Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You Believe in God?

I've found a lovely women's Bible study I attend every Wednesday morning. The other women are primarily mothers, and all are trailing spouses. Of the twelve women in the group, 8 are pregnant and 2 are in the process of adoption - so we are all quite keenly at the same stages in life.

With this stage in life comes a need for childcare during a Bible study. Bible study is at a friend's home, and I bring along Wendy (our ayi) to sit with the children in one of her kid's bedrooms and play. The apartment is small, and Wendy can easily hear our discussions. Furthermore, the children tend to wander between their playroom and the gathering of women, so Wendy sometimes sits alone. No doubt she listens to quite a bit of what we are saying.

This morning, I mentioned that we will again go to Bible study. This was the first time I had called it such. She said okay. As an afterthought, and with a laugh, she said Do you believe in God? The laugh gave a clear implication of incredulity.

Lynne: Yeah, I do.

Wendy: (grinning) Hmm.

Lynne: Do you believe in God?

Wendy: (nearly laughing) No.

I don't think she meant any insult by her reaction. I would no doubt have the same response if someone told me they believe in the Harry Potter mythology. You must be kidding, I would think. A woman in our Bible study is Chinese, but has lived abroad for the past 18 years. By the way, living abroad is a requirement for attending this Bible study. Proselyzation is illegal in China, and people can be punished on both sides. Although I invited her to sit in on our study, we could both be punished if she did. Foreign passport holders are only allowed to teach other foreign passport holders. I believe that I could attend a local Chinese service spoken in Mandarin, but that I ought to keep my mouth shut.

Back to my Chinese friend. This woman frequently refers to her history, and her conversion story. She says that having been raised in China, she knows that most people find Christianity and faith laughable. School curriculums teach children that there is no God. They don't teach options or respect in different faith systems. They teach that any faith is synonymous with mythology, and that intelligent people do not fall into that trap.

There are missionaries in China, although they must keep themselves under wraps. They generally arrive with different jobs - as teachers or doctors, for instance. Or they arrive on student visas, with the true claim that they are here to learn the language. In Shanghai, I know of very few people actively trying to evangelize to local Chinese people. Apparently, this is not the case further west. A friend who used to live in Kunming (nearly as far west as Tibet) says that most foreign passport holders in that region are missionaries. Further, he says that the government realizes this. When he lived there, he knew that his phone was tapped and that he was followed when he walked. He found that when he took a wrong turn, someone in a dark suit would ask where he was going and quickly send him back the way he came.

And although I do not consider myself evangelical, I do wholly believe that life is better with faith in a Christian God than without. Christian churches are growing like mad in China, even without the help of outside missionaries - and so much the better. In many ways, this society sans faith has become quite amoral over the last generation. While not necessarily sinful, the newest generations feel quite certain that their life should be focused on pleasure seeking and selfish decisions, with no concern either for the common good or for their neighbor. Interesting that a Communist society should raise such a selfish people. And interesting to watch the Christian church growing inside this community.

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