I was looking at two pictures taken yesterday, one of Chairman Mao in an empty and blocked-off Tiananmen Square, and the other, in contrast to the first one of people gathering in a place in Hong Kong with candles in their hands to remember those killed in the crackdown 25 years ago by the Chinese government. The headline read: Mourning in Hong Kong, Silence in Beijing.
I was moved to see this because we cannot forget atrocities and horrors that have taken place, not only in our lifetime but also in the more distant past. Of course, we remember the Holocaust, the Gulag of Stalin, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the genocide of Rwanda – the list goes on and on. At least, I hope we remember it. It’s a cliche but it’s been said that those who forget the past are likely to repeat it. I am mindful of young people today who don’t seem to know about Vietnam or even the Civil Rights Movement.
Having been to Beijing and walked Tiananmen Square and now seeing it barricaded and tightly guarded, I cannot help but be reminded of that lone student who stood up against a tank coming toward him. Sometimes, if you are a pastor like me, you feel that you are always promoting lost causes in a secular and self-centered culture of conspicuous consumption. Even the little things where sports become more important than church or religious education, which is a sign of a secular culture ignoring what has traditionally been a time of religious observance for millions of Christians, contribute to this malaise.
There are many “lost causes” that Jesus faced but continued to speak out against or continued to live in opposition to. We have to be counter-cultural in the way we live out our life, whether it be the Christian discipline of attending church, supporting human rights, exercising compassion and sympathy to others, going out of our way to forgive, and being generous in helping those who are less fortunate. Deeds of love and mercy always run contrary to the tanks of the world coming at us and pushing us into lifestyles that do not promote growth and end up diminishing us in our spirit.
Just to return to Tiananmen Square for a moment, I noticed another article which said that the Chinese public/students who stood up for freedom and justice had been bought off by the ruling class who have not allowed them freedom and justice and human rights but instead condos and cars and supposed riches.
For us as people of faith, we need to be more aware of how we should live and treat others.