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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

The FAR Eastern Orthodox Church

Theophany in Tokyo

A short film showing the life and work of Orthodox Christians in Taiwan

Palm Sunday in Seoul South Korea

And, at the same Parish: Christ is Risen!

I couldn't find any videos from China, except that which showed churches that had been taken over by the government and turned into museums such as St. John Maxomovitch's Parish in Shanghai (Beijing). However, there does still remain an Orthodox presence in China, but it appears terribly anemic for obvious reasons. You can read about it HERE and HERE. I take from this a reminder that while we marvel at their fancy shows during the Olympics, it is in fact a facade that hides a society under the thumb of an atheistic authoritarian regime.

Gee, I suppose I should not have gone in this order. Go back and watch the other videos for a more encouraging experience to begin the weekend. A blessed feastday to all.

Most Holy Lady Theotokos watch over and pray for our brothers and sisters in the far east.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:02 AM [+]


I think your round condemnation of the Chinese gov’t is too simplistic.

The Olympics have fed the Chinese sense of self, cultural pride, etc. No doubt. Minority groups have been silenced in a manner consistent w/ Chinese culture & political philosophy i.e. “don’t embarrass us, come to think of it, I’ll keep you from embarrassing us…”

There is no doubt that the Chinese government oppresses religion (ours among them) do a search for Falun Gong to discover the latest. Neither is there any doubt that the government of China will act to preserve and extend it’s own power (nothing new about that either, so does ours). The combination then suggests that to the extent to which Christianity threatens the Chinese government’s power, Christianity will be suppressed seems like “situation normal”, what we were told to expect as believers.

Frankly I’m not surprised, I find it hard to judge them though - Beyond situation normal, the west has not shown itself in the best light… Moreover, I don’t think it useful to attempt to understand / judge China w/in the construct of western philosophical / political / moral categories. The culture is just different and, by and large, doesn’t give a fig for what we think. The exception, of course, is when they come on to our turf.

You made two observations regarding the Chinese government – that they were both authoritarian AND atheistic.

Recall that except for the period of time when it was effectively ruled by western colonial powers, or was in an effective state of anarchy, China has always been ruled by an authoritarian regime. They've NEVER known "of the people, by the people, for the people" in their 6000 years of civilization. I think you’re on point, but not stating anything new. The crypto-monarchists in the crowd will point to such stability in governmental form as an indication of the fundamental rightness of their own political preferences.

The Atheism charge is a different matter. I wonder to what extent the modern Chinese sense of self is NOT divided into church and state (eg, dictatorial AND atheistic), but rather more along the lines of our own synergia where traditional Chinese spirituality has been replaced by communist political ideology and the whole is an expression of what it means to be Chinese. A citizen of the Middle Kingdom (i.e. at the center of the world). It is atheism per se, or is it a mark of Chinese cultural identity that presents itself under the guise of atheism (or perhaps more accurately an aversion to a western moral framework)?.

I don’t think the “Atheism” originates solely from communism –

When I was in Beijing last, it was obvious that the party was something to which lip service was given, but real life existed on it's fringes. Capitalism, for example, was alive and well and the range of goods and services which were offered for my enjoyment differed little from that which was available to me in London (save in their presentation, the Chinese marketing efforts seemed more aggressive). To the extent then which the viability of a communist state is tied to communist economic theory, I'd have to say that modern China is a failure as a communistic state. If it's not a communistic state, perhaps the present government with it's authoritarian, nationalistic policies represents the dawn of a new dynasty with the same fundamental anti-"other" bias as the previous dynasties.

Christianity then is not worthy of inclusion within the Chinese zeitgeist because it originates from outside the middle kingdom. Even 100~150 years ago, with the connivance of western governments, Christian missionaries had a difficult time of it in China. With some notable exceptions, there was no torch to straw reaction to the Gospel being preached, the western powers that brought that missionaries failed to remain ascendant / were seen as oppressing the Chinese people & destroying their culture/ sense of identity, not to mention that the conduct of some of the missionaries was reprehensible and reflected poorly on all others.

Ergo, Christianity is worthy of suppression w/in a Chinese world view as it does nothing to strengthen China.

Mateo Ricci, an early missionary to the Han seemed to understand the unique challenge that bringing the Gospel to so ancient a culture posed. His alignment of Christian and Confucian values where Christianity is the perfection of Confucian ideals got him in trouble w/ the Vatican, but strikes a chord w/ in me. If the Gospel is to be relevant outside of a Judeo-Christian cultural context, it cannot first require the death of the other culture. Consider too how St. Herman brought the Gospel to Alaska. I see great similarities.

Contrast the Christian outreach to China w/ that of Africa and the Americas. By contrast, the western powers managed to remain ascendant until the indigenous (and comparatively much weaker) cultures were subsumed into a new westernized ethic. Typhoid, and other diseases rendered the question largely moot in some cases. In any event, bush league effort compared to China

So, I believe that our dealings w/ China In this matter, as well as other interactions w/ China represents a significant new challenge. One in which we must ask ourselves:

- How has the west presented itself historically?
- What baggage do we need to overcome?
- How do you deal w/ a culture/ government that perceives little value in YOUR values
- Given the above, how do you preach a transformative gospel?
- Wouldn’t persecution be a sign of success in such an environment as well as a profound tragedy?
- Is it really fair to expect a secular sporting event to advance our goals?

Headed to Hong Kong next week –


By Blogger Liz in Seattle, at 1:45 PM  


i know of a Hieromonk who traveled to China a few years back. While there he performed some baptisms.

The baptisms took place in an apartment as i understood it. What was interesting is that after the baptisms the water used was slowly poured out of the apartment window.

They get it....

Me on the other hand, with my freedoms, gripe to myself when i have to arrive prior to the Service to prepare the font (or) tank for baptisms and then take time afterwards to empty and clean up.


By Blogger layne (herman), at 2:54 PM  


Hey Steve,

All that in response to one sentence? You are right, of course, my statement was simplistic, but I largely stand by it - I think :)

Whether China has always been an authoritarian regime doesn't change the fact that most of us prefer not to live under them - especially the sort as seen in communism. A monarch can be authoritarian and yet still give some freedoms to his/her people. Communism has a vast ideology associated with it that demands so much from the people's hearts and minds and everyday life. It is all encompassing. We recall what the Chinese do to folks who voice an opinion contrary to the government.

I will have to research more, but I've put a good deal of hours studying soviet atheism lately and I suspect there are going to be similarities in China. Atheism and communism went hand in hand - the founders absolutely rejecting any notion that the two could be separated.

Admittedly I do not know the history or current policies with regard to the official propagation of atheism...but I'll bet it has been and is there and persecution has ebbed and flowed in intensity throughout the country's socialist history.

All I note is that we don't overly blinded by the pretty lights and dancing.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 8:27 AM  


Ok, I was a little off the reservation, but I've been thinking about China recently. Forgive me for singling out one sentence, but I'm going to do it again...

"A monarch can be authoritarian and yet still give some freedoms to his/her people."

There's a huge difference between "endowed by their monarch w/ certain inalienable rights" and the more familiar text. I would submit that most of us prefer the latter.

I would challenge your assertion that communism = atheism. I would assert that communisim replaces the worship of God w/ the worship of "the people" and the synergia of the government and the Church w/ the magisterium of the government.

Soviet Atheism will differ considerably since Lennin was reacting, in part, to the Church's role in Russian culture where most of the country was at least nominally Christian. Mao, was reacting to the legacy of western imperialism and Japanese expansionism. The Christians were never more then a tiny minority in China. It would be interested to see how Confucian ideals, Buddhist monasteries & temples, and other "native" Chinese spiritual "stuff" fared. My guess is, not well but the curious thing would be why and when... and that compared to other periods of history...

"Communism has a vast ideology associated with it that demands so much from the people's hearts and minds and everyday life. It is all encompassing."

So also does our faith, if we listen to it. I don't see this as necessarily bad.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:14 AM  


I'm rarely off the reservation - literally.

I think my biggest complaint with China (and indeed communism) is the utter lack of adherence to rule of law. The official soviet constitution in the latter days granted both freedom of religion and freedom of the press. Of course we know this was absolute nonsense and gibberish.

Communist governments are not subject to their own laws. Whereas rule of law is what keeps our government in check - usually. (Actually our government is subject to the law and the press to such a degree as to just about render us utterly impotent...but that's a tangent.)

The Chinese government is for the Chinese government. There is no rule of law that an individual or group of individuals can appeal to. There is neither freedom of press or religion, but rather only the facade of such.

I work with a person who was part of an underground church in China and she tells me stories that rather darken the Olympic torch in my mind.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:14 AM  


"I think my biggest complaint with China (and indeed communism) is the utter lack of adherence to rule of law"

1) not sure it's true - would need to check

2) isn't that the case w/ all totalitarian governments?

again, I question the extent it's useful to apply western categories to non-western cultures.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:40 AM  


again, I question the extent it's useful to apply western categories to non-western cultures.

I think it depends on the category. I don't everyone should like baseball. But, neither do I think anyone should be arrested for peacefully practicing their religious faith.

But what does a totalitarian regime do when someone practices a faith that is not officially under the thumb of "the party"? I happened to have this drop in my inbox this AM:


By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 11:24 AM  


That's an interesting article - One little problem, Importing Bibles to China is ILLEGAL, apparently at at least one level the government believes in the rule of law, even if some foreigners don't.

1) the people arrested were naive / did not recognize that under chinese law they were trafficing in a banned substance.

2) they knew but figured that they might get away from it.

3) they knew and figured that they could either deliver "pure" bibles or make a scene.

My guess is #3.

What should our response be if a Jamaican Rastafarian tried to smuggle some ganja into the US to assist his co-religionists in their worship of Ja?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:55 PM  


WHY is the Bible illegal in China?

I think that is the issue. Interesting that you chose to compare it to drugs....now, who was it that called religion the opiate of the masses?


By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 3:34 PM  


The bible is illegal because it's the instrument of western cultural imperialism. Fairy Tales, False gods, distracting the citizen from their duties to the middle kingdom.

It's the emperor who intercedes w/ heaven to assure the prosperity of all.

How is the cause of proving this outrageous bombast wrong advanced by flouting the laws of the country ?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:43 PM  


Ah, the obligatory cheap shot of likening monarchy to totalitarian communism...
Frankly, though my opinion counts for little, I don't care if the Chinese are communists or not. My disgust with China is mostly centered on the idiotic American companies who are destroying our manufacturing capability and handing it to the Chinese on a silver platter, coupled with the fact that the average American thinks they have an inalienable right to "stuff" and will support our industrial suicide by buying Chinese-made "stuff". What form of government rules China is not my problem, and by extension not America's problem. Just as how Iraq, Iran, etc are ruled are not my problem, and essentially not America's problem.
There is a notion, entirely unfounded, that inside every person on earth, there is a free-market, representative government, proto-American trying to get out. What if the Chinese, or Russians, or Iraqis DON'T WANT what we have to offer? It amazes me when Americans get bent out of shape when the Chinese government does something we perceive as "Wrong", but is entirely in the self-interest of the Chinese government. Just like the US denounces Russia for not respecting the sovereignity of Georgia, but we have no respect for the sovereignity of Serbia, Iraq, Panama, etc.

To conflate monarchy with totalitarianism is entirely false. A monarch is an inherently inefficient form of government (my favorite kind), though I would argue it is a more human form of government. It is bureaucracy that is the bane of the common man, and it ultimately makes little difference whether the overseers of the bureaucracy are elected or hereditary, the bureaucracy is generally unaccountable. I would wager that even a bloated government like Tsarist Russia had much less presence in the life the average person than the US government does today.
All governments are authoritarian. After all the US government has the authority to kill you. Just because it has to go through more steps, doesn't mean the authority does not exist.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:52 AM  


Rade...agree with our empowerment of China via cheap goods.

Disagree that freedom is something only westerners like. People should not be killed for their religious beliefs - I gather Tibetans rather like their religion and indeed Chinese Christians who are persecuted would rather have a different form of government...alas they don't get to vote. I'm not willing to change it for them...but I'll surely stand up for clumsy free democracy over atheistic totalitarian communism anyday. As surely as you'd stand for monarchism.

Yes the US government could kill me, but let's not be so blind as to not see the different reasonings and ease with which the Chinese or Iranians or North Koreans can kill their people. Rule of law still reigns here...not the proletariat. And we can change the laws. Heck how do you think those folks in Guantanamo would have fared just about ANYWHERE outside of US custody? Terrorists in China, I doubt, could expect a fair trial.
We do not hang our gays and neither do we shoot people who criticize the government. C'mon....you practice your faith freely and without fear here...give the west some credit, no?

That said, whether it is our business what sort of ugly government others suffer under is a different question. My answer is a very resounding maybe...soemtimes...perhaps...or not.

But I think it's okay to say that there is a morality inherent in freedom. Unless youre a calvinist, I rather suspect God operates with a certain sense of their being goodness and rightness in freedom.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 2:43 PM  


How is the cause of proving this outrageous bombast wrong advanced by flouting the laws of the country ?

Clearly I am not bombastic enough...I'm not sure I know what you mean here.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 3:20 PM  


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