If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters … yes, even their own life … such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14.26
This week, a matter more urgent than reading A-J. Levine’s book deserves my attention. China’s influence in Hong Kong continues as one prestigious school begins to teach its very young children that “China is my mother”. This has caused great alarm simply because the said school is a Catholic school. St. Cyprian of Carthage, the great martyr in 258 AD famously said, “You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.” Lest anyone thinks that only Roman Catholics think in this way, even no less a Reformer than John Calvin had indicated a general agreement with this statement.
Let me put aside my Christian faith and make comments about this phenomenon and the potential harm it will do to the entire Chinese culture. Many with colonial phobia in China had already denounced that Christianity is a white man’s religion that will harm the family due to a misreading of verses like Luke 14.26. This is idiotically dishonest because in both Old and New Testaments, there’re also commands to honor parents. What Jesus said in exaggerative metaphors, China had already turned the metaphor into a reality in recent history. What is infinitely more harmful than the perceived harm Christianity is doing to the Chinese family is the communist attempt to replace the family with its dangerous family metaphors that result in literal destruction of the family. By saying that the mother is the country, we have a semblance of prioritization of the government over our biological family. As a result, many children had put parents to death in the Cultural Revolution. This is a historically undeniable fact. This present ethos seeks to continue its destruction of one of the base virtues of Chinese culture, filial piety. Let’s look at this in broader cultural history of the world in my harsh critique of this dangerous movement. In recent memory, how often were Germans encouraged to see Germany as the fatherland? The blind patriotism turned into fascism in many of the cases. How about even a more recent memory of abusive HK police with their batons being compared to “a kind mother” by pro-China HK police chief, drawing the ire of most sensible Hong Kong citizens? Even to an unbeliever, these dangerous ideas are worth denouncing.
Let’s now turn our attention to a more faith-based critique of this situation. This attempt is a dire affront both to biblical and historic Christianity (and here, I include Roman Catholic Christianity that would reach back to the tradition of the fathers). If God is the Father and the Church is the Mother, where does China fit in? Nowhere! No government fits in there, however just the government may be. Whenever the state takes on the metaphorical role of the parent in history, things usually don’t go well. For a Christian, such metaphors are an affront to our faith because we don’t serve Caesar; we serve God. Our metaphorical Mother is the Church from which we draw our birth, gospel and nourishment. What’s the Church’s voice in this? Nowhere! It’s time for all church leaders to speak up, instead of seeing the opposition as just one of the opinions among the many opinions in the Body of Christ. Anyone who says that there’re many options to how we respond to such matters is lying to us. Neither the Bible nor the church tradition would allow us more options other than an active denouncement. Leaders who aren’t ready to weigh in on similar matters aren’t ready to lead. If we are the people of God, we must live like the people of God.
At the end, I leave you this subversive prayer as our Lord has taught us to remind us of what kind of people we are.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one… amen.