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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Global War on Christians - book review

Review of The Global War on Christians by John L. Allen Jr.

            Perhaps the greatest affirmation I could offer an author is his or her work has spurred me to the point that I feel the need to act.  John Allen accomplished that with me in this outstanding work.
            Current through the middle of 2013, Allen tracks the way Christians are under fire around the world.  From my reading of the media, of works by other authors, and reports from other watchdog and faith-based organizations, I found Allen’s presentation to be thoroughly credible and accurate as far as I can tell.  I specifically remember reports of many of the incidents he describes.  In one case, a missionary friend of mine described in detail an incident long before it was reported.  Allen’s account matches what someone in the know, my friend, detailed.
            The situation is dire but not hopeless.  Allen communicated both truths.  His detailed chronicling of what’s happening to Christians on every continent was at times exhausting to read. One after another he told of how Christians have been persecuted because they are Christians, or because as Christians they felt the call of God to remain in dangerous contexts.  It was not an enjoyable read, but the author had no desire to entertain.  He wanted to shock the Christ follower who would dare read a book with his ominous title.  Mission accomplished and in a very good way.
            Throughout I was shocked to the point that I felt I would be unfaithful to Christ if I just set the book aside and did not respond in a tangible way.  I found myself thinking, “What do I do?”  Allen knew any sensitive reader would pose this question.  He dedicates chapter 14 to offering numerous thoughts about how his readers could respond.  Leading up to the section on specific suggestions, I thought, “He better mention prayer.”  It was the first suggestion (p. 280).  The ideas that followed are helpful in setting the believer on the path of the solidarity, participation, and brotherhood with Christians suffering around the world.
            Allen’s presentation is also balanced.  He admitted some of the suffering comes from Christians persecuted by Christians.  Some suffering is not necessarily because the victims follow Jesus.  And Christians are sometimes guilty of inflicting harm on others.  Also, Allen did not give too much attention to any one group, but recognized all who would fall under the definition ‘Christian.’  I did not discern his own affiliation until he identified himself as an American Catholic.
            The book is not perfect as no book is.  As previously mentioned, I found it tiresome to read story after story of persecution.  In some cases, what he describes really might not fall under the category of persecution.  In a few incidents, he could be accused of framing the evidence to fit his argument rather than simply assessing the evidence.  And, he might be guilty of a bit of hyperbole.
            However, I strongly assert that these possible critiques are refutable because he case is so strong.  I already was aware of the issue.  Having read his book, I feel more strongly and more knowledgeable.
            The best endorsement I can give is this – READ THIS BOOK.  I give it 5 stars because that’s highest available ranking.  Even more important, I am personally going to recommend that pastors I know read and respond to this book.  And in 2014, I am going to go back to chapter 14 and hold it up to my own life.  Where can I make changes so that I am active in coming alongside my persecuted Christian family around the globe?  How can I reposition my own life so that I feel the sting of persecution and the joy of being aligned with Jesus?

Disclaimer - I received this book for free from WaterBrookMultnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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