Every June 4th, Hong Kong citizens come out in droves to commemorate one of the most senseless slaughters (well, all murders are senseless) of mainland Chinese students who wanted nothing but a little more freedom of speech. This cultural wound has not yet healed because China has continued to whitewash over the event. Here, I’m going to use it as a launching pad to talk about a greater problem: doing mission with no cultural sensitivity. Many of you know that I’m completely bicultural and bilingual and have lived in three continents for extensive stays. I’m always concerned about culture and the gospel.
For some strange reason, many have chosen June 4th to come to Hong Kong to hold gospel-related meetings. A few years back, Hillsong United, the Australia Christian music group, held a huge concert right on that date at the Asian Expo Hong Kong right on that day, despite quite a number of us (including me) pleading with them to do it on a different day.
The problem has several dimensions. First, I do not just blame Hillsong for their immense cultural faux pas but also for their arrogance. Even with the outcry, Hillsong neither replied to the local leaders nor mention anything in their concert about the June 4th, 1989, event. Sure, I understand they might not want to get involved with local concerns. However, if they don’t want to get involved with the biggest local concern, why even come? Is the gospel in a first-century vacuum?
Second, I lay heavy blame (maybe even more so than on the visiting “stars”) on all sponsoring bodies that invite visitors to do such events on such occasions. The very fact there was an audience shows the church’s insensitivity towards its “mission” and “mission field.” Would Americans enjoy a big gospel celebration on 911? Would evangelists hold a big revival at a funeral? I would hope not! If the church continues to ignore its surrounding culture, non-believers will not only feel apathetic towards Christianity; they would actually hate it and its believers.
So, I implore all my western Christian friends, even as a transplanted western citizen (I was a young immigrant to the US), please exercise a little cultural sensitivity. Our simple gospel and moving testimony can’t permanently heal the deep cultural wounds of many parts of the world. Our gospel action means nothing when it actually reopens cultural wound. If our gospel does not bring healing, at least don’t use it as a weapon to reopen wounds.
Let me go back to the picture above the blog. Does it disturb you? That’s one of the tamer pictures. I don’t want to scare your kids. If you actually see some of the real pictures of bodies being completely flattened by tanks of People’s Liberation Army, you would lose your dinner. If such pictures do not disturb you enough to think twice about cultural wounds of the ethnic Chinese people, you really should NOT do any mission work. If you don’t plan to do mission with cultural sensitivity, go home!