I was going through the college cafeteria line to buy a chocolate chip cookie and a cup of tea after my morning class. Looking forward to a few quiet moments before I headed to my job, I had a magazine in hand opened to an article about creation. Behind me in line was a professor. As I set the magazine down to retrieve my cookie, a sentence about God having formed the world caught his eye.
No quiet moment now. He asked me about the article, then followed me to my table. He stood as I sat.
He worked to convince me my beliefs were wrong. I interjected briefly. He continued. My allotted 10 minutes set aside for quiet solitude had passed. I said I had to go to work. He followed me halfway to my car. I repeated that I had to go to work.
As a student, I did not shy away from worldview discussions. I had many conversations (pleasant exchanges of ideas) with various instructors, but nothing else like this one. Nearly 25 years later, I clearly recall the uncomfortable nature of that discussion.
Why did he care so much about what I believed? Why was he unwilling to exchange ideas? It grieved him that I believed God had something to do with making our world, with making me, with making him. He wanted a new convert and walked away frustrated that he could not redeem me to his perspective.
There is much discussion today about the supposed exodus of American college age Christians. It’s not as bad as we have heard, but it’s still bad. Christianity in America is shrinking, not growing. And as our numbers shrink, hostility to Christianity is growing.
Today, Chinese Christians face the same antagonistic, cured cement mindset I found in the professor. It’s nothing new for China to crack down on house churches and street preachers. But a new assault on faith takes aim at the symbol of our faith–the cross. China is methodically removing crosses from churches, 1,500 of them, so far.
Like most attacks on faith, this one is not limited to a symbol. CBN reports that more than 200 human rights advocates, many who had represented Christians, were arrested and interrogated. No freedom of religion even though the government guarantees it. No Bill of Rights. Simply advocating someone else’s freedom of belief can land you in jail. Simply believing can land you in jail.
Even so, Chinese Christians are resisting, engaging in civil disobedience, risking arrest, risking the material comfort we take for granted. As their concrete crosses fall, they pick up their metaphorical ones. The Church in China is growing. In the face of direct persecution, Chinese Christians expect it to keep growing.
An irony: As hostility to our faith increases in our nation, so do our opportunities to speak the truth in love. What’s changing is that speaking up may soon be more costly.