Living in a Fallen World: A Review of The Shantung Compound by Landon Gilkey

Facing our sinfullness

Many of us don’t like to think we are really capable of any kind of serious sin. Oh, maybe the occasional white lie, or we “borrow” extra paper clips from the office for our personal use. But nothing like murder or stealing. Often this idea that “I’m not so bad – so why do I need a savior?” becomes the question that the non-Christian might ask. Others might like to say that human nature is basically good; it’s the rare bad apple that we hear about in news reports.

An interesting book I read for one of my classes this semester would seem to refute these ideas. Human nature isn’t as wonderful and most of us would like to think. In Landon Gilkey’s The Shantung Compound, we get to experience what it might be like to be in a prison camp. During WWII, all non-Japanese people in North China were held in internment camps during the war against Japan. These people were not treated horribly, but they lived in very difficult conditions, with little food, less space, and the daily potential for real harm. In the Shantung Compound, no one was tortured, some food and aid was provided through various humanitarian agencies, but the difficult conditions (severe weather, very little food, scarce medical supplies) took their toll on the population during the two and half year period they were there.

Time Magazine in a review of the book said, “The camp became a living laboratory, a miniature society that illustrated the human condition and moral dilemmas in a way that would not have been possible had more conventional conditions prevailed.” Landon Gilkey, the author, had been a young teacher and theologian during this time and the book is based on his journals.

What becomes clear is that while humans can be helpful and creative and compassionate at times, when the chips are down, humans care more for themselves than their fellow man. Perhaps this isn’t all that surprising to some, but I discovered that under some circumstances, I might not behave as wonderfully as I would like to believe. There are stories of power struggles over running the kitchen and violence erupting over too little space, Even though many of the people there were Christian missionaries, for the most part, they behaved no better than people who had no faith. Oops. The bottom line is that we are fallen and even the best of us can behave badly. That’s why we need a savior.

The book is an interesting and thought provoking read and an even more fascinating peek into the human condition. Perhaps while you are lounging by the pool this summer, complaining about your day-to-day difficulties, you could take a look at this book. It might convict you and it certainly will make you thankful for what you have.

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Comments 4 comments

thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

terrific fabulous hub read thanks


Marliza Gunter profile image

Marliza Gunter 6 years ago from South Africa

yes...this is so true...just like my viewpoint...its easy to be a Christian and have faith and preach to others when all is going well...house to live in...husband, kids, family...food on the table...no physical violence to deal with...many so called loving and caring friends (while you have money)..and income to spend and then murmur with Jesus.., O Lord, I cant pay my debt..give me more...

these people who believes in God and who loves God even when it looks like God has smitten them and rejected them..who glory in their tribulations...it is they who deserves the most honor like in the story of Job...

God truly sees these people and their grief and tears...Jesus solemnly promised them 100 fold in return for all that they have lost and suffered for His Name...

Jesus holds them high and dear to His heart...


Brad.H 5 years ago

Sounds like an interesting book. It reminds me of the Stanford Prison Experiment done in 1971 by Zimbardo. For those of you who aren't familiar with the incident, things got slightly out of hand and the ease with which humans slide into committing sins became apparent. It truly is a disturbing case. It also reminds me of a book named "Humanity" by Jonathan Glover. The book basically works through the tragedies of the 20th century and attempts to identify the source- declining religion. It's a fascinating read that I would highly recommend.

Anyways- I digress.. Thank you for the hub; it was a great reminder to me that I need God in my life. I completely agree that we need a savior because of the Fall. Thank you.


deedee throop 5 years ago

Hey Brad, You are learning so much. We "Christians" don't need a reminder we are sinners. It's the rest of the world that thinks they're pretty good and don't need a Saviour.

I sin everyday, and I need Jesus everyday. Keep your arms and heart outstretched to Him and by being connected to the only Saviour, you will joyfully live this life.

Hey want to give your testimony this Sun. night at Youth Group?

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