The Bible or the Axe

I realize I don’t have anything very quippy to add to the title of the book I’m reviewing, but there we are.

I met William Levi at the Father-Son camp in downstate Illinois when he was a featured speaker. I was attracted to him, as I am attracted to all African ex-pats, but his story was surprisingly moving. The Bible or the Axe is his memoir of an interesting childhood and a gripping escape from Sudan.

William’s education is as an engineer, and it shows in the writing. It can be dry and pedantic, and of course he’s dealing with multiple variables of racism and culture as he’s writing cross-culturally. Nevertheless, the further I got into the book, the tighter the prose became, and I was hooked into the narrative as things got personally interesting for him — particularly during his escape from Sudan.

This book is a great reminder for Christians that our citizenship is in heaven, and that every decision we take here will affect our witness for that Kingdom, whose King is the Prince of Peace. Levi had an opportunity to live that struggle in a very personal way, but not just under the jihadi rulers of Sudan. It played out differently among secularized Christians in Egypt, and with American college students who unwittingly mocked his “easy” life.

It’s also a good book for people who want to see the reality of life under jihad, especially for someone whose experience of it greatly precedes 9/11. I found it encouraging, considering some of the anti-theism and anti-Christianity that seems to be growing in parts of our society. While it seems far-fetched right now, the days may not be so far off before we are called upon to make some similar choices to those faced by William Levi.

In all, I think it’s a worthwhile read, although the early chapters dragged a bit, and he can be “preachy” at times. For this last element, it’s usually when he’s decided to tell, instead of show, his point. In other words, the point is valid, but it would be better for him to trust the reader to get it from his narrative.

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