Although I often read and review fiction, I recently had the opportunity to review a nonfiction book that was pretty powerful and thought-provoking. Too Many to Jail: The Story of Iran's New Christians is an account of how Christianity has grown and expanded in Iran, despite the persecution against them.
From the book's description:
Documents the remarkable rise of the Iranian church, despite fierce persecution, as Iranians grow disillusioned with Islam
In 1979, there were fewer than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today there are at least 100,000 new believers. Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years--such is the spiritual hunger that exists. The religious violence that accompanied the reign of President Ahmadinejad drained its perpetrators of political and religious legitimacy, and has opened the door to other faiths.
This book sets the rapid church growth in Iran in the context of the deteriorating relationship between Iranians and their national religion. There is a major focus on the Ahmadinejad years, but the author also covers the history of the church before 1979, developing the central idea that the spark may have become buried in the ashes but has never been extinguished.
Careful, proportionate, well-informed, and accurate, Too Many to Jail is a powerful reminder of the Christian revival that the headlines ignore. The stories of faith, persecution, and encouragement will inspire every reader to see anew God’s work in the world.
Mark Bradley begins by sharing statistics of the growth of house churches and the spread of Christianity in Iran since 1979. During this time, persecution of Christians in Iran has increased, but the growth of Christianity has also increased. Although the author can't give specific numbers, his information is backed up by much research referenced in many footnotes.
It was interesting history to read as the author shared what happened in Iran with religion and government through the last few decades. The reader gets a clear picture of the Iranian government's hatred of Christians in the first few chapters as he gives information about the connection between government and religion since 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme leader and combined the Shia religion and the Islamic state.
He continues to follow Islamic history as the country slipped into crisis when Iranians were being punished for any minor offense and the economy was suffering. In 2009 there was a presidential election held that was rigged and highly protested. As the "supreme leader" continued in office, Christians were continually targeted more and more.
Throughout this time of persecution, house churches have continued to grow and thrive in the country. And the author shares the stories of five particular churches and their founders. As we read these stories, we can understand the passion that the Christians of Iraq have for God and their desire to spread the gospel.
The book ends with detailed examples of specific Christians who have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed for the sake of Christ. The author's purpose is to help the reader to be aware of the situation and to spur us to pray for our fellow Christians in Iran.
This book was a hard one to read. The things that the Christians of Iraq have suffered are things that are difficult for me to even imagine. But I walked away from the book glad I had read it. I'm glad because I was reminded and encouraged to pray for the Christians and the spread of the gospel throughout Iran. And I was encouraged. Because when I read about the amazing faith that these believers have in the face of persecution, my own faith can't help but be strengthened.
You can find Too Many To Jail at the Kregel website here. Throughout this launch week (until April 5, 2015), you can find Too Many to Jail on Kindle for $.99.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.
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