Books and Culture’s 2011 Book of the Year: God is Red

I’m a sucker for book lists so this time of the year is both hard and fun. The fun part is surveying everyone’s 2011 list of best books. The hard part is paying for all the ones that I want to read.

Book and Culture’s best book of 2011 is God is Red by Liao Yiwu and I’m almost half way through it. The author who isn’t a Christian tells the stories of Christians in the largest country in the world. Several chapters take the form of interviews with men and women who have the chance to tell their own stories of what it looks like to follow Christ in a country where the government favors atheism.

One such man is named Sun, a doctor who became a Christian through reading a Bible given him by some foreign students. His new faith put Dr. Sun in direct conflict with the authorities.

Here is part of the interview that I found challenging…

Liao: Could you be both a Christian and a government official?
Sun: I felt I had to make a choice, but that choice was largely made for me. One of the students at my first private prayer session ratted on me. In 1997, my boss came to me with an application form for membership in the Communist Party. He told me that by joining the Party, I would be able to dispel the “rumors” about my association with the Christian moment, that I had been in the system for many years and had established myself in the medical field, and that it was a minor concession that would open a lot of doors for me.

I told him I could not fill out the application form. I said, “What you heard are not rumors. It is true.” My boss was shocked and pretended not to have heard what I said. “I believe in Jesus Christ,” I said. “I have already made my choice, and this is the only choice.”

He was tremendously upset. “You are a Communist official. You enjoy the salary and benefits of a Communist official, yet you believe in Jesus Christ. What can you do with Jesus? Can he provide you with food and clothing?”

I looked at him in the eye and said, quite deliberately: “I am quitting now. I need to save my soul.”

Dr. Sun lost his job and left the city. He now is an itinerant doctor and ambassador for Christ spending his life in rural villages bringing healing to the body and soul. God is Red tells the rest of Dr. Sun’s story along with many other Chinese Christians and their stories of living for Christ in one of the world’s most challenging cultures.

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