Fascinating persecution accounts of Chinese Christians from a sympathetic outside observer

God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China (2011)
Author: Liao Yiwu
Publisher: HarperOne
Pages: 231

Liao Yiwu is a well-known Chinese writer who spent four years in jail for his epic poem “Massacre” (1989), which condemned the government’s response to the Tiananmen Square protests. His book The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up (2008) chronicles those living on the fringes and remains banned in China. Yiwu is outspoken in his criticism of the socialist system, which is why Chinese leaders consider his writings subversive.

Though not a Christian himself, he became interested in Christianity after meeting Xu Yonghai in July 1998, a neurologist who became a preacher with an underground Protestant church. His interest in Christian issues grew when Yonghai was arrested for preaching in a private home and was given three years of jail time.

His subsequent contacts and interviews with diverse Christians led to this book, which looks at past and present experiences of Christians to gain clues about the future. This is a collection of loosely linked interviews and essays between 2002 and 2010.

The stories cover a wide variety of believers from different faith backgrounds. The unadorned writing style makes this compelling. It is a simple but colorful account of the author’s meetings with Chinese Christians and the stories that they told. It is not so graphic as to make someone stop readingquite the opposite. It is easy to read and hard to put down. If not for the author’s research, these inspiring narratives would otherwise be unknown.

Yiwu is still a “non-believer,” but he makes no secret of how he went from feeling alienated at times to being touched by the love and devotion he witnessed among the many contacts he made. He saw parallels in his ongoing fight for the freedom to write and travel.

The Church is the beneficiary of such a sympathetic look at the saga of God’s “little” flock in China, which has grown to about 70 million according to the latest estimate by the Pew Research Center. CT magazine reported in their December 2017 issue that Chinese believers recently had their first “Urbana-style” missions conference. Out of the 1,200 young people that gathered, 300 pledged to become full-time missionaries. More than ever this makes China a “sending” Church. Gone on the days when this country was mostly on the receiving end of missions.

Persecution is ongoing, but Chinese believers are undeterred. God is Red in one of the books that provides a sense what the struggle is like. This is one to savor for those interested in the history of Christianity in China. It’s all the more remarkable because it comes from someone outside the faith but has become sympathetic to their plight.

Michael Dalton