Saturday, November 1, 2014

book review—The Global War on Christians by John L Allen Jr


Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

This isn't a book one necessarily enjoys. What the author writes about is sobering, disturbing, yet important. Though many US churchgoers might say that they know that there are places in the world where Christians suffer persecution, it is kept at a psychological distance, something “over there”. It isn't something believers in the US have much experience with.

But there may also be another reason why these accounts of suffering for Christ are kept at a distance. Where do accounts of people losing everything they have, even their own lives, fit into a religion whose biggest concern is having your best life now? In a theology that tries to spin the Christian life into one of constant adventure and fulfillment, do accounts of persecution promise too much adventure, or the wrong kind of adventure? What do accounts of people being social outcasts because of their Christian faith do to the popular teaching that God wants to help you to fulfill your dreams, land your dream job, have a great sex life?

It would be good for those whose regular diet of Christian reading is a steady feasting on the feel-good, shallow, it's all about me types of book so popular nowadays to read a book like this one, to provide a kind of balance to what they have been reading, and to get a glimpse of the cost many people pay for their faith.

Though I think this is a good book, I cannot completely agree with the author on everything.

Some of what he wrote about an “ecumenism of the martyrs” seemed off to me. Are we suppose to think that beliefs and creeds are unimportant, simply because people of various beliefs and even different religions have suffered persecutions? Though I appreciate that the author makes references to those persecutions from many different Christian faiths, are we suppose to pretend that the Reformation didn't happen because Catholic and non-Catholic believers suffer persecutions?

While I would agree that no one should be persecuted because of their religious beliefs, that is a far thing from necessarily endorsing anyone's religious beliefs, and I must kick against the notion that an ecumenical endorsement is necessary. The author mentions Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor whose imprisonment has become a cause celebre in many church circles. I would agree that Pastor Youcef should not be in prison simply because of his religious beliefs, and that Iran is wrong to imprison him for his religious beliefs. But the book also notes that Pastor Youcef has a Oneness view of God, and rejects the biblical teaching on the Trinity. Is it possible to support Pastor Youcef's freedom from unjust imprisonment, yet still say that his beliefs are aberrant or even heretical?

So, while I would recommend this book, and pretty strongly too, understand that my recommendation is not an endorsement for everything the author suggests.

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