I was at a breakfast meeting recently and the chap I was talking to was just in the throes of changing jobs. His deep worry was the new culture he was about to step in to (US West Coast Tech sector), which he expected to be liberal, free-thinking, accepting, innovative … but strangely anti-Christian.
The fear was that being openly Christian would be met with an unaccepting attitude, that he would be judged to hold attitudes and opinions that his new colleagues would rile against, that despite their accepting and liberal attitudes, this may not stretch as far as Christians !
I have no experience of the culture or attitudes, other than stories and hearsay, but this did appear to be an interesting double standard – fully accepting of alternative lifestyles, attitudes and even faiths, but not comfortable to accept Christians … perhaps the “politically correct” world cannot handle some Biblical truths, or perhaps some people’s experience of Christians has been of them being judgemental, fundamental and perhaps not expressing the basic principles of faith that God stands for – unconditional love and care for others who have been created in His image? And that it is only for God to judge, not us.
In any case, the conversation reminded me of the book Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, which has been a recent read. First published in 2011, it may be that by now that those attitudes in the US workplace have diminished, or perhaps they are exaggerated to make the point, but they clearly still exist as a fear.
The book has this fascinating juxtaposition of attitudes to the Christian faith – the prejudicial one, set in this book in the US but it could equally be in other western cultures, and the persecution of Christians in China. One is more subtle, generated by the “culture” of western society, and the other is instigated by the state, but both are examples of oppression.
The lives of the two main characters in the book are woven together in a story of faith lost and gained. What is fascinating is how they respond to the injustices. One, Li Quan, the Chinese Christian persecuted in his country in ways that most Christians would find unimaginable, is serene, calm and full of the peace of God. He accepts the persecution, works against it, continually looks at ways to serve God in all situations, but does not anger.
The other, Ben, with his lapsed faith and troubled by addictions, is so impacted by the injustice which, despite his best efforts, he cannot change or influence. But what does change is himself. He is taken through a process that shows him what faith is really all about. That even when faced with death, the promises of Jesus can alleviate any fears.
The concept of life after death is feathered into the story, as the book progresses, along with glimpses as to what heaven may look like. Alcorn’s other important writing in this area, Heaven, was useful reading for my research when writing Beneath the Tamarisk Tree, and it makes sense that this story ends in the heavenly realm.
There is no more fitting end for a character like Li Quan, solid in his faith from generations of prayer and learning, and a lifetime of serving his God with everything he had to give. Safely Home is such a fitting title for both men.