I've preached two sermons this year (both at Union Mound Baptist Church in January). In the second one I shared stories and photos from the COP21 talks in Paris and reflected on a couple of Psalms to consider issues related to climate change and creation care.

I hope other pastors - as well as Sunday School teachers - will also speak out on this important moral topic. Please share in the comments any sermon links or reflections on addressing climate change from the pulpit. Let us raise our voices together for our global neighbors.

Aiding Refugees Benevolently and Prophetically

I wrote the cover package for the February issue of Word&Way (a Baptist magazine in the Midwest). The focus of the issue is "Aiding Refugees Benevolently and Prophetically."

The first article, Ministering to the World Down the Street, focuses on Baptists assisting refugees who came to the United States. The piece includes comments from Zachary Treadway (missions and youth director for Tower Grove Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri), Micah Fries (a vice president for LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tennessee), and Duane Binkley (former missionary in Burma who now holds a joint appointment with both International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, USA, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and works closely with Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas).

The second article, Missouri Clergy Speak Out Against Fear of Syrian Refugees, highlights an effort at the Missouri State Capitol in December where an ecumenical group of clergy addressed anti-refugee comments made by some state legislators. The piece includes comment by Doyle Sager (senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City) and Jeanie McGowan (a retired minister who worked at First Baptist Church of Jefferson City and Churchnet).

I hope the articles bring attention to important efforts and inspire more churches to welcome refugees. 

Book Reviews

Two reviewers recently wrote about my newest book, Sacramental Politics: Religious Worship as Political Action.

Leah Sophia, an artist who runs Suntreeriver Design, previously wrote a review of my book. More recently, she included my book in her list of 11 top books of 2015. Here are a few highlights from that assessment:
Such an important book, with so many aspects of our lives as Christians to consider! 
... Faithfully contextualizing texts that come from a very different culture and that variously are between 4,000 and 2,000 years old always is difficult and dangerous. However, if any congregations, pastors, judicatories or even lone solitary individuals would dare, they need to read and consider this book! Because Sacramental Politics focuses almost exclusively on the USA, they'll discover God never has been a Democrat of any era or any variety, a Republican from any place or space, a Libertarian, a Communist or a member of the Green party, or even a declared Independent. But you know, God still is passionately political!
Check out the whole post on the 11 books.

James Matichuk, a minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church, also recently wrote a review of my book. He starts the review by noting, "It is an election year and so the circus begins again" Here are a few highlights from his review:
Sacramental Politics examines the way religion is co-opted in the political sphere and suggestively explores the political nature of Christian praxis. 
... This is a well-researched book. Kaylor presents many examples from past and current politicians, all documented with copious footnotes. He shows how politicians use religion to justify their ends (i.e. praying campaign slogans) and to project certainty (52). While the Right is the more overtly religious, the political left also makes use of religious rhetoric. 
It is the second part of the book that I think is the most interesting. Here Kaylor explores the political dimensions of religious ritual (focused particularly of Christian religious ritual). The power of ritual is not just about forming you into a good American, but the idea is that things like liturgy, Eucharist or Baptism and sacred song makes you into something else. 

...Kaylor is descriptive of the way religion and politics meld in the American political landscape. He argues that religion inherently carries with it political implications 
... The central argument of this book, pushes us toward a conscious awareness of the political implications of our own faith. Kaylor wants to move us beyond partisan religious rhetoric to see how our religious practice shapes us into an alternative polis. Kaylor wants us to see that our worship is poltical, and therefore political worship is a political act (193). This helps us imagine new possibilities. 
...Kaylor’s analysis is comprehensive but not exhaustive and certainly more can be added to his argument as this election season shakes out. 
This book has a very Mennonite-y feel (which I like). ... I give this four stars.
You can read his whole review, And I hope you'll pick up my book for yourself!

Taking a Selfie with Bernie & Photobombing Jeb!

While in Iowa for the last 1.5 days of the presidential campaign in the Hawkeye State, I saw six presidential hopefuls and met two of them. I got my photo taken with both Republican Jeb! Bush and Democrat Bernie Sanders. It turns out I also showed up in press photos with both of them!

The most exciting photo came as a Bloomberg photographer snapped a shot of me taking a selfie with Sanders. The timing of the two shots is impressive as they show two angles of the same moment.

Various media outlets ran the Bloomberg photo, including the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, and the National Post (Canada). I probably should add, however, that despite what the captions suggest I was there as a reporter and not as a supporter.

I also got a photo with Jeb!, though it wasn't technically a selfie since one of his staffers took the shot. He's really tall! Again, I was there as a reporter (and actually had official media credentials for the Jeb! event and a later Donald Trump rally).

I appeared in two media photos from that rally. An Associated Press photo of me in a crowd of people around him appeared in numerous publications, including the Washington Post, the Chicago Daily Herald, the Seattle Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and the Daily Mail (United Kingdom).

In a less-used Getty Images photo, I accidentally photobombed Jeb! I have no idea what I was doing at that moment, though it looks like Jeb! just said something shocking (like he thought he would win). I think I was looking around to find a good angle to take a photo. Regardless, it makes for a funny photo, especially since it was used by the Wall Street Journal and Florida Today.

You can see the rest of my photos from the Iowa Caucus here.