Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Learning from Ignorance

Written by: on June 14, 2018

“It has been a very long time since I’ve learned so much from a memoir.  Chang was extremely careful to verify the facts of the historical events surrounding her family’s various issues.[1]

I must admit, there have been a number of our reads thus far that have invoked more of a negative apprehension for myself, rather than a delight in the fact that I broadened my intellectual knowledge on a new topic. However, “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang was extremely interesting in regard to helping to see a side of China and communism that I had not really embraced prior to now. Not only does the personal view of communism and politics of China present an interesting contrast to Western world Christianity, but the generational impacts also helped to see a perspective of change that could also be relational in understanding any cultures various views as determined by age. I gave an analogy in Bible class last night regarding the instruction regarding “cooking the Thanksgiving turkey” as delivered to a group of 70 year old ladies and a group of 18 year old teenagers; I asked how might the conversations be different? The answer from the congregation was laughter rather than comment. In regards to ministry, the necessity to see the impacts of one’s culture through the eyes of those you are addressing is crucial for communication; this book gave those perspectives through various windows: old vs young, communists vs rebel, women vs men, and on personal reflection, free vs forced.

One chapter really resonated with me because of a conversation we had in our church about six months ago; it was the chapter titled “Where there is a will to condemn, there is evidence.[2]” Though I did not find this to be a religious book, once again I did find the parallels between the struggles of spreading the gospel uniquely tied to the personal struggles of others. It was rather interesting the looks I received in a bible class when I demonstrated the similarities held between communism and Christianity; that ultimate trust in the ultimate Super Power, which is God. As Christians, I am not sure there is an organization that is forced to buck against the system…or as described in this chapter…hide from the system like Christianity. In my own opinion, it is the pressure on Christianity that has forced so many to either hide it from others, or even worse, change and pervert it from the gospel message that is found in the Bible. Too often we see that the pressures of the world have more influence upon others than God Himself seems to have these days. The reading demonstrated the fear that was instilled in the people, which prevented them from standing up against the oppressing authorities, even though they would have deep seated feelings that opposed their methods.

In reading reviews, the sentiment regarding this book was, as is normally expected, divided. Chang’s own website shared a review from Hillary Clinton, which boasted, “An inspiring tale of women who survived every kind of hardship, deprivation and political upheaval with their humanity intact.[3]” And yet, in contrast, another review wrote, “While our knowledge of Chinese history may be shadowy in places, it seems unlikely that our understanding of all these landmarks should be so far out. It is easy to get swept up in Chang’s enthusiasm for her subject and excitement at their “discoveries”. The success of Wild Swans has perhaps given her a touchingly naive confidence in a book’s revolutionary influence.[4]” So what is the potential influencing power of a work such as “Wild Swans?” Well, I suppose the answer lies in what you hope to learn from the book itself. For myself, again I point out that my ultimate desire is to find some sort of fundamental message that will help further the ministry of the Gospel; primarily in regard to its help with my dissertation on the necessity of diversity in the church. With that in mind, there are so many ways in which this book could help to further the message of diversity. As previously mentioned, its topic discussions regarding the cultural and political influences as viewed through the eyes of different generations, races and ages could (at least I believe) easily show the value of these differences in a church setting. In fact, it is because of the drastic expanse between those discussed that the reader can see each ones influence on the topic of diversity. Though the book focused more on the topic of counteracting the politics of communism, the parallel message for us as Christians is that though no one ever seems to serve the same purpose in spreading a message, everyone serves some purpose…so what is YOUR purpose?

“The other hallmark of Maoism, it seemed to me, was the reign of ignorance. Because of his calculation that the cultured class were an easy target for a population that was largely illiterate, because of his own deep resentment of formal education and the educated, because of his megalomania, which led to his scorn for the great figures of Chinese culture, and because of his contempt for the areas of Chinese civilization that he did not understand, such as architecture, art, and music, Mao destroyed much of the country’s cultural heritage.[5]” This comment is similar to the issue I am addressing in my own dissertation, in that, the ignorance that many have in the structure and methodology taught to us in the Bible, has resulted in far too many trying to revised, edit, or even remove the influences of Scripture in the modern day forming of the church. If more time and education were given to the instructions and motives of God’s message for His faithful, I believe we would see a stronger and better equipped church. However, as long as people only react to Christianity based upon their own prejudices, preferences, and modern day adaptations of appropriateness, they will not only miss the beauty that is true Christianity, but also fail to capitalize one the uniqueness of God’s plan for diversity in the body of Christ.


[1] McNeil, Amanda. Opinionsofawolf.com. February 24, 2011. https://opinionsofawolf.com/2011/02/24/book-review-wild-swans-three-daughters-of-china-by-jung-chang/ (accessed June 14, 2018).

[2] Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. New York: Touchstone, 1991. P 331.

[3] Jungchang.net. n.d. http://www.jungchang.net/reviews (accessed June 14, 2018).

[4] Cape, Jonathan. The Guardian. May 26, 2005. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/may/26/biography.china (accessed June 14, 2018).

[5] Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. New York: Touchstone, 1991. P 518.


Cape, Jonathan. The Guardian. May 26, 2005. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/may/26/biography.china (accessed June 14, 2018).

Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. New York: Touchstone, 1991.

Jungchang.net. n.d. http://www.jungchang.net/reviews (accessed June 14, 2018).

McNeil, Amanda. Opinionsofawolf.com. February 24, 2011. https://opinionsofawolf.com/2011/02/24/book-review-wild-swans-three-daughters-of-china-by-jung-chang/ (accessed June 14, 2018).


About the Author

Shawn Hart

10 responses to “Learning from Ignorance”

  1. M Webb says:

    Thanks for sharing your personalization of Chan’s book and how you integrated your reflections to you congregants. Your discussion on “what is the fundamental message” of the book and how do I “further the ministry?” For me, Chan’s book shows the tragic representation of the fears and beliefs of Buddhist and other non-Christian religions in the East. On a positive note, not mentioned in her book, there are approximately 31 million Christians in China today (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China). These are Christians who publicly identify themselves and it is estimated there are many more in hiding. Compare China’s numbers with the US at an estimated number of 240 million Christians.
    Good post sir! See you in HK.
    Stand firm, 站立得住
    M. Webb

    • Shawn Hart says:

      It is the contrast of how ministry is able to move and flow through a culture that really fascinates me. The very fact that cultures seem to form differently, requires that we need to expect Christianity to form differently in them. Don’t misunderstand…Christianity must stay “CHRISTIANITY,” however, we cannot deny that our methods of evangelism will never work the same across the globe.

      I also find it interesting that the numbers…proportionately do not seem to match well. Is it fear, government, family values, or economy that creates the variables for success?

  2. Jennifer Williamson says:

    I’d like to hear more about your comparisons between Christianity and communism. I think if we look at how the early church lived–with everything in common–we could say that they were being communitsts. The big difference is that the early church did this out of their own free will, because they had been changed by the person of Jesus Christ, and out of love for their neighbor. True generosity cann ot be imposed by the government.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I guess it is not so much the comparisons, but rather, the modern day perceptions of God and His omnipotent personality. To some, God is the God of love and peace and joy and hope; however, others only see the God of wrath, anger, law, destruction and judgment. To understand the appropriate fear of God gives us insight into both His love and His wrath. The problem is, history has not always demonstrated the “free will” of Christianity; in fact, history will show that there are many…and I do mean many examples of Christianity being driven home with a sledgehammer of hate. Viewing China and South Africa showed two cultures that I believe had a more pressured introduction to Christianity rather than a gentle loving teaching of it. Even America demonstrated a hate that was attached to a “white” acceptable form of Christianity. I cannot help but wonder how many people had a tainted image of God as a result.

  3. Thanks Shawn for highlighting how one can learn from what is a memoir (personal story). We are trained in our Western culture to believe that we just learn via textbooks or how-to books, or if Christians, the Bible. I’m sure your shelves are as filled as mine are with these kind of books that instruct us explicitly. But learning is richer and deeper when done ‘slant’. The arts, such as a novel or a painting or a theatre piece, can be doorways of learning and truth as well. I’m on holiday this week and just finished a murder mystery which was full of opportunities for me to reflect on my own life choices.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Absolutely Mark. You know, I love the Bible and hold it as my truly supreme source of guidance and direction in my life. However, with that said, there is also a lot to be said for “testimonies” of one’s life that help to see God at work in people’s lives rather than just seeing the rules or regulations of Scripture. Fortunately, there are stories like that in the bible, however, we need to see that the Bible is still impacting lives today. Stories like this can help to do that.

  4. Jay Forseth says:


    You asked the question, “…everyone serves some purpose…so what is YOUR purpose?” I have reflected and want to state mine. Deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Jesus. Luke 9:23.

    Thanks for asking!

  5. Greg says:

    Shawn I am glad you tried to personalize this week’s reading to the context you live in. I will say that Mao didn’t lead out of ignorance rather her used the masses to follow blindly. I think in the church we can do the same. We can have great rallies and move people to believe a certain way that really becomes a mob mentality rather than a promotion of the Gospel. This was a thought I had when reading you blog.

  6. Kyle Chalko says:

    Great word Shawn. Seeing a memoir from the Mao world was very peculiar. It’s so easy to read about the world and reject it in its entirety. How could christianity coexisted with Maoism? Would that even have been possible?

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