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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Cost of human utopia

Written by: on June 16, 2018

It is almost a utopian scene to describe a world that everyone works, lives and strives for the betterment of everyone else. This “imagined community” in which all work together sounds like something only possible if you are smoking something the hippies call Ganga. This image of communism is such a stark contrast to those states that claim foundation in this belief. For many, the path of loving and supporting this political system ended in tragedy and heart ache.  The fallen world we live in distorts any earthly man made utopia that we all desire. 

Jung Chang’s book “Wild Swans” is a story of three generations of heartbreak and longing for something better. I first read this book about 15 years ago and it helped lay the foundation for understanding the generational brokenness that this country has endured. I doesn’t take long for one to recognize this has gone one in many households and is a secretive history that might cause some to look down on that individual. The cultural revolution was one of Mao Zedong’s most effective and long lasting tools. Setting the student masses on their teachers, parents or anyone they felt was different from them brought terror to a country, and kept Mao in charge despite all of the other radical ideas he had tried. He used these masses to keep others from taking his power and unfortunately shaped the direction of the country. 

Through several generations of purging and propaganda a level of distrust was created that can be seen today. When westerners answer questions we often give away more about ourselves that most. For example when asked our name we often respond giving a short bio. The question was, “what is you name?” The chinese answer would be “greg” , not even a last last if that wasn’t asked. In China, even today we only answer the question that is asked. This idea of being friendly and sharing who you are in not something that is natural for Chinese. Having to worry about neighbors turning you in or witch hunt style accusations being levied on those you have issue with, keeps people from sharing more than they need. Unfortunately there are moves to regain some of this type of neighborhood scrutiny that an open blog is not appropriate to share.

This reminds me of a story my first Chinese teacher told me about her family. She is from the far northwest corner of china. This area is an area for Muslims and outcasts. As a foreigner I can ask innocent questions and it is understood as not too probing. I said “has your family been there for a long time?”  She responded with a story of how her grandparents were land owners in Sichuan province (where the pandas live). When communist took over much of China’s interior was much like an feudal system with land owners and workers. She went into detail on how they were targeting during the distribution of wealth and thus needed re-education. They were marched from the middle of the country to the northwest and worked in  labor and re-education camps. Of course her grandparents were never the same after this experience.When they were finally released they were required to stay in that area so they could help bring communism to the local people. She casually mentioned that her parents had experienced some intensive attention during the cultural revolution. (Though she didn’t want to get into it)  She called the northwest her home and she recognized that something was lost in her history and family. Not wanting to bring shame to her country she quickly moved on not wanting to describe what was obviously a traumatic time. 

“The Cultural Revolution not only did nothing to modernize the medieval elements in China’s culture, it actually gave them political respectability.  ‘Modern’ dictatorship and ancient intolerance fed on each other.  Anyone who fell foul of the age-old conservative attitudes could now become a political victim.”1  China current government began in revolution and that continued to express its displeasure for not achieving the harmonious utopia that was promised.  Chinese desire to have a strong country and be seen as influencers of society. They tolerate a lot to achieve their place in the world. They believe authority and power comes from a strong (often overbearing) leader. 

We all come to God with brokenness and need Him to help us see beyond it. For Chinese who are fearful of saying and doing wrong, coming to Christ is sometimes seen as looking for some strong leader to tell them what to do. This becomes almost an obsession for young people to find the correct path that God wants them on.  The desire a strong and powerful leader that helps bring peace and stability in a fallen world. Christ does do this and as we all know, so much more. He not only leads but bring restoration to the brokenness this world creates.  

(Thanks for patience this week as I am working off my phone this week)

 1.Jung Chang. Wild Swans: Three daughters of China.(William Collins, 2012) 413

About the Author

Greg

Greg has a wife and 3 children. He has lived and work in Asia for over 12 years. He is currently the Asia Director of Imanna Laboratories, which tests and inspects marine products seeking US Coast Guard certification. His company Is also involved in teaching and leadership development.

10 responses to “Cost of human utopia”

  1. Jay Forseth says:

    Greg,

    Again, yours is the one I most look forward to reading with your up-close and personal perspective. We are all going to school on you my Brother. Thanks for sharing from the heart (and sorry you had to do this from your phone, no fun).

    Most of all, thanks for your servant’s heart!

    • Greg says:

      We are all learning from each other brother. In France this week with a girl that comes from Montana. We got talking about you this week and the joys of growing up in Montana.

  2. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Thanks so much for your insights, Greg. This book has been one of my favorite reads, and I am actually finishing reading it because I’m so capitvated by it.

    This quote from the beginning of your post: “The fallen world we live in distorts any earthly man made utopia that we all desire. ” captures so much. We do long for utopia, we were, after all, made for paradise. Does this natural longing for “more” create bridges for sharing good news?

    • Greg says:

      Hi Jenn. We are in MONTMEYRAN this week. We plan to run into Lyon for the day at some point. Absolutely beautiful country and I have found the people sweet and helpful.

      I think Confucius and his teachings were from a desire to make sense of a confused and broken world. This is seen over and over even in this book as they blindly follow anyone that offers hope and a change from there circumstances.

  3. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Greg, Thanks for your candid insight to China. I am blown away by the truth and the need to keep honoring one’s country even when they have hurt so many. That’s my western perspective talking, I am sure. I am glad for the search from many to find God as a healer and restorer of the broken. I wonder they expect God to be one who rules with an iron fist or if God’s grace is something readily accepted. Are there particular strains of theology (reformed, Wesleyan, charismatic, etc) that the Chinese gravitate toward culturally?

    • Greg says:

      The Chinese do wonder what God expects of them. In a culture of Ying and Yang (light and shadow) there needs to be a balance. They wonder what God is going to expect in return for forgiveness. Asian love dance and expression of worship which unfortunately seems to have only expressed itself in charamatics. Unfortunately because that could have been done better from us all. The Wesleyans are sought after for our teaching and desire to teach discipleship. There are many that simply believe in God and have not been properly disciplined so are an inch deep. Lots to be done.

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Greg,
    Thank you so much for your insight into Chinese culture. I wonder if deep down there is a desire to be more open and they are just to scared or is it so ingrained in their lives that it is not even a desire.

    Thanks
    Jason

    • Greg says:

      I didn’t get into this here but once you have made it into the intimate circles there are greater opportunities to share.

  5. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Greg. I’ve been looking forward to your posts each week. You bring a lot of insight into this part of our program. Your social insight of the guarded behavior of the Chinese was very interesting. I’ll be curious to see if I see any of that in HK

    • Greg says:

      Thanks Kyle. Hong Kong is almost its own country. There is a greater control and watchfulness that is taking place. I do hope while you all are there you will see that people and not the obstacles. That is where we see Jesus.

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