Hong Kong’s Lesson for Beijing . . . and the West

Economic Vitality and the Christian Worldview

September 13, 2019 • John Stonestreet

Last week, the government of Hong Kong finally withdrew a proposed extradition law that sparked mass protests which have rocked the territory and rattled Beijing for weeks. However, if Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam thought that withdrawing the extradition law would end the protests, she was mistaken. Over the weekend, demonstrators continued to rally, march, and wave the U.S. flag, while chanting “Resist Beijing, Liberate Hong Kong!” and—get this—“Pray for us, U.S., pray for us!” Their chants highlight not only a Christian dimension in their protests, but the potential impact they believe Christianity can have on the Communist Party’s dictatorial rule, both in Hong Kong and throughout China. While the protests were initially sparked by the extradition law, it’s clear that deep dissatisfaction with life under Beijing is keeping the flames burning, especially as the Communist Party attempts to strengthen its grip over Hong Kong. One protester told the Los Angeles Times, “The whole system in Hong Kong is rotten, from top to bottom. We want to tear it down and start fresh.” In the midst of all this, Communist Party leaders know what many of the commentators and so-called experts in the West have long forgotten: That the ideas about justice and freedom that motivate many of the protesters in Hong Kong are rooted in Christianity. How can we be sure Communist leaders know this? Because of a 2011 study by the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. As one Academy member put it, “…we were asked to look into what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.” After researchers studied everything from a “historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective,” they “realised that the heart of [the West’s] culture is [its] religion: Christianity . . . The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics.” That’s quite a conclusion, to which an official of the Academy added, “We don’t have any doubt about this.” Chuck Colson pointed out eight years ago that the connection between Christianity and the success of the West has created a conundrum for Beijing. As he put it back then, Communist Party officials know that “the industriousness and creativity of the West was born out of the Christian worldview, which sees every individual created in the image of God, desiring freedom, creative in nature, motivated by civic duty and love of neighbor.” At the same time, China’s actions in Hong Kong and Mainland China reveal that the Communist Party sees all religions, and Christianity in particular, as dangerous rivals. If Jesus is Lord, then Xi Jinping is not. As Chuck Colson also said, if Beijing “truly opened its doors to Christianity and unleashed the creative and spiritual potential of its people” the result would be even greater prosperity and “growing global and economic clout.” But that prosperity and clout would come “at great cost to the power of the Communist dictatorship.” The crackdown across mainland China and the attempts to control Hong Kong suggests the Chinese government wants what it cannot have: To enjoy Western creativity and economic vitality while simultaneously suppressing Christianity—the historical source of this Western creativity and vitality. And just as Beijing can’t have it both ways, here’s a note for all Western leaders: Neither can we. As the people of Hong Kong sing their hymns and chant their slogans, they’ve made it clear they are not willing to trade their freedoms and loyalties, especially their religious freedoms and religious loyalties, for what Xi and company are offering. Before I leave you today, I want to tell you that we have a free webinar on Wednesday September 18th with none other than Os Guinness, about his new book, “Carpe Diem Redeemed.” Register here. You won’t want to miss it.

Mexico Rejects Abortion Imperialism

August 7, 2020 • John Stonestreet

Recently, Mexico’s Supreme Court refused a sweeping Roe v. Wade kind of ruling on abortion. The ruling was in response to a ruling by a lower court judge which ordered the state legislature of Vera Cruz to amend its penal code and allow abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. In a 4-1 decision, the Court ruled that the Vera Cruz judge exceeded his authority. According to Justice Norma Piña, allowing courts to dictate the meaning of laws written by state legislators would be “to fall into judicial activism.” The ruling was an unpleasant surprise for many Westerners (especially Americans) who believe judicial activism is what courts are supposed to do. And of course, progressives expect that as nations such as Mexico develop, they will expand so-called abortion rights and reject what left-leaning Guardian newspaper called Mexico’s “strong traditions of Catholicism and machismo.” Over the last decade or so, Mexican states have repeatedly voted to maintain abortion restrictions. Western promoters of abortion, however, simply cannot imagine a society knowingly and willingly rejecting their ideas. Anyone who disagrees must be either brainwashed, backward, or both. Obianuju Ekeocha, the founder of Culture of Life Africa, has appropriately labeled this attitude “ideological colonialism” and “cultural imperialism.” Ekeocha, a featured speaker for our recent Truth.Love.Together virtual event, has spoken out repeatedly against Western attempts to export a “culture of abortion” to developing countries. “The issue of abortion,” says Ekeocha, “has already been decided by many African countries (who) have decided that abortion is an attack on human life at its earliest stages.” On top of that, African culture includes a strong preference for large families. Rejecting African values and culture, Western abortion advocates instead parallel the worst colonialists of the 19th-Century who claimed to bring “Civilization, Christianity, and Commerce” to unenlightened natives. The same dynamic can be seen in a bill currently being debated in the Kenyan Senate. The “Reproductive Health Care Act” is intended to reduce the number of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth, and addresses issues such as family planning, “free [pre]natal care, delivery care and postnatal care,” as well as “assisted reproduction services.” But the bill also permits abortion in cases where “in the opinion of the trained health professional … the pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the mother.” While this might seem like a narrowly tailored provision, pro-abortion Western groups who support the bill reject any narrow interpretation of the phrase “the life or health of the mother” as a violation of a Western woman’s “reproductive rights.” Their intent is not to reduce the number of Kenyan women who die during pregnancy. Rather, it’s to increase the number of abortions in Kenya and other developing countries. After all, loosely interpreted phrases such as “the life and health of the mother” have created a highly lucrative regime of abortion-on-demand in the West. The goal is to reproduce -- pun not intended -- that same outcome in places like Kenya. The average Kenyan, like many non-westerners around the world, understand phrases like “the life and health of the mother” very differently, but a few activist judges are all that’s required to export what Ekeocha calls the “culture of abortion” to the rest of the world. Though the plan in Mexico was to ignore the expressed political choices of the Mexican people and enlist local elites, thank God that, at least in this case, the Court refused to impose the culture of death on the locals. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from our southern neighbors, that an advanced culture need not kill its children or compromise its integrity through judicial malpractice. With our own election looming, we should at least pray to such ends. That’s why we are hosting a weekly prayer time, beginning August 12 and continuing each Wednesday until November 4th, the day after the U.S. elections. You can join us via Zoom or Facebook Live each week. Just come to breakpoint.org for details. And to watch Obianuju Ekeocha’s describe the West’s abortion imperialism, come to Conference.colsoncenter.org.

Join Us in Prayer for Our Nation

August 6, 2020 • John Stonestreet

Christians should be among those most deeply concerned about the divided state of our nation. Left vs. right, masks vs. no masks, reopen vs. stay-at-home, virtual school vs. in-person, race, politics, police, abortion, religious liberty, not to mention the remainder of what’s certain to be a brutal presidential campaign. The issues range from essential to non-essential. On the essential matters, we mourn and vow to fight deception. On the non-essential matters, we mourn and hope to overcome division. God’s people can neither stay on the sidelines nor run away from the struggle. Instead, knowing  there is no hope outside of Christ, we ask God to mercifully and powerfully mobilize His people to advance the true and good.  If Christians are to speak with clarity, courage, and confidence and be voices of truth and love in a world of noise and echo chambers, we will need to be prepared. But even perfectly crafted arguments cannot replace, as Chuck Colson said, “the church being the church.” Speaking cannot replace being. To be the people God calls us to be, we must rely on prayer. Each Wednesday morning between August 12 and November 4, which is the morning after the 2020 election, the Colson Center will host a national prayer time, via webinar. We invite you to join us, each week, to pray first and foremost for God’s mercy, that He would revive His church, that He would bring about renewal of righteousness, that He would empower us to courageously offer protection for the most vulnerable, to champion reconciliation across our deepest divides, and that He would allow us to be instruments in the sustaining of religious freedom and the national recovery of the family. Each prayer time will feature a devotional challenge and prayer by Christian leaders such as Os Guinness, Joni Eareckson Tada, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Woodside Bible Pastor Chris Brooks and Watermark Church pastor Todd Wagner, as well as Ed Stetzer from the Billy Graham Center and Heritage Foundation president Kay Cole James. Due to Zoom capacity, there will be limited live spots each week available to all who register. However, each week’s recording will be sent to anyone who signs up. Come to BreakPoint.org for more details. In Ephesians, Paul tells us “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” When people see us as their enemies, it’s difficult to remember they aren’t our enemies. We can only, as Paul instructs, put on the full armor of God --faith, truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, and the word of God--“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication… keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (v. 18). According to the book of Acts, the earliest church activity was prayer. Thousands of people, from completely different backgrounds, came together in one mind and one heart in prayer “with one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:42–47). What happened? The Holy Spirit moved and the world was never the same. Every spiritual revolution in history started with this kind of unified, persevering prayer. From the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts to the Great Awakenings to the Businessman’s Revival to the Welsh Revival, in story after story, we hear the same thing. People prayed and God’s Spirit moved. On the other hand, every Christian in history who persevered in righteousness, despite temptation or persecution, did so through prayer.  Our prayer cannot force God’s hand, of course. But, our only way forward is to seek His will together. Our prayers don’t control God, but rather invite Him in to change hearts and minds, including our own. God is always working in our lives whether we realize it or not, but something powerful and world-changing happens when people pray for God’s Spirit to move. The great Jonathan Edwards urged his fellow pastors to “be much in prayer and fasting, both in secret and with one another. … [I]t is God’s will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and the principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s Kingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people.” Paul tell us to pray for all things at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and specifically to pray for our leaders, both spiritual and secular. This is what the world needs from the Church right now, instead of the outrage we are too often known for. So that’s what we will do, together, each Wednesday until the election. I hope you will join us.

Assisted Suicide for the Healthy

Just How Slippery Is this Slope? • August 5, 2020 • John Stonestreet

Physician-assisted suicide is sold to the public as a “compassionate” measure, necessary to spare those with no reasonable chance of recovery the unbearable pain and suffering of the last days of their life. In every context in which it has been made legal, however, what might be called euthanasia-by-another-name has never remained limited to the rare instances on which it was sold. There are reasons this slope has proven so slippery, literally everywhere it has been made legal. Once it is decided that certain lives are not worth living, the list of people eligible for physician-assisted suicide inevitably grows. As the list of people without intrinsic value grows, it becomes impossible to not re-evaluate lives based on some other criteria, perhaps convenience or financial costs. It’s a small step indeed from “eligible to die” to “expected to die.”  Wherever doctor assisted suicide is legalized, in a bait-and-switch from what is sold to the public, the category of “terminal” illness is often expanded to include “chronic” illnesses and permanent disabilities. Even mental illness and depression are now considered sufficient justification for suicide in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands.  Given this trajectory, it’s only a matter of time before we dispense with the requirement of any illness whatsoever. In fact, that’s what has just happened in the Netherlands. A recently introduced bill there would “allow healthy individuals over the age of 75 to request assisted suicide, if they have had a ‘strong death wish for at least two months.’” The bill, which is expected to be up for a vote sometime in 2021, would, according to the bill’s sponsor, give the elderly “…the choice at an advanced age, if [they] consider their lives complete, to die with dignity, with careful help.” Thankfully, the two Christian parties in the governing coalition are strongly opposing the measure, but it will not be easy to keep it from becoming law. After all, the bill is the next logical step in the Dutch trajectory. Having embraced what novelist Walker Percy called “Thanatos Syndrome,” every promise to limit euthanasia in any way has only been broken, and any so-called “safeguards” have been swept aside. For example, the people were promised that only those certifiably in their right minds would be euthanized. That was a lie. Anyone who goes into an American emergency room and tells doctors they had a “strong death wish” and were “done with life” would be diagnosed with “suicidal ideation” and immediately admitted to the psych ward. To not do so, in fact, would be medical malpractice. Suicidal ideation is rightly regarded as a symptom of an underlying mental disorder. People with untreated mental illnesses are not allowed to make life and death decisions. Or at least they weren’t. In Oregon, since doctor-assisted-suicide was legalized, over 96 percent of people given lethal drugs did not undergo a psychiatric evaluation. To not evaluate is neglect, but if this Dutch bill becomes law, any elderly person who admits suicidal wishes will be referred to those who will help them turn their desires into reality. This is why, as our recent “What Would You Say” video so clearly explained, there’s nothing compassionate about physician-assisted-suicide. In fact, it is the exact opposite of compassion, the abdication of a civilized people’s responsibility to offer compassion to those who need it most when they need it most. In his book The Thanatos Syndrome, Walker Percy described how a society devolves to the point of thinking that killing patients instead of healing them is compassionate. A psychiatrist, he wrote of well-trained and exquisitely credentialed doctors who “turn their backs on the oath of Hippocrates and kill millions of old useless people, unborn children, born malformed children, for the good of mankind.” Percy literary prophecy, written in 1987, is becoming reality. Some form of assisted suicide is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. That number will only grow unless we convince people what true compassion is and make the idea that assisted suicide is compassionate unthinkable. Come to WhatWouldYouSay.org for the latest video on assisted suicide, and be equipped to make the case. And please, share it with your pastor, community leaders, and legislators. It’s literally a life and death issue.