Christian Book Previews Home
Christian Book Previews
Book Jacket

368 pages
Aug 2004
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights

by Allen D. Hertzke

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


"Today, millions of Christians endure torture and are humiliated for their faith. They are the 'least of our brethren' only in the circumstances in which they find themselves. For in reality, they are the moral giants, the unsung heroes whose faith and courage will be revealed in the life to come." Congressman Chris Smith, p. 140

Allen D. Hertzke reveals some of their story in Freeing God's Children along with the story of their champions. Those champions make up one of the unlikeliest alliances in history: evangelical Christians, Catholics, Jews, some secular human rights groups, and a bewildering array of other groups--from oil executives to Tibetan Buddhists to black social groups to feminist groups, depending on the cause.

Hertzke writes an interesting and scholarly work beginning with a short section on his methodology and motivation. He powerfully and cogently analyzes the resurgence of the global interest in religion which has baffled the secularists who predicted religion's demise and irrelevance. He produces the demographics of the growth of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and South America as an explanation for the increase in persecution.

Chapter two summarizes world persecution and tells the story of the growing concern among evangelicals and Catholics for those suffering for their faith. He includes a few anecdotes from those who have suffered, including Iranian pastor Mehdi Dibaj. The Iranian government imprisoned Dibaj for ten years. During that imprisonment, he wrote to his son: "I have always envied those Christians who all through the church history were martyred for Christ Jesus our Lord. What a privilege to live for our Lord and to die for Him as well." Some time after his release from prison, Dibaj joined those faithful in martyrdom. (p. 60)

Hertzke chronicles the rise of the anti-persecution movement. He explains the ideological differences among those involved that strain the movement's unity but, paradoxically, strengthen the movement's results. Certain Jewish leaders, such as Charles Jacobs of the Anti-Slavery Group and Michael Horowitz, whose political savvy, commitment, and courage earn him a whole chapter, have become vital catalysts to the movement. Evangelical leaders Charles Colson, James Dobson, and Dr. Richard Land have enlisted and educated the evangelical faithful . Congressional leaders such as Frank Wolf and Chris Smith have shepherded legislation through Congress.

The last half of the book recounts the campaigns for human rights, the ups and downs, the struggles and compromises, and the nearly miraculous passing of some of the legislation. Hertzke chronicles the struggles for passage of the International Religious Freedom Act, the Sudan Peace Act, and the anti-trafficking legislation.

Though he does not overtly proclaim God's hand in the passage of the legislation, the reader cannot help but recognize it. More exciting is his analysis of the effectiveness of the legislation in influencing foreign governments, contrary to what the State Department professionals predicted.

A professor of political science and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, Hertzke has been sought out to provide his expert analyses on politics and religion by numerous prestigious news outlets. He combines his scholarship, his interest in the subject, and his experience as a commentator to produce an interesting, authoritative analysis of one of the newest, most powerful, and most effective Christian social movements of our times.

The book contains fifty pages of notes. An appendix includes tables on prominent people in the movement, worldwide adherents of religion, two tables of regional distribution of Christian population, and a list of the members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The index proves helpful also.

Freeing God's Children will appeal to those concerned about the issue of persecution or interested in the movement against persecution itself. Anyone interested in a political career will find the political analysis of the successful alliances helpful. Though not easy reading, it is useful and rewarding.

A quote from Frank Wolf applies to Hertzke too. "If you can't make a difference, why do this?" (p. 135) Allen Hertzke has certainly used his abilities to 'make a difference" with Freeing God's Children. -- Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

For centuries, religious sects around the world have clashed philosophically and often violently over their differing beliefs. For the first time, we are witnessing the joint ventures of various faiths to promote global human rights around the world.

Freeing God's Children provides a detailed account of the nature and impact of this movement, which arises out of the nexus of global religious developments, American church involvement, and national politics. From the mid-1990s onward, successive campaigns by religious leaders have addressed--and continue to press--human rights concerns through the machinery of American foreign policy.

A number of parallel developments have served as a thrust, including a thriving network of American Evangelical domestic organizations, and a shift of global Christianity into the developing world, where many indigenous believers face poverty, violence, exploitation, and persecution. As these two developments connect, the social networks of the evangelical world, historically very conservative, are increasingly focusing on human rights and justice concerns normally associated with more progressive groups.

Freeing God's Children provides a window into the changing religious landscape, at home and abroad. For the past three decades, much American religious commentary has focused on the clash between conservative and liberal religionists over the nation's meaning and direction. In this book we encounter alliances that belie that simplistic dichotomy. Liberal Jewish groups team up with conservative Pentecostals, the Catholic Church with Tibetan Buddhists, Episcopalians with the Salvation Army, black churches with secular activists, feminists with evangelicals. These diverse alliances of "strange bedfellows" illuminate how religious currents around the globe are impinging on American society and politics.

This exploration has something to teach us about the role of transcendent faith in the new millennium. For much of the twentieth century, the dominant view among intellectuals was that modernization brings an inevitable secularization of society, a waning of religious salience. For this reason, top journalists, scholars, and policymakers have been slow to grasp the reach of this new spiritual trend, dismissing the force of religious commitments in people's lives. Developments charted in this book not only challenge this "secularization thesis" but also suggest the need to incorporate the role of faith, particularly global Christianity, into the calculus of human rights around the world.