Thursday, November 6, 2008
Was that not awesome?! It moved me to tears. Be thinking about this as you await my next post. The Gospel was just as important before the election, but the election has definitely opened my eyes to the need for real "change." I hope you learn as much from it as me.
Friday, October 31, 2008
A Pilgrim at Peace
Ok. I confess. I’m an addict. I am addicted to politics. Every day, I often do school until noon and then take my lunch break listening to Rush Limbaugh. After lunch, I finish my school in time to listen to Shawn Hannity and Mark Levin. My mind is dominated by politics—and the constant immersion in the mud pit that is Election 2008 has left me drowning.
I am constantly daydreaming about what I would say to that House Speaker, that presidential candidate, that party, or that Congress if I ever had the chance to give them a piece of my mind. The state of the union has not just been dominating my mind, however. It’s been weighing it down.
As a Christian, I fear the direction that the country is going—and not just in the paranoid, doomsday socialism/loss of freedom light. America is rapidly turning into a modern day manifestation of the Pilgrim’s Progress city Vanity Fair. No one need look farther than the political scene to see this. However, on the possibly more alarming ideological note, Christianity is rapidly losing favor in the eyes of the populous, some radicals in academia terming it “intellectual terrorism” (courtesy of a scientist interviewed in Ben Stein’s Expelled, in reference to teaching Christianity to children).
I am addicted—and there needs to be an intervention. I need—perhaps we all need—a change in perspective.
In the tribute to faith section of the epistle to the Hebrews, we read, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). How can we do that when so much in America is looking bad for the Christian? Two chapters before, we read that “the just shall live by faith” ( Hebrews 10:38).
By faith, Abraham left the great and prosperous America of his day and set out on a journey, not knowing where he was going, but trusting God (Hebrews 11:8). He confessed that he was but a stranger and pilgrim on the earth (11:13). Can we learn from his example? Certainly.
The times are truly dark. To me, the American dream hangs by a thread. All the freedoms that our Founding Fathers fought for—and we take for granted—are on a shifting and unsound foundation. I worry for my grandchildren. However, Abraham teaches us this: this world was not his home. Neither is it ours. Here are some things that we too often forget.
Firstly, as just said, this world is not our home. Abraham looked “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). So should we. Abraham, as Paul in Philippians 3, recognized this and gave up all for God and Christ. Abraham even more, did not receive the promise in his lifetime.
Secondly, although I love this country and hate to see its downturn, we are commanded, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (I John 2:15). Abraham did not esteem his country over God’s and trusted God to fulfill his promise. America is temporary, not eternal. “The world is passing away” (I John 2:17).
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly: God is in control. We often forget that we are still blessed more than anyone ever has been in history—and everything we do have is a gift from God in the first place. No matter where we fear things are going, however, we read that God raises up leaders and brings them down (various passages). We read that all things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). We read that God will supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). Abraham, Paul, and all our “great cloud of witnesses” recognized this. So should we.
Don’t misunderstand. This by no means authorizes us to be Corinthian Christians: to quit our jobs and do nothing but wait for Jesus. We can love our country and care about it. We can stand up for what is right, as our responsibility is in being salt and light—aided greatly by the voice we have in a free country. We are also instructed to be preaching the Gospel and living and serving—not sitting or, in my case, sulking—for the glory of God.
Let none of us forget, however, that God is sovereign and everything is in His hands. Let none of us forget that America won’t last forever and that what happens to America has no bearing on eternity. Let us also not forget that we are looking forward to something much better.
This world is not our home. We are “just passing through.” Let it be said of us as it was said of Abraham and his family: “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Young and old around the world have gained lifelong memories from these Olympics as the events in Beijing draw to a close. China put on the most extravagant show in Olympic history at the opening ceremonies in the midst of an Olympic complex that is architecturally one of a kind. History has been made in Michael Phelps feat of eight gold medals, beating Mark Spitz's record. The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has also captured the world's attention with his current three golds and three world records.
However, all of the Olympic flair has overshadowed the more sinister events that have been going on behind the scenes. Little is said now of the thousands who were forced from their homes to make way for Olympic complex. Other incidences that point to the same old communist China have also come to light even as the Olympics have begun. the faked fireworks and lip-syncing in the opening ceremonies and the alleged underage gold medal gymnastics team are just a couple of the examples.
China had to make several promises in order to gain the right to host the Olympics -- most if not all of which have not been kept. Thick smog still floats over the city, restrictions are in place on the press, and, more importantly, the human rights situation has not improved. 
Previously on the blog I posted my term paper on the persecution of Christians in China. This is a follow-up post detailing many of the problems that have been overlooked because of the Olympics. I would have posted before the Olympics, but I got lazy.
On August 6th, two days before the Olympics, President Bush addressed China from Thailand, condemning their human rights record and urging them to allow freedom in its country.  China, however, did not take kindly to his blunt remarks, diplomatically telling him to shut up and stating that "Chinese citizens have freedom of religion. These are indisputable facts." 
Many of China's Christians and various other groups in China would dispute this fact, and rightfully so. Bob Fu, a former prisoner for having church services at his house and now founder of the China Aid Association, testified of this on the national radio talk show with "Mancow" Muller. Every indication, he said, points to the fact that China is using the Olympics as a political show with Mr. Muller later pointing to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Over two million people still live in the labor camps, Fu says. 
Despite attempted Chinese cover ups, the evidence does point to the fact that the situation has in fact worsened instead of improved. Bridget Johnson, journalistic blogger for About.com, noted that the IOC gave the Chinese a job, to organize "a secure Olympics." The way the Communist government defines and does things, they did exactly what they were told to do. Over the months leading up to these Olympics, we find numerous examples of this. 
- According to Voice of the Martyrs, on July 2nd in Beijing, house church leader Hua Huiqi and his family were evicted from their apartment. The police broke down the door with a 10 pound hammer, beat Hua's brother who was there, and left the family, including Hua's 90-year-old father, on the street with their furniture. Although another Christian family took them in, VOTM reported that the authorities had considered detaining him until the end of September to keep him and other "troublemakers" (i.e., religious "activists") off the streets during the games. 
- On July 4th, a pastor in the Shangdong province was sentenced to two years of Re-education Through Labor (the labor camps) for his extensive and God honoring ministry in a "cult." 
- On August 6th, the day of President Bush's afore mentioned speech and a week after President Bush himself met with Bob Fu of the China Aid Association on the Tuesday prior and accepted one of the Voice of the Martyrs "Pray for China" prayer bands from him, the inspiration for those prayer bands was arrested in China. Pastor Zhang “Bike” Mingxuan was arrested while trying to deliver medicine to his ailing wife. His wife and another pastor were also arrested. Pastor "Bike" has driven over 10,000 miles on his bike preaching the gospel in 24 different provinces. China is opening an investigation on the prayer bands that were distributed in house churches in China. 
In the first week of June, Operation Mobilization China, received an unexpected letter. The earthquake relief team that was started by a small group of believers a month earlier with the help the international Christian organization Operation Mobilization, received an official letter stamped by the Chinese government requesting them to build a temporary school in Meishan city for 420 middle school students. Praise God! 
They were excited, but they didn't know what to do. There was somewhat of a catch, you see. They had less than 30 days to raise an estimated $73,500, gather the materials, and complete the building. They decided to take the matter to the Lord. God confirmed to them that they were to trust him. As Lawrence Tong, one of the members of Operation Mobilization with the relief group there in China, said, "Unless the LORD intervenes, we are bound to fail."  They trusted the Lord, however, and what happened next could only be described as a miracle.
Mr. Tong wrote this in a July 3rd update of the relief work:
Praise God. Within a short two weeks 83% of the total building project fund was received from friends in the US, Singapore and a third came from the brothers and sisters in China. A contract was signed with the building materials supplier who gave us a 20%-discount despite rising prices (due to high demand and teir receiving many huge government contracts). Next, the LORD led us to a professional construction who volunteered to manage the entire project for us from beginning to end - FREE of charge! 
They started with nothing. No know-how in construction, no money--nothing but a simple permit from the government. "With God all things are possible." —Matthew 19:26 Construction began on July 1st -- one week before their deadline -- and everyone worked very hard. By the end of the first day, one of the classroom buildings was completed.
The rest of needed money came in because the Lord is good and the city officials took note of their work. Mr. Tong wrote, "As one official publicly acknowledged the 'good work from the Christians', he also mentioned that the Christians have come to defend the needy . . . in their distress. Little did he realize that he was quoting Scripture." 
What a miracle! Focusing on the Chinese government and how they do business, how they deceive the world, and how they persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ, can really get one down. I know it did me. However, just writing this article and reviewing this awesome story just shared, I am reminded to look at the world through God's eyes. God is in complete control! He cares about China and He is at work there in mighty ways! What a blessing to know that He has a plan. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" ~Mark 9:24
 Various Voice of the Martyrs e-mail updates since the beginning of July.
 The mentioned earthquake relief update from Lawrence Tong.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
A full recap of my trip can be found on my personal blog (link on side). There are pictures as well and more will be coming.
Off on a rather obscure part of the wooded
A Brief History
Fraught with protest from every side, Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis finally realized their dream in May of 2007. After choosing Kentucky because of its relatively close proximity to two-thirds of America's population, the museum took seven years -- and $25 million dollars of private money -- to build after the imaginations of Ken Ham and so many others were finally put in concrete form. As Ham told a local radio show host, he wanted "something using
cutting-edge technology, something as good as what the secular world could do, so Christians could have something first class and professional that helps people understand that science actually confirms the Bible's history." 
Numerous protests were held involving the museum over the course of its construction. The media especially was harsh leading up to the opening, practically ridiculing the museum in many of its articles. Whether the protests were on site, in the media, or by other mediums (such as the banner that was flown overhead on opening day reading, "Defcon says, 'Thou shalt not lie.'"), Ken Ham and AiG never ceased to fight on for what they believed in. Even amidst the ridicule and the sound of honking horns from approving motorists of the protests outside, the truth won the day. 
Did Ken Ham accomplish his dream? Did it live up to the hype? Was it worth a 10 hour drive to see it? It most certainly was.
Highlights of the Museum
The adventure for the museum goer starts right as soon as one walks in the door, with the long lines to sign in and buy tickets for certain events scheduled for the day. After that obstacle is hurdled, however, one embarks on an awe inspiring journey into another world, starting right after a green screen picture (see the two to the right. I'm in the back row/middle wearing the red Rebelution shirt).
This new world contains many different things to see and do whether it be the recline-and-watch Stargazers Planetarium, the special effects theater (complete with water squirting devices in the seat backs in front of you), or outside in the botannical gardens and petting zoo surrounded by waterfalls, exotic plants, and rope bridges. Once one does all this -- gathers loads of information from shows, displays of fossils, and other treasures; takes a leisurely stroll through the gardens; and/or takes a break with a snack by the lake -- one can just about think he has done all he can do.
Oh, but that's not the half of it! There is still hours of exhibits to go through. That's the best part!
The pièce de résistance of the museum's exhibits, is the Walk Through Biblical History. Knowledge seekers are taken on a journey through the Seven C's of History: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consummation. Tourists are first introduced to the two points of view: creation and evolution. Then important questions are raised in sections about human suffering and corruption, pictures crossing the line to graphic at times. The museum goer is then taken through section after section of Biblical history and ultimately how it answers those questions that we as human beings have: "Where did I come from?" "Is there meaning to it all?" "Where did suffering come from?" "How can it be fixed?" Patrons get a view of the Garden of Eden, a life-sized replica of a portion of Noah's ark, and many other things along the way (including a rather creepy animatronic Methuselah that talks).
The wonders of God's creation are at the fingertips of patrons in the museum in the Walk Through Biblical History, various theaters, and other exhibits scattered around the museum grounds such as the Dinosaur Den, an exhibit devoted solely to dinosaurs -- and not from "millions of years."
The sights were really too many describe. However, starting in the lobby and the huge welcome room dotted with animatronic dinosaurs playing alongside children (we were both created on the sixth day you know), there is one thing that stands out above all the rest: Scripture. Even after being taken hundreds of light years away in the planetarium and experiencing a show in the special effects theater (I never got used to getting water sprayed in my face in the scenes from the Flood), one of the biggest things that stood out is the Scripture at every turn.
The Importance of It All
Yes. Scripture is everywhere. It's on the walls, it's on the bags for the book store, it's in the exhibits, and even on the water bottles for sale. Scientists have vilified the museum for participating in religious indoctrination, for deliberately misinforming children, and a for being a complete joke as a scientific museum. I would argue differently. This museum is about science. It's about history. However, the first few chapters of Genesis, let alone the rest of Biblical history, make no sense without the Gospel. All of history centers around Christ -- and so does the museum, ultimately.
I was greatly encouraged by the enormous importance the museum gave to giving the whole picture. They held nothing back, knowing the criticism that would come from it. The museum portrays a pure, unwatered down view of Biblical history. The final section of the walk through is The Last Adam Theater, showing a powerful presentation of the last three C's: Christ, Cross, and Consummation. It was the most uplifting thing about the whole museum. They were unafraid to give the Gospel in its full truth and potency.
This is extremely important for unbelievers and will undoubtedly be used by Holy Spirit in the coming years. However, it is also important for believers. To sit in the planetarium and be transported light years through the galaxies and see the huge scope of it all -- and then to walk through and see God at work through history and see His love for His creation: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psalm 8:4). To see the vast scope of it all has put a new perspective to virtually every time I look around and look up at the stars at night.
Yes, the Creation Museum has undergone all kinds of ridicule, criticism, and all out attack over the years. The Cincinnati Post made it known that they are afraid the museum will hurt Cincinnati's marketability to businesses, others implying that the museum would hurt the city's hard earned reputation as an educated community. However, the museum has also been a great blessing. The press hasn't been all bad, even in the liberal media (the New York Times article is actually pretty good, given the author's worldview). The museum is an uplifting place for Christians in an age where Christ is scoffed.
In short, the Creation Museum for Christians is a place to strengthen one's faith and exercise one's mind. And for non-Christians, it is perhaps a place to ask questions and explore new ways of thinking.
Yes. Ken Ham accomplished his dream -- and he pulled it off on a grand, God-honoring scale.
Sources cited and read while writing:
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Wed Jun 18,
The girl had taken her father to Quebec Superior Court after he refused to allow her to go on a school trip for chatting on websites he tried to block, and then posting "inappropriate" pictures of herself online using a friend's computer.
The father's lawyer Kim Beaudoin said the disciplinary measures were for the girl's "own protection" and is appealing the ruling.
"She's a child," Beaudoin told AFP. "At her age, children test their limits and it's up to their parents to set boundaries."
"I started an appeal of the decision today to reestablish parental authority, and to ensure that this case doesn't set a precedent," she said. Otherwise, said Beaudoin, "parents are going to be walking on egg shells from now on."
"I think most children respect their parents and would never go so far as to take them to court, but it's clear that some would and we have to ask ourselves how far this will go."
According to court documents, the girl's Internet transgression was just the latest in a string of broken house rules. Even so, Justice Suzanne Tessier found her punishment too severe.
Beaudoin noted the girl used a court-appointed lawyer in her parents' 10-year custody dispute to launch her landmark case against dear old dad.
Take a look at the world for a moment. What bothers you about it?
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
God is in control of this messed up world.
Friday, June 27, 2008
P.S. By the way ... WALL-E is HILARIOUS!! Not to mention those awesome Pixar shorts. I've seen it twice now. :D
P.S. II. I feel sorry for you guys ... but keep telling yourself that the trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua only lasts a couple of minutes. If you do that, you'll be just fine. :-)
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton says his latest film isn't about the environment or obesity. It's about relationships | Megan Basham
With its first feature-length film in 1995, Toy Story, Pixar changed the face of children's entertainment in Hollywood. Its innovative 3-D computer animation not only looked different, it told stories with a depth and humor that appealed to adults almost as much as kids.
As the second animator hired by the studio, Andrew Stanton has been a constant force in shaping the creative direction of the studio's productions. He has done so to amazing success. Finding Nemo, which Stanton wrote and directed, stands as the highest-grossing G-rated film of all time. Of the top 10 films in that category, Stanton, now vice-president of Pixar's creative division, was writer, director, or producer on five.
With his latest film, WALL•E, about to hit theaters, the Christian filmmaker sat down with WORLD.
WORLD: Pixar has built a reputation not only for innovative visuals but for original storytelling with Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and others. How have you managed to maintain your integrity in a field that is famous for making lazy grabs at parents' wallets?
STANTON: When Toy Story came out the media was making such a big deal about the technology, but what we were really interested in was the story. At the time everybody thought that the only way you could do an animated movie was to make it a musical fairy tale. We set out to prove that animation is not a genre, it's a medium that can be anything it wants to be like any other movie.
And we've worked very hard to keep Pixar a director-driven studio where each of our films is conceived, inspired, and executed by a singular vision. I think that ensures it will be art first and a product second. It's a lot harder to make a good movie when you try to make a product first with a little bit of art in it.
WORLD: How does WALL•E represent your singular vision?
STANTON: Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that's not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world's programming. You've got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.
With the human characters I wanted to show that our programming is the routines and habits that distract us to the point that we're not really making connections to the people next to us. We're not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.
WORLD: The depiction of humanity is pretty stark in this movie.
STANTON: Well, when I started outlining humanity in the story, I asked myself: What if everything you needed to survive—health care, food—was taken care of and you had nothing but a perpetual vacation to fill your time? What if the result of all that convenience was that all your relationships became indirect—nobody's reaching out to each other? A lot of people have suggested that I was making a comment on obesity. But that wasn't it, I was trying to make humanity big babies because there was no reason for them to grow up anymore.
WORLD: Now that you mention people misconstruing your intentions, how do you feel about reports that WALL•E is an environmental movie?
STANTON: People made this connection that I never saw coming with the environmental movement, and that's not what I was trying to do. I was just using the circumstances of people abandoning the Earth because it's filled with garbage as a way to tell my story.
I always knew that I wanted WALL•E to be digging through trash for two reasons: One, I wanted him to be the lowest on the totem pole. It's a janitorial job; it's the saddest, lowest status amongst his kind; and it just makes him that much more of a lonely guy. Two, trash is really visual. Even the littlest kid understands when there's stuff in the way and it needs to be picked up, so I didn't need to spend time explaining his job. And then I just reverse-engineered from there, "OK, if there's trash everywhere, how did it get there?"
WORLD: As someone who is completely freaked out by rats, I was amazed that in Ratatouille you managed to make rats lovable. Now, in WALL•E, you've done something even more amazing—you've made cockroaches loveable!
STANTON: [Laughing] Yeah, we [the animators] took that as a personal challenge. We said, let's not even design it cute—we'll make it look like a real cockroach and we'll still make it cute! I'm glad you think we succeeded.
Living to serve, learning to love
You have to hand it to Pixar. Since Woody and Buzz Lightyear first charmed audiences in Toy Story, the studio has consistently managed to create characters that are imaginative, intelligent, and hugely popular. Despite the vast sums its movies gross, Pixar has yet to give in to the temptation to churn out a quick copy of a past hit to turn an even quicker buck. Instead, from The Incredibles to Ratatouille, each of its productions feels like a carefully considered original. WALL•E, which hits theaters on June 27, is no exception.
In the last few years, animated movies have been characterized by a kind of hyper-wordplay with the most frenetic comedic actors filling the main roles (think Shrek, Happy Feet, or, most recently, Kung-Fu Panda). Director and screenwriter Andrew Stanton takes WALL•E in a completely different direction. Throughout the film, the last little robot on an abandoned Earth says no more than a handful of words (though he says those few many, many times). Instead, as a near-genius score plays in the background, WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) communicates almost entirely with facial expressions and movement.
Even when he meets EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), and leaves Earth to follow her to a densely populated cruise ship in space, the film's reliance on physicality rather than on words doesn't change. At times, as the little trash compactor interacts with a delightful array of robots—each manifesting its own unique personality with whirrs and tilts—WALL•E plays like a new breed of silent film.
Another quintessential Pixar quality is how complex its themes tend to be compared to most kids' entertainment. Not many animated movies are told from the perspective of the parent, like Finding Nemo, rather than child. Nor have many championed achievement rather than fairness, like The Incredibles. And though on the surface WALL•E looks like it's selling the easiest, trendiest message going today—environmentalism—it's too smart for that.
True, the foundation for the story is that humanity has left the planet heaped in garbage. But far weightier themes—like how technology distances us from the wonder of creation and how that distance cripples us spiritually—play a bigger role. In fact, if Stanton criticizes people for anything, it's for worship of leisure. Because they live to be cared for rather than to care, the few human beings WALL•E meets have become, to use Stanton's words, giant babies—literally feeding on milk rather than solid food. In contrast, WALL•E, the meek little trash collector, accepts stewardship in a way that people have rejected. And because love springs from service, he comes to love the creatures that inhabit Earth. That's not an environmental message, it's a biblical one. —
Copyright © 2008 WORLD Magazine
June 28, 2008, Vol. 23, No. 13
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
| Home-schoolers threaten our cultural comfort |
by Sonny Scott
6/8/2008 9:39:01 AM
You see them at the grocery, or in a discount store.
It's a big family by today’s standards - "just like stair steps," as the old folks say. Freshly scrubbed boys with neatly trimmed hair and girls with braids, in clean but unfashionable clothes follow mom through the store as she fills her no-frills shopping list.
There's no begging for gimcracks, no fretting, and no threats from mom. The older watch the younger, freeing mom to go peacefully about her task.
You are looking at some of the estimated 2 million children being home schooled in the
Home schooling parents are usually better educated than the norm, and are more likely to attend worship services. Their motives are many and varied. Some fear contagion from the anti-clericalism, coarse speech, suggestive behavior and hedonistic values that characterize secular schools. Others are concerned for their children’s safety. Some want their children to be challenged beyond the minimal competencies of the public schools. Concern for a theistic world view largely permeates the movement.
Indications are that home schooling is working well for the kids, and the parents are pleased with their choice, but the practice is coming under increasing suspicion, and even official attack, as in
Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much?
Methinks American middle-class people are uncomfortable around the home schooled for the same reason the alcoholic is uneasy around the teetotaler.
Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.
Just as the jealous Chaldeans schemed to bring the wrath of the king upon the Hebrew eunuchs, we are happy to sic the state’s bureaucrats on these “trouble makers.” Their implicit rejection of
Young families must make the decision: Will junior go to day care and day school, or will mom stay home and raise him? The rationalizations begin. "A family just can't make it on one income." (Our parents did.) "It just costs so much to raise a child nowadays." (Yeah, if you buy brand-name clothing, pre-prepared food, join every club and activity, and spend half the cost of a house on the daughter’s wedding, it does.) And so, the decision is made. We give up the bulk of our waking hours with our children, as well as the formation of their minds, philosophies, and attitudes, to strangers. We compensate by getting a boat to take them to the river, a van to carry them to Little League, a 2,800-square-foot house, an ATV, a zero-turn Cub Cadet, and a fund to finance a brand-name college education. And most significantly, we claim “our right” to pursue a career for our own
Deep down, however, we know that our generation has eaten its seed corn. We lack the discipline and the vision to deny ourselves in the hope of something enduring and worthy for our posterity. We are tired from working extra jobs, and the looming depression threatens our 401k’s. Credit cards are nearly maxed, and it costs a $100 to fuel the Suburban. Now the kid is raising hell again, demanding the latest Play Station as his price for doing his school work … and there goes that modest young woman in the home-made dress with her four bright-eyed, well-behaved home-schooled children in tow. Wouldn’t you just love to wipe that serene look right off her smug face?
Is it any wonder we hate her so?
Saturday, June 7, 2008
We tend to read about persecuted Christians around the world and feel sorry for them and pity them. Think about it though. If we really are all part of the body of Christ, these people are more our brothers and sisters than our own family.
[Please excuse the grammar problems if there are any. The copying and pasting was a trip. This is my research paper for my English class. I was very touched by it.]
Christianity is growing in the world. Despite what it may seem to many in the Western world, Christianity may very well be undergoing its biggest growth in history (
Although there were Catholics in
From the 1920s onward, communism slowly rose in influence until Mao Zedong and
Despite the advances that were made for the communist agenda, Mao Zedong was not satisfied with the progress. Through a series of events and advertising campaigns, Mao began the next significant event against criticizers of himself and communism. The Cultural Revolution, as it was called, lasted from 1966 through 1976 and was possibly the most bloody event for Christians in history. The infamous Red Guards, school children ripped from their education in order to bring down the “counter-revolutionists,” went on a rampage. All religion was banned and even the government controlled institutions disappeared. Millions of people died and millions more were disgraced and/or sent to labor camps. The struggling economy led to atrocities such as mass cannibalism. Paul Marshall wrote that “In one incident a mother and son were tortured, buried alive atop one another in a single grave, then dismembered and eaten by their tormentors” (Marshall 78). Christianity and the house church movement, however, survived the chaos, largely because of its relatively new independence from foreign missionaries (Grant;
The rest of the century saw the death of Mao Zedong and the reign Deng Xiaoping. Xiaoping attempted to paint over the mistakes made in the Cultural Revolution and sent misleading messages of “religious freedom” to the outside world. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement was back with just as many restrictions as before driving millions more to the house church movement. The highs and lows over the rest of the century ended in the 90s with a heightening of the persecution—wherein thousands of house churches were closed. Torture, forced sterilization, and labor camps were among the fears of 1990s Christians. Overall, the first 50 years of the communist government saw one out of every 22 Christians detained, hundreds of thousands sent to labor camps, and thousands others tortured or killed (History of Persecution in
After seeing a brief history of the persecution of Christians in
The other question presented was, “Why do they hate Christianity?” The reality may be that the reason for persecution is not so much out of hate but somewhat out of fear and recognition of the power of human spirituality. Paul Marshall quoted the Chinese state-run press in 1992 saying that in order for
Another measure taken by
TSPM’s traces its origins to before communism in 1892, as mentioned previously, when church leaders chose to move toward independence from Western missionaries. This principle was called the Three-Self Principle: self-supporting, self-leading, and self-propagating. In 1950, however, the communists took the name and made it political. The new Three-Self Movement, later changed to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, was designed to keep the church loyal to the communist government. Under the Religious Affairs Bureau, TSPM and the church was directly subject to the government and any objection was swiftly punished (Hart; Grant; The
What was so wrong with TSPM that prompted the explosive growth of the house church movement? TSPM decides where and where not to have meetings—only Sunday services are allowed. Those under 18 cannot be brought, evangelized, or baptized and some pastors have to have their sermons screened by the government. These and other restrictions, with severe consequences for refusal, prompted different reactions from believers. Some joined TSPM and tried to cope with the restrictions while others abandoned TSPM’s often twisted doctrines and met among themselves. Today, the millions of Chinese Christians meet in house churches—a large reason for the persecution (Hart; Marshall 74; The Underground Church). These reasons still play a part in the lives of the present day sufferers.
II. The present day sufferers
In May 2007, the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom stated, “The Chinese government continues to engage in systematic and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief (120).” In 2004, Hu Jintao came to power in
Just how big is the Chinese church? How many people actually worship apart from state churches in these so called “house churches?” The Chinese government officially says that there are 16 million Protestants and three million Catholics. These are only those in state approved “patriotic” churches, however. The actual total is probably closer to 130 million, according to a Chinese official’s closed door report. The forced secrecy of the house church movement makes it tough to pinpoint actual numbers but the estimates show the church doubling in the past decade—around 35,000 every day. In 2005 there was an estimated 6000 house churches in
House Groups or
Today, if arrested for “illegal activity,” believers face a myriad of different punishments. Probably the most unpublicized of these punishments are the laogai camps: re-education through labor (RTL). In principle, these camps are not much different than the general concentration camp. Two thirds of the roughly 300,000 occupants in 300 camps nationwide are those who have committed “minor” crimes, a very arbitrary term as defined by law. The other third is made up of religious prisoners of various groups including Christians. During the Cultural Revolution and the surrounding years, the camps were much more widely used. Still, only 10 years ago, one-third of
Many Christians only face fines or a few days to weeks in prison. However, apart from labor camps,
Peter Xu Yongze, mentioned earlier as the founder of a large Christian movement, suffered torture first hand. At the time of the 2002 BBC News story by Kate McGeown, Xu was 61. Over his lifetime he had served five prison sentences because he believed in Christ. Xu, who now lives in the
Ma Yuqin was another first hand witness of the methods of the Chinese. She bravely endured torture, refusing to betray those in her congregation, even while her son and friend were suffering with her. 54 years old at the time of the interview that was published in 2002 by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in an article entitled “God and
III. The perseverance of the saints
The question must be asked: “How has the decades-long persecution affected believers?” It’s easy to paint a pretty picture of
Not all of these struggles are felt just by the house churches. Those in the state church, though not arrested, undergo different kinds of persecution such as ridicule just because of their Christian faith. Few non-genuine Christians, it would seem, would stay and endure even in the state church. However, a rift has grown between the house churches and the state church that is almost irreconcilable. Many in the state church see house churches as obstacles to the future of religious freedom, as the cause of new regulations from the government. Adding to the tension, many house churches see the state churches as people who compromise their faith (
However, although there are negative effects that come with persecution, for a Christian, there are also positive effects. Persecution has a way of drawing the persecuted closer to God and to their fellow victims. Surrendering to God and his perfect will, identifying with Christ in his suffering, and simply worshipping God are several ways that Christians cope with and benefit from the persecution. Even while enduring trauma and complete isolation from the things of God, what a Christian has hidden in his heart can be what gets him through and even what helps the spread of the gospel in prison (Tong; Ting and Watson).
The personal effects also work together to grow the church as a whole. Recent estimates show Christianity growing at around seven percent every year, which amounts to millions. The church in
With virtually everything except listening to a state-approved, Sunday morning message being illegal, how much does the persecution affect how Christians live out the basics of the faith? The truth is, apart from necessary precautions to avoid detection, nothing is neglected. They can’t preach on the street corners, but witnessing goes on everywhere. One on one with friends, family, and co-workers—it goes on, quietly yet potently. Offices, factories, and homes are all places of witnessing. On college campuses Christians meet secretly, make friends, evangelize, teach, and train new converts to do the same. Wherever and whenever possible, Chinese Christians do not neglect what God has called them to do (_____; Tong).
The conclusion I wrote for my paper
When I, as the author, observe my research, I draw many things. It is important to note that although the focus of this report was Christians, Christians are not the only people being persecuted in
I also draw many things from the effects of the persecution on Christians. As a Christian from the West, I see that the Chinese are just like me, just like Christians from the West. They have their problems and divisions just like the West does. However, they are not like the West in the way that they grow and in the way that they stand firm. Persecution draws them together and strengthens their faith. It helps the church grow and sends a message of hope to the world.
In my overall view of my findings, I see a group of Christians who do not have freedom—yet they prosper. In the West, I see a group of Christians who have freedom—yet prosper in worldly goods alone. I have emerged from my study with a sense of shame to live in a country where I can worship freely. The Chinese are the ones that deserve to be free. They have used their lack of freedom for God’s glory while the West has misused the freedom given to them. All throughout the Chinese church’s history, there has been a consistent desire to honor God.
The story of Chinese believers has a long history. The cause of the persecution: a two-faced government who desires power above all else and lies about its doings. The effects of the persecution: a group of believers who have been drawn closer to each other and to God as they fulfill their heavenly calling without compromising. The story is still unfolding. As