A Miraculous Faith

In 1926, James Allan Francis wrote that all the armies, navies, parliaments, and kings "put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life." Those words about Jesus have been quoted so often that they have lost much of their impact. That's a pity because Christianity's influence over two thousand years is nothing short of miraculous. A good place to start regaining the wonder is the upcoming series The Jesus Experience. The eight-part series, which airs on the Hallmark Channel, tells viewers how the Gospel transformed both individual lives and societies wherever it was proclaimed. The first segment, "Jesus in the Roman Empire," recounts the story of Christianity's journey from being an offshoot of Judaism to the religion of the empire. Paul's mission to the Gentiles did indeed turn the world upside down. Much of what the world believes about equality, love, and human dignity can be traced back to the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. An important example of this influence is on display in the episode "Jesus in North America." Viewers are told by historians such as Randall Balmer that American notions of equality, democracy, and even American identity were the products of the First Great Awakening. What people learned from preachers like George Whitefield "reverberated" in our War for Independence. The impact of the Second Great Awakening was even more pronounced. The revivals and mass conversions of the early nineteenth century produced the abolitionist, suffrage, and other reform movements. Christianity's impact isn't limited to places where Christians form the majority. In the segment "Jesus in Asia" we learn that although Christians comprise only 3 percent of India's population, "their effect has been extraordinarily broad." Christians have taken the lead in areas like women's education, health care, and promoting equality for all Indians. In fact, in a sense, India owes its independence to Christianity. It was from reading the Sermon on the Mount that Gandhi came up with the idea of non-violent resistance. That's why the only picture hanging in his home was one of Jesus. Another Asian country whose independence is largely owed to Christianity is Korea. For the first 140 years of Christian presence there, Christians were persecuted and often martyred. By the time Japan occupied Korea in 1910, only 1 percent of Koreans were Christians, often worshipping in secret. Yet, it was mostly Christians like Ahn Chang-Ho who were the "architects" of Korean independence and who led the resistance to Japanese rule. They endured arrest, torture, and even crucifixion to secure its freedom. Today, Korea has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world thanks, in part, to their legacy. What happened in North America and Asia happened throughout the world. In an era when Christianity is being portrayed as irrelevant or even negative, Christians need to hear the stories told on The Jesus Experience. This series runs on the Hallmark Channel every Sunday from March 9 through April 13. So forget about the networks. Get your friends, gather them around the TV, and watch what is -- surprising for television -- a great apologetic for the Christian faith. For further reading and information: Visit the Hallmark Channel website for show times of The Jesus Experience. It is also available on DVDand video. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2002). Philip Jenkins, "The 'Strange' New Christianity," Beliefnet, 11 February 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 020717, "Earning a Second Look: The New Christian Internationalism." BreakPoint Commentary No. 020718, "Jesus Shall Reign: Global Christianity."


Chuck Colson


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