Does the Chinese Government understand Christianity better than America?
I was in a meeting a couple weeks ago with some Americans and the topic of the U.S. election came up. O.K., full disclosure, I was watching the Republican National Convention with a group from Republicans Abroad here in Hong Kong.
(Hey, it included breakfast at The American Club whose club membership I could never afford in a million years so…yes…I shamelessly took the opportunity to have coffee and bagels in such a swank setting even if it did mean having to endure watching Fox News on the big screen)
Of course being Republicans somehow the conversation meandered on to the topic of God and as I am a pastor and have had a little history with Republican politics my opinion was sought.
“Well,” I said, “sometimes I wonder if the Chinese government might understand Christianity more than the American government.”
Yes, jaws dropped… and then they wanted to know what I meant.
“Well,” I explained, ” the Chinese government understands that Christianity is an alternative way to order society. That it places Jesus as Lord of everything in Heaven and Earth. For Christians to truly follow Christ is to ultimately have an authority higher than the State. China rather frowns that; seeing any authority higher than itself as not such a good thing. Hence, they actively persecute it”
“In America we have a Christianity that tends to put American patriotism and “We the People” as the highest authority. Yes Jesus is our “Personal Lord & Savior” but it better stay just that…personal. Any public proclamation of Christianity is expected to be accompanied by tacit approval (and blessing) of general domestic and foreign policy.”
I went on to explain in Rome the disciples of Christ were executed, as was Jesus himself, for proclaiming a king other than Caesar. Rome was fairly tolerant of other religions and if the the disciples had basically stuck to an American styled Christianity and just told people if they accepted Jesus Christ they could go to heaven one day, followed up by a “God Bless the Roman Empire”, hey, they probably would have lived to a ripe old age.
The early church, however, tended to take the words of Christ seriously. That the Kingdom of Heaven which had come to Earth through Jesus Christ was fundamentally at odds, not just with Rome, but with the power structures of the age. As Christians we certainly can honor governmental authorities and engage in the civic process, but when the church simply performs the role of a chaplain called in to bless the latest government policy we lose our prophetic voice which is calling all people everywhere to be citizens of the Kingdom of the Heaven.
When I see American friends who have been walking with Christ for years angrily attacking political rivals and defaming even fellow Christians who have a different political view I realize the Kingdom of Heaven is but a soft whisper in their ears that, sadly, is all too easily silenced by the kingdom of this corrupt age.
In the end my breakfast companions polietly thanked me for my thoughts on that but, you know, Clint Eastwood was coming on now so lets give the God stuff a rest and watch what Dirty Harry had to say.
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