A: they all bind you through fear.
Pensées on Seeing the Effect of these Three Influences in Hong Kong
In the sense that Communism, Superstition and Legalism bind people through fear, they are all religious. Because of this they are also in a curious way attractive, at least to certain types of people, but maybe to all of us, just in varying degrees.
Many people like to be told what to do. They like not having the responsibility to think through things for themselves. I think this is a fundamental and perhaps universal human flaw.
Fear and faith also have a lot in common; in both cases you believe that what you cannot yet see will happen to you. The difference is that fear is not based on trust. In fact in many ways fear could be said to be the opposite of trust.
The word religion comes from a Latin root which means to bind. Under communism, superstition and legalism, human beings find themselves bound to act in certain ways, not in the end because they trust those who have dictated things to be so, but because they fear the consequences of resisting and not doing what they are told to do.
The kind of questions they are faced with are: What will they do to me if they find out? What will my fate be in their hands? What will others think?
Fear is not based on reason. In fact fear undermines reason to the extent that people who allow fear to dominate their lives eventually stop thinking reasonably for themselves.
Faith, especially the Christian faith, invites reason, encourages reason, is a healthy environment for reason to flourish. Faith is based on trust, and where there is trust there is progress. You can talk openly, you can even disagree. You confess that you are on a journey together and that you do not know all things but have much to learn.
A few Christians might subscribe to communism (but I don’t know any personally!) Some Christians are strangely superstitious in their behaviour. But there are many more Christians who remain sadly bound by legalism as if it were the acceptable face of being a Jesus follower. As if you blend in better with the religious world by so doing. The deeper sadness is that most do not even realise it, thinking instead that this is as good as it gets in the Christian life.
As we meandered around the Hong Kong and learned more of the diverse cultural history of the city and its environs it made me think about the legacy of these influences today. Eastern Mysticism in its plethora of manifestations, from Buddhism to Taoism/Daoism (neither of which incidentally is especially theistic) has held people in superstitious bondage to a greater or lesser degree for years; rooted in animism and with so often the common thread of reincarnation these –isms, religions and philosophies still focus on a human being’s individual moral obligation to do right things and abstain from wrong things in life in order not to be punished in the future. Thus this fear is a major motivation and the onus is totally on the individual’s responsibility to earn the right to a better life. Communism more recently has built on this culture of fear and perhaps even in its less vicious modern incarnation mixed now with the demiurge of materialism is still overshadowing Hong Kong’s future with its claws of control; in this case Big Brother is certainly watching, not only next-door but now lurking in the corridors of power waiting for an opportunity to inflict its crushing fear. It was indeed Mao Zedong who professed “Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.” The fearful question is then ‘Who is the enemy?” and the supplementary one is “Have I become the enemy?”
Now the impact of Christianity sadly has also often done little to thwart, in fact sometimes it has added to, this oppressive weight of the culture of dos and don’ts, ask not and question not, tick all the boxes and feel proud; for this is the bewitching effect of legalistic Christianity, which can come in and immediately attract those who have grown accustomed to this lifestyle based on other fear-founded –isms. The Apostle Paul goes so far as to call this “another gospel… no gospel at all” [Gal 1:6-7] It is surely not the Gospel, for it is not good news at all. And yet it has and still is masqueraded as the Gospel around the world by well-meaning ministers. It is not even new news, for it is based so much on the worldly concept of earning favour – do good = be accepted, do bad = be rejected. It just perhaps seems more holy when wrapped up in Christian paper.
The Gospel of Grace in the Lord Jesus Christ is the exact opposite. He gives rest to the heavy laden. We simply come to Him and ask. [Matt 7:7, 11:28; Luk 11:9, 13]
So it is basically this ungospel of legalism that Rob Rufus and others like him are vehemently seeking to see stamped out, and I for one am glad for it. We must pray for this glorious good news to go out far and wide, especially in a place like Hong Kong sitting, as it has for centuries, like a gateway into China and the East. But currently City Church International‘s impact on Hong Kong, and on locals, let alone on China, is, in reality, minuscule. It is out of proportion to the thousands of downloads of Rob’s sermons in the rest of the world via the web. So we must pray too for churches like The Vine whose impact in Hong Kong is growing rapidly and currently have, I believe, at least the nascent strategic apostolic and administrative gifting to reach out and sustain evangelism and church-planting within Hong Kong and into mainland China. In my humble opinion these two mixed together would be a lethal weapon against the kingdom of darkness, much like Wesley and Whitefield might have been if they’d been able to work together more often!