According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future
aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why Beijing's Largest House Church Refuses to Stop Meeting Outdoors

Shouwang vows to continue showdown until Christmas in hopes of ending Achilles' heel of unregistered churches: government pressure on landlords.

Promise Hsu in Beijing, China
posted 4/26/2011

Editor's note: As worldwide headlines noted the Easter season showdown between Beijing authorities and one of China's largest house churches, one Shouwang member offered Christianity Today this analysis.

The global media spotlight has recently centered on the meeting place of Shouwang Church in Beijing. Since April 10, the unregistered congregation of 1,000 mostly young professionals has been forced to worship outdoors after the landlord of its rented conference hall gave in to mounting government pressure and terminated the church's lease.

During the past three Sundays, numerous uniformed and plainclothes police officers were sent to a public square at Zhongguancun, known as "China's Silicon Valley," where Shouwang worshipers were supposed to gather. Hundreds of Shouwang members were detained, from a few hours to 48 hours. They worshiped—reading the Bible, singing hymns, and praying—after being loaded onto buses or held in police stations. Many others have been under house arrest. The church's leaders, including four pastors and three elders, have been under house arrest for most of the past two weeks. Some church members have lost their jobs or rented homes—or both.

On Easter Sunday, more than 30 people were rounded up at Zhongguancun, while many Shouwang members were confined to their homes. A young couple asked the police to drive them to the Zhongguancun square. The police agreed. They sang hymns, read the Bible, and prayed in the police car. They also gave the police officers a copy of the Bible and an autobiography about how a Chinese biologist became a Christian. The police car moved around the square. After the young couple finished worshiping, the police officers drove them home. The young couple shared their experience with fellow Shouwang members through the church's online forum, which was shut down in mid-April but resumed later.

It was not the first time that Shouwang Church made global headlines. In November 2009, when President Barack Obama had just wrapped up his first visit to China, The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece entitled "The China President Obama Didn't See." It was about 500 Shouwang members worshiping outside in a suburban park during a snowstorm after being evicted from the office space that the church had rented for three and a half years.

Shouwang began in 1993 as a home Bible study led by Pastor Jin Tianming, a son of an ethnic-Korean peasant family in northeast China who became a Christian while attending Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University. In 2005, Shouwang began renting office space in order to integrate its 10 fellowships and open itself to the general public. The church also applied to register with the government, but was rejected and told to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China's state-approved Christian body.

By 2007, Shouwang was arguably one of the largest house churches in Beijing, but remained almost unknown until it began publicizing its location troubles in Xing Hua, the church's quarterly magazine. One of its first issues had a special report on Shouwang's registration process, which gained attention from other house churches and those who were following Chinese Christianity.

Like almost all house churches, the Shouwang congregation has faced the issue of survival from the moment it was established. The most serious direct crackdown came during the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when on May 11 armed forces broke into Shouwang's Sunday worship in a rented office space and ordered the church to put an end to the worship. However, all three services from morning to afternoon were held as usual. Many worshipers were asked to give their names and contact information.

Amazingly, Shouwang survived the clampdown. Yet the church realized that pressure on the landlords of the facilities it rented was a weak point in both the survival and further growth of the congregation. It had been forced out of the previous rented venues, and in 2008 faced another eviction. So by the end of 2009, Shouwang raised and paid about $4 million for the second floor of the Daheng Science and Technology Tower in northwest Beijing's Zhongguancun area. Yet authorities once again interfered, and the property developer has refused to hand the key over to the church.

For now, it is not known when the outdoor worship will end. In a pastoral letter sent the night before Easter, Pastor Jin Tianming, who has been under house arrest, reaffirmed the stand on outdoor worship: "The 'outdoor' in the outdoor worship is not a means to an end but a stand we are making before our Lord of glory and the authorities. It is a kind of worship before the only true God who is the only head of the church. And in this particular period of time, it is a worship that is even more precious than any hymn or sermon and would much more please God."

For the past three Sundays of outdoor worship, Pastor Li Xiaobai has sent Shouwang members sermons based on the Book of Esther, a symbolic choice to illustrate God's unfailing salvation of his people. In the case of Shouwang, the issue of worship venue is a reflection of a deeper struggle over the legality of the non-state-owned church in China. More than 30 years after reforms were started, it looks impossible for the government to control everything. It has considerably shifted its ground on the economy, having allowed non-state-owned companies to exist and expand. Now it is increasingly faced with the continued rise of non-state-owned churches: something it has long considered the product of "Western culture."

Even a decade into the reform era, the Chinese government was still chained to its ideology that market economy was restricted to "the Western capitalist countries." It was Deng Xiaoping, China's de facto leader in the 1980s and 1990s, who admonished his colleagues to stop splitting hairs over "whether it is surnamed socialist or capitalist." "The policy," he said, "is okay if it works." This insistence on economic reform paved the way for the further expansion of private enterprises and the official recognition of private property. In fact, this has gone on to help the growth of house churches, making it possible for them to rent or even own places of worship.

If the current government leaders should carry on with this part of Deng Xiaoping's theory, they would probably help usher in the continued rise of China. They would see a newer China, where some truly respected schools, universities, research institutes, hospitals, and philanthropic foundations could grow out of house churches or those church-goers, similar to what has occurred in church history worldwide.

For now, it seems crucial for the Chinese government to better understand what the church is. On the bright side, the numerous detentions and arrests of Shouwang congregants might provide golden opportunities for police officers and their leaders to learn more about Christians and their faith firsthand. The police might find it strange when they read the following on a Shouwang Q&A fact sheet: "'What if the police arrest me because of my participation in outdoor worship?' Do not resist; let them take us away, just like a lamb to the slaughter. In our hearts, we know that we gather here to worship; and for the sake of worship, we will pay the price. We believe in what the Lord has said: 'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'" Once they detain or arrest those Christians, the police would see and hear how these people behave and speak.

There have been different opinions within Shouwang about the governing committee's decision to worship outdoors. Some have argued that the church could worship as separate groups indoors (since Shouwang currently has dozens of family Bible study groups and fellowships), and others warned that it was too sensitive to hold outdoor services while what has been called the "Jasmine Revolution" is spreading from North Africa to Asia. But the Shouwang governing committee has issued multiple open messages explaining the outdoor worship decision. In a letter, they said, "We ask the Lord to preserve the unity of our church, that despite of our different viewpoints, we may still be able to submit to and bear with one another."

As for how long the outdoor worship will last, Shouwang said that if the problem of a worship venue could not be solved, they would continue to worship outdoors until Christmas 2011. They would then reassess the situation and devise new plans for the coming year. This means Shouwang seems to be prepared for a long road ahead. In the history of the Christian church, a year or even a decade would not be a long time. But the next few weeks or months might witness another turning point for the church in a country whose ancient name is, surprisingly, "God's Land."

Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia -

Crowd in front of a McDonald's in Wangfujing on 20 February 2011
Color Revolutions Map.png
Colour revolutions is a term that was widely used by the media to describe related movements that developed in several societies in the CIS (former USSR) and Balkan states during the early 2000s. The term has also been applied to a number of revolutions elsewhere, including in the Middle East. Some observers[who?] have called the events a revolutionary wave, the origins of which can be traced back to the Indian independence movement in the 1920s, the Portuguese Carnation Revolution in the 1970s, and the 1986 People Power Revolution (sometimes called the "Yellow Revolution") in the Philippines.

Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance, also called civil resistance. Such methods as demonstrations, strikes and interventions have been intended protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy; and they have also created strong pressure for change. These movements generally adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative non-violent resistance.

Such movements have had a measure of success, as for example in Serbia's Bulldozer Revolution (2000); in Georgia's Rose Revolution (2003); and in Ukraine's Orange Revolution (2004). In most but not all cases, massive street protests followed disputed elections, or requests for fair elections, and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian. Some events have been called "colour revolutions" but are different from the above cases in certain basic characteristics. Examples include Lebanon's Cedar Revolution (2005); and Kuwait's Blue Revolution (2005).

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