I have been trying not to write about this since I first heard about it (thanks, Shanghaiist), largely because I would need to learn more curse words before I could truly express my opinion on this issue.
In fact, while we’re on the topic, those of you who are offended by profanity may want to change the channel right about now.
Anyway, the story doesn’t seem to want to die, so here it is: A while ago, the Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs allowed not one but two foreign ministers to come to China and do the evangelical thing for a crowd of 14,000. One of them, James Meeks, is also an Illinois senator and a member of a group that “strives to erase the division between church and state” as well as “a stalwart anti-gay activist”. The
bigots preachers showed up with a full gospel choir, and apparently managed to convert 500 of the attendees.
When he’s not in China spreading the good word, though, Meeks keeps busy in the US, doing things like fighting against an anti-discrimination bill for LGBT Illinois citizens, putting on church Halloween shows that depict gays being burned in hell, and blaming “Hollywood Jews” for the movie Brokeback Mountain.
Now, that this kind of guy is allowed to come to China and preach is concerning enough. Isn’t the upside of being a country with no real freedom of speech that China can tell guys like this to go fuck themselves? Obviously, homophobia is far from nonexistent in China even among non-Christians, but the government has been taking clear steps in the right direction over the past ten years. And if a survey by sexologist Li Yinhe is accurate, Chinese people are actually more open-minded than you might think. She found that while most people think homosexuality is wrong, over 90% of those surveyed felt gays should have equal employment rights, 80% said gays were “equal individuals” and a majority of those surveyed said that gay-themed entertainment should be allowed to be shown openly.
So why does it seem like the leadership of State-approved Chinese churches are also headed in the wrong direction? Fu Xianwei, a high-ranking official in the official Protestant church, recently attended a big conference of anti-gay bishops in Singapore, and he wants to expand his church’s cooperation with the group (the Anglican Global South). The AGS itself is in a bit of a spat with the US Anglican Church over its ordination of a gay bishop and blah blah why is this suddenly sounding like the kind of crap I have to read in American papers every day?
Look, I like a story about bigots being bigoted in the name of Jesus as much as the next guy (i.e., not at all), but if this sort of stuff has to happen, can’t we keep it confined to the crazies in America? China has enough social problems, it doesn’t need to import America’s, and it certainly doesn’t need to be giving morons like James Weeks the idea that China is a fertile ground for him to recruit people to hold “God Hates Fags” signs at rallies.
Freedom of religion is a wonderful thing — well, an OK thing — but it doesn’t exist here in China. Isn’t the upside of that that we should be spared from this bigoted fundamentalist bullshit? As of yet, the machinations of the Chinese Church have gone unnoticed by the people, who by and large do not believe in or care about Christianity, but China has an opportunity to wield its great authoritarian power for good here, and I don’t understand why they aren’t taking advantage of it (OK, I do understand, but I wish they would it anyway).
Skilled readers will notice that I haven’t said anything negative about Christians or Christianity in general, which is because I have nothing against it. While I’m not currently religious, I used to be1, and I respect people who are — unless they’re the fundamentalist sort that read the Bible selectively (or just straight-up incorrectly) and use God as an excuse to push their backwards “values” on people who don’t want them and to abuse homosexuals and those who love and support them. If that’s the kind of person you are, then yes, you should take this post personally, because I am calling you an idiot. But I doubt that applies to many of our readers here.
- In fact, coincidentally, my iTunes is playing dc Talk’s album Jesus Freak right now, and it is still really good. [↩]