The faithfulness, the tabletop test of faith, and the fidelity of Christians like Pastor Yuan probably has as much to do with the explosive growth of the Church in China as the dramatic miracles that you also hear about because people, even the guards, said, "Boy, what he believes means a lot to him." 

And of course, that is how Christianity took over Rome in the early days where they were throwing believers to the lions, and people were actually volunteering to be martyred because they trusted that what awaits them is more important than what faces them.

CW: Why are you so drawn to the big questions? "Where is God when it hurts?" "Does prayer make any difference?" And now, "What good is God?"

PY: I think these are questions that we all have, but most people have jobs, and they think about these questions every once in a while.  You know, an earthquake in Haiti happens, and they think, "Oh, boy, that is bad.  Why would God allow that?"  That's my job.  My job is to take these questions and take them as far as I can.  It's not something I think about on weekends and every once in a while.  It's something that I feel called to explore. 

I have written about my own faith background, and the church I grew up in was not healthy at all. I was given a lot of sugar-coated answers or false answers to the questions of faith, and I saw how they didn't work.  Ever since then, I have felt obligated to explore them and take them as far as I can. 

CW: What happens when they don't hold, those easy, sugar-coated answers?

PY: Hmm.  I think what happened for me was a real crisis of faith, where I threw it all out, and I think a lot of people do the same.  For example, I am in an organization, the director of which is Francis Collins who headed up the human genome project and wrote The Language of God.   He is quite concerned about how churches do such a bad job of presenting science as, "Science is the enemy, and this is the way the world happened."  Then these students go to a university, and they find out, wait a minute, I've got all of these scientists over here who say, "No, it didn't happen that way at all."  Then it becomes a crisis of faith for them.  So part of what I want to do is try to be authentic and honest, to look at these big questions and look at the Bible and try to come up with something that I can stand by.

CW: You're a journalist by trade, and you use that dynamic well in the book to interview people from all over.  How does spending time with people like Pastor Yuan in such tough, stressful, and tragic situations refine your faith?

PY: I would say "challenge" more than "refine," frankly.  America is one of the few countries where you are not really penalized for being a Christian.  You may even be rewarded, particularly in the Bible-belt South.  You know, you go through the grocery store line and hear, "What church you go to, Honey Child?"  A total stranger will ask you that question.