Tuesday, August 26, 2008
All that glitters...
This picture is of perhaps the most famous bar in Galway. The over-the-top Gothic design and wooden ceilings give a mixture of impressions of being in a medieval cathedral or a creaky old ship. In case one was forgetting which century we were in, there is the big screen in the background showing a race from the Olympic cycling velodrome...
The recent Olympics in Beijing were many things: Impressive, huge, spectacular even awe-inspiring, but there was also much that left me uncomfortable. In some ways it's great to see China come of age and to be mostly free of the bloodbath that was Mao's "Cultural Revolution", but all the bad stuff hasn't gone away, just swept under a very large (red) carpet.
One of my favourite songs at the moment is Casting Crowns' "What this world needs", the chorus of which goes:
What this world needs is a Savior who will rescue
A Spirit who will lead
A Father who will love them
In their time of need
A savior who will rescue
A Spirit who will lead
A Father who will love
That's what this world needs
As I look at China this is what I think, that they are a nation desperate to be loved and accepted by the rest of the world, but also wanting to say "well actually we're much better, more powerful and more civilised than you". (Just look at the games' opening ceremony to get that message.)
All this was put in a nutshell with the case of poor old Liu Xiang, the magnificent 110m hurdler, who won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. This great athlete had become a centrepiece of the hopes of the Chinese nation for the games. Everywhere one went around Beijing there were giant posters of him hurdling over a credit card or drinking coke. Unfortunately, the nations idol came a cropper in the heats, pulling up with a hamstring injury before even the first hurdle was reached. 1.3 billion people were crestfallen, that immense sense of national pride had been dented - even the Chinese newsreader broke into tears. We were left with an overhead shot of this poor chap, with impossible pressure put upon him retreating back to the dressing room and taking out his frustration by kicking a door (with his good leg).
People put their hopes in so many different things - but everyone and everything will always let us down in the end - except Jesus that is.
Here's an astonishing statistic: According to Open Doors International (www.od.org) there are between 60-80 million Christians in China, and possibly many more! It seems that the harder the Chinese authorities come down on the church, the more people that are imprisoned, tortured and/or killed, the more the Church grows http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3993857.stm.
Perhaps some of those who were putting their faith in Liu Xiang will leave him alone now to get on with his life and instead put their faith and trust in the One who will lead them, love them and rescue them - and never, ever let them down...