Remembering the old admonition that it’s wise not to talk politics, religion, or sex, I acknowledge that in taking on 2 of the taboo subjects, John L. Allen, Jr., took on a difficult challenge when he set out to write about the war in which the Christian Church is currently engaged. In his book The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution (Image, 2013), he presents the state of the Church from a perspective of how she is being persecuted. He presents a global overview addressing Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, writes about the myths concerning Persecution, (only where Christians are a minority, no one saw it coming, Islam, and it’s really political –and tells us why the myths are toxic. And then he addresses what he calls the ‘fallout, consequences and response.
I requested to review this book, thinking it would be helpful for a class I’m taking dealing with world religions…in retrospect, I wish I had chosen something else.
The cases of abuse that Allen documents are certainly disconcerting and give cause for alarm. It reminds me once again of how for the most part, we in the west have it pretty easy. We can practice our faith without too much fear of repercussion. Martyrdom is not the norm in the west. On page 273, Allen cites Todd Johnson talking about David Barrett who reportedly, when asked to name the most effective form of evangelism, replied “martyrdom’. We may admire the martyrs, but most western Christians are in no hurry to join their ranks.
Included in Part III are 2 chapters that might be helpful to those who see the current situation as a precursor to the demise of the Christian church. Allen calls chapter 13 “Spiritual Fruits of the Global War”, and chapter 14 “What’s To Be Done”. He does have some suggestions here for those that assume that the end is near, and points out that in the past, as a result of persecution the church has always rallied and become stronger.
Although the book may seem to be written to galvanize the Church, to stir her from apathy and into action, it often seemed inflammatory to me. My heart bleeds for those who have suffered as a result of this war, and I’m sure that there are incidents around the world, but I was left, unfortunately, with the sense that people groups, governments, and above all, other religions, were being demonized. This may not be the author’s intent, and just my perception, but reading this book reminded me of the ‘war on terror’: the enemy was strangely undefined, but somehow portrayed as omnipresent and an overarching evil.
A main concern with this book is found in the acknowledgements (and if I hadn't agreed to read and review, I probably would have stopped reading on page ‘x’). Allen states” While I don’t cite individual source material, because doing so would be too cumbersome, I want to acknowledge the main organizations, media outlets and individual experts upon whom I've relied:”. As a student, I find that to be totally unacceptable. Although he states that he is compiling facts, to not give credit to the person who has done the work is considered plagiarism in most circles, and it also makes it difficult to know how much is fact, and how much is exaggeration, lies or partial truth used to further the author’s cause.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.