China’s Transformation and the Power of Christ

April 19, 2012

In a fascinating recent interview about his book  God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China, Chinese author and reporter Liao Yiwu talks about the benefits of the growth of Christianity in China:

“Your question is better served by a quote from the Rev. Wang Zisheng, the son of Wang Zhiming, a Christian leader who was brutally executed for his Christian work in Yunnan province during the Cultural Revolution. His son is now following his father’s example and has become a prominent leader in the booming Christian community. “There is so much for us to do,” Wang Zisheng said. “In our society today, nobody believes in Communism, and everyone is busy making money. People’s minds are entangled and chaotic. They need the words of the gospel now more than at any other time.”

In addition, I personally believe that Jesus Christ was one of the earliest and the most famous dissidents in human history. He was crucified by authorities for spreading the Christian faith and ideas. While I researched for this book, I encountered many Christians like Wang, who were inspired by Christ and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the preservation of their faith. That’s the spirit that we need to bring democracy to China. If democracy comes to China someday, we should thank Christ for inspiring us to stand up for our faith and ideas.”

Yiwu, who has been the object of torture and imprisonment for criticizing China’s Communist regime is not himself a Christian – and yet he sees in Christianity a critical force for advancing democratic ideals against a totalitarian regime. He has personally witnessed the courage it brings to stand up against overwhelming forces of repression and bring hope to otherwise hopeless circumstances.

His views are similar to those of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist who witnessed the repression of Islamic regimes in Somalia also sees hope for change in Christianity. In her memoir Nomad, she claims:

The Christianity of love and tolerance remains one of the West’s most powerful antidotes to the Islam of hate and intolerance. Ex-Muslims find Jesus Christ to be a more attractive and humane figure than Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

The fact that atheists from other countries extol the benefits of Christianity as a force for freedom and human flourishing highlights the stark degree to which the New Atheists in the West have strayed from reason. Rather than thoughtful discernment which separates beliefs by their actual impacts on human flourishing, the New Atheists lump all religious beliefs together as merely different points on the same spectrum of ignorance, evil and delusion.

A belief in Christ offers more than mere succor for impending mortality – it offers the possibility of transformation, a foundation for real moral courage and a stable grounding for human rights and human worth – and it transforms the cultures in which it takes root.

And to the degree New Atheists attack Christianity, to that degree they oppose the benefits it brings and they cause real damage to real lives.

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Havel and Hitchens

December 20, 2011

With the deaths this last week of these two great voices for freedom, there have been many remembrances and much analysis on the impact of each man. In a recent article in the American Spectator, writer Paul Kengor does a brief yet insightful comparison of the two men highlighting the understanding Havel had that Hitchens lacked:

Václav Havel was not just a man of politics and intellect, but a man of the arts, theater, literature — and, yes, of God. He exhorted the West and the wider post-modern world to seek “transcendence.” Hitchens might have figured God “the ultimate totalitarian,” but Havel saw God as the solution to totalitarianism, as tyranny’s antidote, as the fountainhead of freedom. This was something Havel deeply admired about America and its roots — its fusion of faith and freedom and the recognition that the latter cannot genuinely exist without the former. “The Declaration of Independence states that the Creator gave man the right to liberty,” Havel concluded in his July 4, 1994 lecture at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, home of that very sentiment. “It seems man can realize that liberty only if he does not forget the One who endowed him with it.”

While it is proper to call Hitchens a crusader against tyranny, he only slowly abandoned the Marxist beliefs which dominated his youth. When Havel began his anti-communist activities in Czechoslovakia, Christopher Hitchens was working as a student at a Cuban ‘summer camp’ with his fellow leftist students helping to support the burgeoning Castro regime. While Václav Havel sat in prison for voicing opposition to the repressive Communist regime, Hitchens was writing for The Nation, penning critiques of American foreign policy, much of which was aimed at curbing the spread of Soviet sponsored communism. Havel was a man of action in the middle of the fight; Hitchens was an observer who rarely suffered for his anti-authoritarian views.

In many ways this explains why Havel, despite not being a believing Christian understood the need for transcendence in the postmodern world; mere words are not sufficient to battle the tyranny of the state. Such a battle requires truths that are rooted in permanence beyond the material world. Hitchens on the other hand saw the threat of an oppressive state but his militant atheism never allowed him to articulate a substantive basis for human rights and liberty nor did he need to – he was comfortably ensconced in the West where such rights were already recognized.

As a result, in the end Václav was a reformer while Hitchens was a political gadfly.


More Freedom, Less Evil

December 18, 2011

Now that Kim Jong Il is dead


Low Hanging Fruit

June 21, 2010

I generally try to comment on the stronger arguments of atheists and the Left, because in dismissing their stronger arguments one deals with the philosophy as a whole. But more often than not, something stupid and silly gets said that is so easily dealt with that the energy required to do so is so low that it would be wrong not to take it on; such a thing was said as part of a rant against Rep. Joe Barton recently:

 “In fact, one of the few free market economies – Hong Kong – has only been able to experience any success because of the supporting structure of communist China. On their own, free markets will fail. If they don’t, the well-being of the people subjected to the whims of the few who become powerful will come under greater and greater strain over time.”

 Hong Kong of course isn’t a creation of ‘communist China’, it was a creation of the British Empire, only to be ceded to China in 1997. China only began to have any economic growth and stability when it began to abandon its communist economy and adopt more free market policies. Of course it remains an incredibly repressive place, but this has little to do with its economics. Hong Kong was successful long before China had any control over it – and China has largely let it be, because it is in China’s best interest to do so.

 None of this has anything to do with the author’s main point, which appears to be “I Don’t Like Joe Barton, Or Republicans, or Capitalism!” – but does go to show how little of that point is based on fact or history.