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Waxahachie, TX

December 9, 2019 | Andrew Hurst


Comedian Taylor Johnson releases In the Altogether, a book about the importance of vulnerability in the Christian Faith.
Taylor Johnson
 

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumnus and professional comedian, Taylor Johnson, recently published his first book, “In the Altogether” which continues to receive glowing feedback from readers. 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the phrase, “in the altogether” is an old-fashioned phrase meaning nude or fully exposed. For Johnson, it was the perfect title for his book about the importance of vulnerability or the “nakedness” that is required of Christ-followers to wholeheartedly and authentically live out their Christian faith. 

“That’s the best way for me to understand vulnerability-you are completely uncovered, exposed, and afraid of how others will react when they see you that way. We put on layers and keep parts of ourselves that are sensitive or weak hidden from others." - Taylor Johnson

He explains that vulnerability is somewhat of an “uncomfortable” subject especially in the church. Fortunately, comedy has a unique way of addressing sensitive subjects through shared human experience. Being a comedian, he knows firsthand how laughter has the power to break down walls and therefore wanted to make his book, “‘as funny as possible.’ Nobody wants to read a book about vulnerability but if you say, ‘hey, this is a really funny book,’ people want to read it. It makes such a tough topic easier to swallow," he said.

Thus, “In the Altogether” is loaded with humorous and brutally honest stories of Johnson’s firsthand experiences and struggles. He shared that his favorite part of the book and the section in which he has received the most feedback is the chapter about shame. “It’s a scary topic,” he said. “But, I’ve found that the more intense the fear or the anger, the more intense the humor can be. Putting humor in that chapter was so much fun because a lot of times we make jokes about our fears or what makes us angry. I also was able to write about the loneliness epidemic in our culture and how social media has influenced shame because we’re always trying to present the best version of ourselves.” 

While this is Johnson’s first book, the subject of vulnerability has served a key role in his ability to minister as a stand-up comedian. After he’s done with his material, he always ends his shows with a message. “Make people laugh for 45 minutes, break down their walls, and then hit them with a message,” he says. 

“You know, it’s not just opening up when things are bad which is what I think a lot of people think of it (vulnerability) as. We keep our walls up, don’t let anyone in. We have a huge loneliness epidemic now because of a lack of deep connection with each other. In the church, we have special events where they say, ‘okay, now is the time if you want to open up, we're going to give you the opportunity’ but we don't talk about it like it's something that should be a part of our everyday lives.”

Vulnerability is a part of Johnson’s everyday life and a crucial facet of his identity as a Christ-follower. He has made a point of being completely vulnerable in his work and personal life sharing his past struggles with depression. 

“It was always about vulnerability and confession because it was something that was missing from my life for the longest time. And with my own struggle with depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts, I never thought that I could open up to somebody else about it until somebody showed me that it was okay. And so now that's the biggest message for me.”

Sharing some of the lowest points of his life before crowds of believers, non-believers, friends and complete strangers has brought a sense of freedom and strength to his walk with Christ. In turn, his vulnerability has initiated conversations and encouraged others to be forthcoming in their own battles. 

“Having those conversations is not just reserved for rock bottom but for avoiding rock bottom.” 

Johnson went on to explain how some of the relationships he formed at SAGU, his alma mater, have helped mold and form his understanding of the importance of this topic. He shares that the deep connections and relationships he formed with professors and fellow students made the biggest impact on him. One of his close friends, Dr. Garland Owensby, SAGU Youth and Student Ministries Professor and comedian, invited him to tour with him on the road and open up for him at various shows. 

“SAGU was always such a great environment to learn and grow. I would not be who I am today without the school.”

Looking to the future

Johnson is planning to publish a follow-up book to “In the Altogether” with this upcoming one focusing on the other side of the conversation. For this next project, he looks forward to receiving recommendations and advice from professional counselors. “It will be a simple, laid back guide for how to create an environment where people feel comfortable opening up, and how to handle when someone does open up to you.”

But, for now, Johnson is excited and encouraged by the feedback he has received and in knowing that this book has helped initiate some very needed conversations amongst believers and hopefully, non-believers. 

“The thing I am most excited about is that the book can reach so much farther than I can live. Over and over again, these last few years, whenever I would perform or I would speak in a church, someone would come up to me and be like, ‘Man, I wish I would have known that you were going to talk about that. I have this person in my life or this person who really could have benefited from hearing that, do you have any sort of resource that I could give to them?' And for the longest time, I didn't have anything. But now, I do." 

To purchase a copy of "In the Altogether," click here


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