Wednesday, August 6, 2008
China Welcomes all People Except...
You have heard by now that Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheeck has been denied a visa to attend the Beijing Olympics this week because of his outspoken concern for the Darfur region of Sudan, which is systematically and gradually being force-converted to Islam by the Janjaweed militia. Or more humorously, you've heard of the incident where athletes arrived at the Beijing airport with black masks, purportedly to protect them from the cities' notorious air polution.
But it may surprise you to find that Christian citizens of the People's Republic of China are not only being denied any access to the Olympics, but have been forced from their own homes and expelled from Beijing by Chinese police altogether. One Christian named Shi Weihan, was recently arrested and is currently dying in police custody. His crime? He owns a Christian bookstore, and although he has registered it with the government, his mistake is that he is suspected of distributing illegal publications that they do not want to be found at the 2008 Olympics. You don't have to rack your brain long to figure out what devious publication these might be.
Another, Hua Huiqi, who is a Christian rights advocate, had the front door of his home smashed open with hammers and all of his furniture thrown onto the street as China's way of saying, "you are the dirt that must be cleaned up before for the Olympic games can begin." He and many others have been relocated elsewhere. For more recent news on these incidents, a good website is: www.compassdirect.org.
All of this is taking place as Bush hob-nobs with Chinese officials in Beijing and planning to visit the proud, state-run church this Sunday. I would love to hear the eloquent sermon preached at this Chinese approved, state-run church. Every word of which will no doubt receive praise and nodding approval from the same government that is simultaneously incarcerating thousands of Christians nationwide for no other reason than that their sermons weren't so eloquent. Probably because they included the praise of one vulgar man, Jesus Christ, who embarrassingly does not meet government approval.
As a Christian, the question you must ask is, how should I react to this? Below, you will see that I have laid out five ways a Christian should respond to this issue biblically. The easiest thing to do will be to turn on the tube and enjoy the Olympics as countless other Americans will be doing. Will it be too fanatical to speak a word of criticism? Will it be too much for you to spoil everyone else's fun by saying a word to show disgust at the fallen world stage, which by their silence in the face of blatant human rights abuses, embarrassingly reveals that they are much concerned about being liked by the fastest growing world power than they are those who are unjustly having every freedom stripped away.
Proverbs 17:15 tells us plainly that to justify those who commit ungodly acts and to condemn the just is an abomination to the Lord. To “justify” means to give “approval.” But we live in a subtle, new world that Solomon couldn’t have envisioned, don’t we? Many of us gladly listen to the name of God being blasphemed as we recline in our living rooms. Yet confusingly, we would beat our kids senseless to hear them saying the very same things and would immediately order anyone else out of our homes. Are we schizoids or is this just good ol’ Twenty-first century Christianity? A Christianity Solomon just didn’t foresee.
Many of you will feel the adrenaline rush you have always felt when watching athletes and governments from all over the world gather together in unity. Only this time they gather to pour millions into the pockets of a nation that has brutally martyred Christians, Buddhists and many other religious people groups in ways some of us are too lazy to so much as pick up a book and read about; persecution that stretches all the way back to the Boxer Rebellion more than a century ago. And yet if the same thing happened in our own neighborhood we would bravely take up arms to their defense. Or so we hope.
When Jesse Owens competed during the 1936 Olympics in Germany, few people had any knowledge of the atrocities that were already being planned against the Jews. But we Christians today do not have the same comfort of ignorance. We have an obligation not to fall into the easy road of mindless, Orwellian group-think that most other Americans have indifferently resigned themselves to.
Please hear me well. I am not saying that Christians should ostracize themselves from the 2008 Olympics. Nor am I saying that we should not watch the Olympics. (Gasp! Most would think it unconscionable).
However, if you can watch it without any discomfort; without any conviction to speak on the behalf of persecuted Christians, you are either part of China’s wild fetish with sadomasochism, or you are not a Christian at all. Actually, both choices seem to fit into the “not a Christian at all” category don’t they?
I hope that with the following words I can justify such a bold indictment.
What Should I As a Christian Do?
Let me give some biblical precedent for how I believe a Christian should respond to the mindless conformity that most Americans will adhere to during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that it seems to be as much discomfort for an American not to be liked as it is for a Chinese Christian to be ejected into the streets.
All of us as Christians feel this pressure and therefore the temptation is to shut-up and do nothing; to indifferently go along with the multitude when Moses commands us not to follow a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2; this verse speaks specifically of following the multitude in perverting justice and condemning a poor and righteous man). Hence, Christians must be willing to do something that may cause them not to be liked if they are going to separate themselves from the multitude and go against the fad of the day.
First, the Bible commands us to pray for those who are being persecuted (Hebrews 13:3). We should pray that God will give Chinese Christians boldness to speak the Word in the face of prison and death. This is what the Christians of the first church in Jerusalem did when they went door-to-door with blood dripping down their backs after being beaten, preaching the same message they were arrested for preaching in the first place, and rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s name (Acts 4:29, 5:17-42). Yep! We would call these people fanatics.
Second, we have an obligation to rouse other Christians to “remember those who suffer bonds as being bound also ourselves with them” (Hebrews 13:3). There is no way possible we can be comfortable watching the Olympics when many Christians have been ejected from their homes in order to make Beijing a friendly place for the Olympics. Some, such as Shi Weihan, are languishing at death’s door in prison simply because they are the Christian dirt that had to be cleaned up before the games can begin.
I Corinthians 12:26 confirms this attitude of solidarity by telling us that if one member of the body of Christ suffers, all the members should suffer with it. Can we belt a shout of “go go go” to the American runner with all the gusto we can muster when we know the unjust suffering Christians have sustained paving the way for it to take place?
Third, Don not wear a political agenda as a fashion statement. We cannot be so deluded as to think that because we put a bumper sticker on our car that says “FREE TIBET” we are somehow helping to free Tibet, especially when we cannot even point to it on the map as many in this category have ironically proven to be the case. What this scenario reveals is that many Americans find it fashionable to sport a political view that is the current rave. They often cannot tell you any details to prove they even know what they are talking about. But it’s popular in Hollywood to jump on a cause such as, “Free Tibet” when Buddhists in Tibet are still being converted into fertilizer. We must be careful not to insult Christians in China by wearing their cause as a fashion statement in order to be thought “cool” or “smart.”
Fourth, Study! That’s right! Study up on the issues confronting Christians all over the world so that you can properly pray for them, and so you can properly inform others on how to pray for the persecuted church as well as raise awareness on their behalf.
Remember the sons of Issachar in the Old Testament. They were praised because they were men who understood the culture and political currents of the time in which they lived and were faithful to keep Israel informed (I Chronicles 12:32). Oh, how we need the sons of Issachar today who will be willing to think, and overcome the blind-spots that everyone else is unaware of.
Fifth, be angry as God is angry. Wait a minute! Christians are supposed to have a huge smile pasted on their faces at all times, right? You might be surprised to find that the Bible presents God as angry at the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11). Nothing repulses the heart of God more than our rebellion and sin. Revelation 3:14-17 even pictures God as so nauseated by our sin that it causes Him to vomit. This is hardly a fat, dump and happy smile isn’t it?
What about the Christian? Psalm 15:4 says that the one who dwells with God is one who is angry at evil doers just as God is angry, and is one who honors those that fear the Lord. This should cause us to question who we set up for our children as role-models. Do you respect those that fear the Lord or are you instead excited by those that blaspheme?
Do not misunderstand God’s anger against evil-doers. This does not mean you do not love evil doers, as we all were ourselves. We should remember that we too are sinners and must pray that God will have mercy on other sinners just as He had mercy on us (Lamentations 3:22-23).
This anger simply means that you have a heart for God; you despise the sin of evil doers even as God Himself despises such evil. Fellowship with God cannot go unbroken when His law is so shamelessly broken by all men (Psalm 5:3-5).
We live in an age when everything no matter how sacred, is stripped of any sacred meaning and reduced to a joke or a skit to be laughed at on our favorite variety show. Christians have to see this blind-spot of de-sacralization in American culture and be counted as separate (II Corinthians 6:14-17).
By all means, we should laugh at entertainment that is honoring to God, although we may have a hard time finding it. But we can no longer laugh at evildoers as we have been so used to doing almost every time we have turned on the television set. We must be those who will join the heart of God in rejoicing not at iniquity, but who will instead rejoice at the truth (I Corinthians 13:6).
People will know what you care about not based on some dry, dusty belief that you rarely, if ever talk about. They can only know what you care about based on your passion. They know what subjects cause your face to light up like a child’s. They also know what subjects cause your brow to furrow in disgust.
In short, you must rejoice at what is good and be repulsed by what is evil for good and evil to have any meaning at all (Hebrews 1:9, this is Christ’s example). In fact, when people see that you rejoice at what is good and are repulsed by what is evil, you will accurately reveal to them the heart of Christ because He does the same. By expressing disgust at evil, you will reveal His heart more accurately than you ever could by simply pasting that huge greasy grin on your face like so many Christians do in order not to offend. If we are not repulsed by evil how can we expect sinners to be convicted of evil? (I’ve been accused of having a greasy grin myself so don’t feel so bad).
Please do not misunderstand what this admonition is about. These thoughts are not intended to ban the Olympics. You can watch the Olympics and celebrate the athlete without celebrating the country that is hosting the athlete. However, you cannot watch it and be silent, and for you to choose not to watch it may be such a willing alteration of plans on your part that those around you will know you are serious.
Are you going to follow Christ’s example during the 2008 Olympics or will you mindlessly follow the multitude? Will you to call China out as being the fox that it is even as Christ did to the ruling king of His own day for his debauchery (Luke 12:32)?
Pray for God’s grace! Pray for His grace because you can only follow this bold example if it is Christ who animates you (Hebrews 6:3).