I have completed Book 3 in the #EmptyShelf Challenge. This is my review of The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution by John L. Allen, Jr., published by Image (2013). This post will be more thorough because this is also a review for the publisher.
The Global War on Christians presents the current and historical persecution of Christian believers worldwide. This persecution ranges from the societal pressures experienced by believers in the West to martyrdom of individuals and entire communities in many places around the globe.
Anyone curious about how pervasive this persecution really is will find the book enlightening. It will also guide those who want to pray for the persecuted church, and it will be a good resource for formal study of Christian persecution in a class at church or in the college classroom.
The Global War on Christians starts with an overview of the depth and pervasiveness of the persecution. This discussion is particularly important for the North American reader for, as Allen puts it, “Christians in Western societies generally have no personal experience of persecution.”1 There is no perfectly reliable way to count the number of believers martyred for their faith. One low-end estimate puts the figure at 7,300 per year, while the high-end estimate is 100,000 per year.2 Whatever the actual total, it is sobering to realize that at least one Christian brother or sister dies for their faith every hour. This does not include the millions of believers who experience other forms of persecution: societal and institutional discrimination, employment and legal discrimination, suppression of missionary and conversion activity, and more.3 Allen spares none of the, even horrific, details in telling stories of persecution at all levels.
After the introductory overview, Allen continues with dozens upon dozens of stories of all kinds of persecution around the globe. He presents detailed accounts from 28 countries in 5 regions (Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe). This is followed by a section that explores five myths of the global war on Christians:
- The myth that Christians are at risk only where they’re a minority
- The myth that no one saw it coming
- The myth that it’s all about Islam
- The myth that it’s only persecution if the motives are religious
- The myth that anti-Christian persecution is a political issue
Chapter 9, which explores the myth that it’s all about Islam, is particularly important because of the perception (the myth) created by the global war on terror that this global war on Christians is perpetuated by Muslims. Allen makes a very compelling, and important, argument that this is not the case.
Allen closes the book with a discussion of the social and political implications of the global war on Christians, the spiritual fruits of this war, and what believers can do in response. He presents a hopeful, yet urgent call to believers.
Allen succeeds in thoroughly documenting the global war on Christians. He presents specific stories will full background and context. However, the book also reads much like a textbook. At the risk of appearing that I might be insensitive to persecuted believers, I will say that the book is a “dry read” because of the many, many stories of persecution that begin to sound alike after just the first couple chapters.
Nevertheless, the book did have an impact on me: The bottom line is that the Christian church is growing all over the world. There are encouraging signs of Christian life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Allen wrote, “China is perhaps the most eye-popping instance of Christian expansion. At the time of the Communist takeover in 1949, there were roughly 900,000 Protestants in the country. Today,…there are 111 million Christians in China, roughly 90 percent Protestant.”4 Satan hates this. Satan is attacking this expansion of life through political, religious, cultural, and economic forces.
I can recommend this book for those who want to have a guide in praying for the persecuted church, and for those conducting an intentional study of the global war on Christians. The casual or merely curious reader, though, will potentially find Allen’s book tedious, albeit a compelling documentation of the persecution of Christians.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to conduct this review.
For more on the #EmptyShelf Challenge see my original article on this topic.
1: Allen, John L., Jr. The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution. New York, NY: Image, 2013. p. 17.
2: Allen, p. 4.
3: Allen, pp. 30-32.
4: Allen, p. 68.