Chinese parents appreciate role of faith in education

I have been asked numerous times whether Chinese parents have concern about the Christian nature of the George Fox campus. Why would Chinese parents, from a secular culture, send their children to a Christian school? I thought the best way to answer this question was to ask them directly. The responses I received were very similar: “We believe that religious belief can be a very important part of life, and we encourage our children to learn from religious communities.” I was surprised by their openness and willingness to consider faith as an important part of adult development. In the West, we often see religion as nothing more than a private choice of individuals and thus try to demote religious conversations into a private world. For the Chinese, the question of religious commitment is a vital one to be debated and discussed in the open.
As we prepared to leave Changsha on a plane bound for our last stop, Beijing, the flight attendant handed me a copy of the Nov. 1 Chinese Daily News. On the editorial page was an article written by Chen Weihua entitled “Reclaiming moral ground key to nation.” Just before we arrived in China a 2-year old child, Yue Yue, was run over twice by automobiles while at least 18 adult Chinese persons ignored the plight of the child. The incident played frequently in the news media and led to conversations about the moral development of the Chinese people. In his article, Mr. Weihua identifies the Yue Yue incident as symptomatic of the loss of moral commitment in China in recent times. “While our ability to build infrastructure, boost manufacturing capacity, and create an economic miracle continue to amaze the world, we are taking one blow after the other for our abdication of the moral high ground.” Such comments were common among the parents I talked with.
One of the parents in Changsha talked about the importance of moral education to their daughter’s future. In their business, their office manager is a Christian. When their daughter chose to go to George Fox, a Christian institution, they asked the office manager to take her to church and help her understand aspects of Christianity. Since arriving at George Fox, their daughter has only had positive things to say about the role of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The mother noted that while education seeks to develop the mind, religious faith seeks to mold the heart. She recognizes that her daughter’s education of both the heart and mind are essential for her future.
In contrast, one father in Shenzhen expressed not a complaint but a concern about the impact of religious faith on his son’s life. He noted that his son had come to enjoy chapel and Bible classes at George Fox. He reflected on his son’s experience in this way: “My son told me about the Bible classes and the talk of Jesus Christ. My son has come to believe that if he comes to know Jesus he would be cleansed from sin and wrong paths and that he would have a ‘new heart.’ All that is good, but the world does not honor people who are simple and pure of heart. How will he be a businessman in China with this kind of perspective?” The father’s question revealed much. Most importantly, he understands that a commitment to a relationship with Christ changes a person’s heart and sets them on a different path from much of the world. It is our goal that every student understand that to walk with Christ is to tread a different path.But is it true that a Christian person could not be an effective businessman or woman? Does a pure heart automatically mean defeat in the marketplace of the world? If one takes the short-term view, perhaps there is reason for the father to have some concern. I actually take a different perspective. In a similar vein to Mr. Weihua’s article, I believe many people are looking for businesses that stand out from the crowd that pursues only money. They are looking for people they can trust – people who will develop services and products that serve people. We talked for a very long time about early Quakers, like the Barclays and the Cadburys, who based their business on honest practice and quality products. These Christians lived out the commitments of Jesus and also made money that they often used to strengthen ministry. Does being a Christian mean that one is disadvantaged in the marketplace? It can, but it does not have to be so.Do our Chinese parents and students understand who we are and what our type of education represents? Absolutely, and in fact they may be some of our best advertisements for why our institutions serve the community more effectively than others. They certainly articulate well what we do uniquely in the world of higher education. I must tell you, I have seldom had such engaging conversations about faith and higher education. I left encouraged.

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One Response to Chinese parents appreciate role of faith in education

  1. L Twedell says:

    Thank you for this article. I wondered the same thing about the students from abroad on our first visit. I am so appreciative of the viewpoint of this mother. I especially love how you have put it into words so eloquently. “Education seeks to develop the mind, religious faith seeks to mold the heart” I hope we can take this and help all people become the best they can become.