Category Archives: Christianity

Power and Tiananmen Square

Residents and soldiers on the street in Beijing on June 6, 1989 after the crackdown on protesters. Credit LIU Heung Shing/Associated Press

Residents and soldiers on the street in Beijing on June 6, 1989 after the crackdown on protesters. Credit LIU Heung Shing/Associated Press

This year marks 25 years since the Tiananmen Square Massacre – or 6-4 as it’s called in Chinese.  It was a very formative event for me as a child, which I’ve written about before.  It always weighs heavy on my heart this time of year, and I am always intrigued to see how journalists will cover the anniversary, or how the Communist government will try and keep people from remembering this year.

I was surprised last night to read this NY Times article – Tales of Army Discord Show Tiananmen in a New Light. It relates new information about a high-ranking general who refused to attack the protesters saying, “I’d rather be beheaded than be a criminal in the eyes of history.”  In fact, there were other officers too who expressed dissent.

The whole article is definitely worth reading, but the thing that has been sticking with me is that the party leaders did not seem to stop and consider his dissent.  Instead, as the NYTimes reports:

Although General Xu was soon arrested, his defiance sent shudders through the party establishment, fueling speculation of a military revolt and heightening the leadership’s belief that the student-led protests were nothing less than a mortal threat to the Communist Party.

It strikes me because it the general’s dissent may have had the unintended effect of causing the government to crackdown even more strongly.  All this because of fear:  fear of losing power, of losing control,  What kind of power is driven by fear?

I think about this also because I am reading Andy Crouch’s book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power for a discussion next week.  It has prompted all sorts of thoughts about power and the use and misuse of power in our world.  But closer to home, it has forced me to think about my own relationship with power in my own spheres of influence.  You and I don’t control armies, but each of us has our own complex relationship to power.  We need to own how we use our power.

I am even more convinced that I can’t let fear of losing power or control be the driver of my decisions.  Lord, have mercy.



Practice Resurrection

wildflowers in the abandoned field near our house

wildflowers in the abandoned field near our house

Like every year, I spent some time this morning meditating on “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” by Wendell Berry.  For several years, it was my job to read it aloud at our Easter service at Mosaic.  Coming back to it every year is like hanging out with an old friend – and the poem speaks a little differently each year.

This season is about the unexpected – about God making all things new.  Perhaps at first there is fear for us – like there was fear for the women and other disciples.  But we choose hope. Not hope in the absence of despair, but in the face of it.  This is not the cheesy, superficial hope that quotes Bible verses like a tiny band-aid on a gaping wound – but the deep abiding hope that in honesty and anguish continues to seek the God who makes all things new.

We choose to practice resurrection.

Manifesto: Mad Farmer Liberation Front 

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.