Finished two books in two days this week-made some time to read and relax (helped by a couple of cancellations by patients at work). Both were non-fiction and can be classed as Christian in their content. The first called ‘Saint’ is by Ted Dekker. I’ve read a lot of his work before, he tends to write a combination of fantasy and thriller set in the modern setting. While Christian undertones exist throughout his later work, he phrases it in such a way that his work can be enjoyed by a secular audience without the in-your-face type Christian gospel that is characteristic of some writers (as a result, for an aspiring writer he, along with Steven Lawhead, is one of my heroes). Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this book, great idea and concept but bits of it just didn’t gel for me in the way some of his others have (‘Blink’ by the same author rates as one of my favourite books of all time).
The second is the work of two authors, Hank Hanegraff and Sigmund Brouwer. Called ‘The Last Disciple’ it traces the events of the persecution of the Christians under Nero and the fall of Jerusalem. There is a fair chunk of poetic licence, and from the afterword it is an alternative interpretation of the Biblical references to the end times as proposed by the popular ‘Left Behind Series’. It is fairly graphic in its descriptions and well set out with great character development. A little confusing in places where they jump ahead in time, but I enjoyed the read, only to find that it ends by setting up a sequel that I now need to get my hands on.
As for the graphic descriptions try this (skip the paragraph if you squeamish)… “Alongside charred stumps of posts were new wooden lampposts spaced every ten paces. Men and women dangled from each post. Their bond wrists hanging from spikes in the post above their heads, their entire body weight wrenching at their shoulder sockets…This heat was a form of torture, adding to the excruciating pain of arm sockets slowly pulling loose. But the prisoners could not cry out for water from the passing fountain. Their lips had been sown shut to prevent them from disturbing Roman citizens…Each wore a tunica molesta –a tunic black and gleaming in the sunlight and saturated in tar…At sundown, by the orders of Nero, the guards would ignite their tunics so that these men and women-the Christians-would become human torches to light the streets for the half –drunk Roman revellers returning home.”(The Last Disciple pg 20)
I read something like that and I realise that despite the situation I find myself in (i.e. living in the worst economy in the world), I have a relatively ‘Comfortable Christianity’-few will beat me up for what I believe- less will kill; I can walk down the street and not fear arrest or assault. I can worship where and when I please. For that matter, it is pretty comfortable for any followers of any major religion here-relatively speaking. Open religious persecution is not practiced in Zimbabwe. Compare the complaint of the American church about prayer being banned in schools with the plight of a few Burmese Bhuddist monks, or a Christian in parts of East Asia and you get the picture of relativity. For the most part, while you may be ridiculed for your beliefs, or, in an extreme, be passed over for promotion a couple of times, your religious stance in the West is unlikely to cost you your life. It would be a good thing if any believer (regardless of religion) weighed in their hearts whether or not they would be willing to die for what they believe, not in the suicidal ‘get the message across retaliation’ that created the horror of the twin towers but the acceptance of death under a severe time of persecution when the gun is to your head and you face the choice-lie and live or believe and die. Interesting thinking…