So I was thinking about an article I just read in World magazine. It was about the rise of Christianity in China, which is estimated as comprising (and, as far as the communists are concerned, compromising) approximately 1/13 of the population. The explosive growth of fundamental Christianity in the face of persecution (how else does Christianity ever grow?) seems to have left government officials with an uncomfortable tradeoff. Christians don’t approve of the secular and immoral government, but on the other hand they pay their taxes, don’t cause uprisings, and care for the growing impovrished sector of the city population. The government would love to get rid of the Christians (sound like our government?) but there are just too many of them, and they’re just so confounded well behaved!
This brings me to my real point, that Chinese Christians apparently look up to American Christians. Most of the Chinese believers have been christians for less than five years, but America was founded by Christians! The Americans know what they are doing! They’re mature! They have walked with God for years, and their culture reflects it! Right?
I won’t waste your time with a long winded denouncement, but the fact that these new Christians are looking up to the USA is an upsetting prospect, almost in the digestive sense. My challenge is to those of you who claim to be Christians, GET IT RIGHT! We should know what we are doing, but we are ignorant! We should be mature, but we are mewling infants, slobbering out doctrines we know nothing about! Should not our culture shine with goodness? Should we not be proud to lead these new brothers and sisters and say “Follow me, as I follow Christ” just as the Apostles said before us? The state of the church in the US (and over most of the world) frankly enrages me. Take a good look at your life, are you obediant, or just obese? Can you say more than “Braaaaaaaains” in defense of Christ? Trust in the Lord and be a fanatic for him.
The little children are watching.
That’s certainly the truth. However, in some ways, America still does live up to a few of those, at least to the casual observer.
In spite of the obvious turn towards socialism in our government in the past 70 years, the US is still one of the most Christian-friendly governments in the Modern World. It is still one of the free-est governments in the Modern World. Too, we are one of the most conservative populations in the Modern World, in spite of our apparently rapid devolution.
Were I to venture a guess, these Chinese Christians aren’t looking up to the US because of what the US is, but rather what they perceive it to be. What’s important to them is to have a goal to strive for, and the fact that we know their goal to be an illusion–or even delusion–is largely unimportant. They see a society that is better than theirs: less deprave, less corrupt, and more Christian, and they want to have a society that meets those criteria. The only tragedy is the potential for disenchantment when one of them comes over here and sees that we really aren’t all that.
It seems that this situation might not be unlike the situation in Canton, of Firefly repute. When the people found out that Jayne was a lying, thieving bastard, it didn’t matter to them, because what their town needed was a hero, and he gave them that, in spite of all his other flaws.
Now, is that to say that we shouldn’t strive to better ourselves and our “culture” as Christians in American? Certainly not. But the tragedy here, in my opinion, is not for China, it is for us. They will never see us for what we are, only what they need us to be, so the concern shouldn’t be so much for what we look like to them, but what we look like to ourselves.
I’ll add that there should be tragedy on both ends. In a way, I think you missed the reason why it’s a tragedy for the Chinese, Ziggy. I’m not sure what the level of their admiration is at, but it would be quite the tragedy for them to be looking up to us instead of Christ. Christ is really the only example we should really be striving toward…. I guess there’s a delicate balance between proper admiration and emulation and improperly placing others as a goal.
Now, on our end I don’t know if just “get it right” helps. I don’t know… I’m not convinced that the proper way to encourage U.S. christians is to tell us where we are lacking. While spiritual maturity is a good thing, I think it’s overwhelming for the masses. I also feel that the outward evidences of spiritual maturity are simply a convinient by-product of the proper goal- knowing and serving Christ more completely. I think maybe the best encouragement we can be is to help people to take the next step- to help people identify what God is asking them for right now. Also, I don’t know about the appeal to pride, and I don’t know about encouraging people to follow me as I follow Christ. I’m much more comfortable with “Come join me as I follow Christ.” (I think maybe Paul encouraged believers to follow Him and He followed Christ?- Ziggy you can probably correct me on that.) The point is, in my encouragement to the saints, I think that encouraging them to continually seek Christ, and continually follow His prompting to give up our little exclusive areas is better.
What are we as individuals? Sinners in the grace of God, being worked on by Him to His end. What should our response as individuals be? To fall at His feet and give glory to Him by giving ourselves up… and He will show us how that looks.
What are we as a church? Brothers and Sisters in Christ, all at different places. What should our response be? To encourage each other in our walks with Christ- that takes many different forms. I guess maybe my objections are more of a difference in style than anything else.
What are we as a nation? People who have placed the idol of freedom and acceptance in a place where only those who are enslaved to sin can access it. What should our response be? Prayer. (there isn’t anything else we can do- their hearts have been hardened, and their eyes have been blinded.)
It’s frustrating, isn’t it? But, at the end of the day, God is good, and He still hasn’t given up on us, on any of those levels.