Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China by Xi Lian, a Chinese historian living in the West, cataloged the rise of Christianity in China. When Christianity was the religion of foreigners it won little access to the hearts of the Chinese people. However, when Mao took control of the country in 1948 the western missionaries fled or were forced out. The Chinese Christians that were left (fewer than 1 million) began to slowly evangelize their brethern. No longer was Christianity a religion for outsiders. It was now indigenous. Despite intense persecution by the Communist Party, it spread rapidly. Today there are probably more Christians in China than in the U.S. However, Lian is careful to note that, lacking access to historical Christian theology, the belief system of most Chinese Christians is a syncretism of the Bible, Pentecostalism, Buddhism. Animism, and mysticism.
This book was full of helpful information, but that was all. For someone not familiar with China, it was hard to put the information in context. In addition, he wrote mechanically. The book lacked passion.
A personal favorite was A Personal Odyssey the autobiography of Thomas Sowell. Sowell is not a Christian, but he is a leading conservative, African American economist. Sowell tells the story of his rise from the slums of Charlotte, N.C. during the depression, his experience in the Army during the Korean war, his undergraduate work in economics at Harvard, his masters degree at Columbia, and finally his doctorate at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and others. Subsequently he taught at various institutions including Rutgers, Cornell, and UCLA.
Sowell’s ideas were influential during the Reagan presidency. Although considered for various cabinet posts, he rejected the offers, deciding instead to pursue his studies at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, where he was, and is, a resident scholar.
Having read and enjoyed some of Sowell’s books, I found his biography interesting. Sowell writes well. It was not only the history of his life, but the history of the middle of the twentieth century in North America. Would that we harkened to Sowell’s common sense advice on Economics.