Uninspired prophecies are notoriously unreliable. Yale University economics professor Irving Fisher said in 1929, "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Two decades later, Popular Mechanics predicted that "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." With similar foresight, the Decca Recording Co. in 1962 rejected the Beatles, explaining, "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." Leading scholars scoffed at Ronald Reagan's contention during the 1980s that the evil Soviet empire would soon fall apart.
Now, another evil empire--China--is attracting attention. Liberal journalists last month used the death of Deng Xiaoping to mourn the passing of a dictator they liked--my, wasn't he cute--and predict problems to come, unless we give glory and laud and honor to those now in charge.
At WORLD, however, our attitude is different. Since Christ is the Lord of history and the destroyer of kings who do not honor him, we know that even now the days of China's tyrants are numbered. We cannot predict China's short-term future, but we know that Christ is the hope for both America and China, and that American diplomacy should do all it can to promote opportunities for Christianity to expand in China.
Sinologists speculate about "the Chinese character," but there is a universal truth summarized well by Whittaker Chambers: "Man without God is a beast, and never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness." Those who believe that education and markets tame man's aggressiveness are ignoring the Bible and the evidence of all of history. As China breaks out of poverty it becomes more of a threat to its neighbors, not less.
The only way a richer China can be a less threatening China is for it to become spiritually richer. Primarily for the sake of Christ, but secondarily for the physical safety of our children and grandchildren, the advances of Christianity in China are heartening; the footrace is between evangelism and disaster. If we believe trade will tame China's Communists, we are like the British commander in the movie Bridge over the River Kwai who gives aid and comfort to the enemy by enthusiastically building a bridge. Only at the last moment does he wonder, "What have I done?"
Every publication bases its international coverage on a set of priorities, often implicit. At WORLD, we make ours explicit. First, we are for the defense and expansion of the gospel. We want missionaries to be free to teach, and citizens free to worship.
Second, we are for the protection of American citizens and vital interests. In part, admittedly, this is because the United States is our home, and with all its many flaws, we love it. But in a larger sense, the United States is the country with a greater amount of Christian salt than virtually any other, and (historically) a defender of the liberty to evangelize throughout the world.
Sometimes, these two goals--promote Christianity, protect the United States--come into conflict. The Persian Gulf war was disquieting because the United States took the lead in defending governments in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that persecute Christians.
Concerning China, however, our two goals are not in conflict. Chinese Christians are our friends; we should pray that God will protect them. The current Chinese leaders, from all appearances, are our enemies; we should pray that God will change their hearts. The future defense of America will be far less hazardous if China's saltiness increases.
God, as is his custom, may even be turning decisions meant for evil into devices to push along the long march of Christianity. One Chinese house church leader said Deng Xiaoping was "an unwitting instrument of God who helped bring revival to China. Deng gave us the freedom to evangelize, then left all the apparatus in place to punish us when we did. It proved to be the ideal atmosphere for church growth."
In this struggle, as Russian dissidents learned a generation ago, publicity can help: Those who lie low can be liquidated without a trace, but if we put a face to torture--if we learn enough to pray for Chinese Christians by name and protest when they are harassed--lives and souls can be saved. We can also help by not giving Chinese leaders what they want--World Trade Organization and Most Favored Nation status--while they tighten the screws on our Christian brothers.
The United States needs to defend itself militarily, but all of us should remember that our only true defense in the long run is the offense of Christ.
We must be bold and courageous.