Ting Guo reviews Jennifer Lin’s Shanghai Faithful
Legendary preacher and religious rebel Watchman Nee is often thought of simply as someone who denounced denominationalism as a sin and advocated a radical separation from Western missions. When viewed through the personal lens of his grand-niece Jennifer Lin, he becomes something very different: a fashionable young man who loved racecars, was a world-traveler, and collected Life Magazine and Reader’s Digest.
Jennifer Lin starts her book with a question: how did the Lin family become Christians? She begins with her great great-grandfather, who worked as a cook for a household of Anglican missionaries in Fuzhou, the affluent capital of Fujian province. Following the defeat of the Qing in the Opium Wars of the mid-19th century, Fuzhou became one of a handful of “treaty ports” where Westerners were given special privileges to trade and prosthelytize. The cook’s son — Lin’s great grandfather — proved particularly bright, and received a modern education that changed his life. He became a doctor, allowing his son, Lin Pu-chi — Lin’s grandfather — to attend St. John’s University in Shanghai. At St. John’s, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Republic of China who “stirred the hearts of the Chinese people like no one before” spoke to Lin Pu-chi’s class. “The basis of a democratic country is education,” the revolutionary said. “Give unto others what you have received,” Sun exhorted the students. “Let your light shine.”