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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On China & India

So there I was, in the midst of my local Wal-Mart store. I had dropped my son for school, stopped at the bank, and dropped into Wal-Mart to pick up a few things for Christmas. I wanted nothing fancy or extravagant; just some basic stuff. My cart began to fill with quite an assortment of items. There were a couple of shirts, two lawn chairs, a space heater, a camera, Christmas lights, a jewelry box, watch, leaf bagger for my pool, etc. But as I completed that little shopping expedition, I became quite disgusted.

What was the object of my aggravation? Despite the name on the building, it seemed I had been shopping at China-Mart instead of Wal-Mart! Even the items that I looked at and considered purchasing (but didn't) were made in China. As I checked myself out (there were no attended check-out lanes open), I scanned one item after another --- from China. I realized that virtually all of my purchases that day --- every single thing in my cart --- was made in China. I wondered if this could really be what's best for us.

I continued on that morning to the local vacuum cleaner store. My daughter had come to help her mother clean and dropped the vacuum down the stairs, snapping a wheel off it. Steve Black's Vacuum (a local store that I highly recommend), replaced it for free. Steve and I were talking about the quality of the vacuum (it seemed rather cheap). I turned it over, and sure enough --- it had been made in China. Steve said, "You know, when we were growing up, it used to be that things which came from China or Taiwan were considered to be of inferior quality." I told Steve that they might still be, but apparently we (as a society) don't care.

Lest you think I'm picking on China, don't despair. India is in my mind right now too. I went to an on-line pharmacy to order a standard prescription. Imagine my surprise to find the prescription shipped to me from India, and my credit card charged a foreign exchange rate! None of this was disclosed on the web site I shopped at (which I will refuse to name). I had a hard drive crash earlier this year (my computer was made in China) and had to go through all sorts of hardware and software conniptions over several weeks. My conversations with people in India seemed endless and were at times exasperating. I wondered if anyone does anything in the U.S. anymore. It's clear that we don't make anything here. But apparently we don't do anything here either!

Is this really what's best? Aren't we really just sending our manufacturing to China and our services to India because of greed? Isn't it a simple matter of economics --- where we come to believe we can get more for less? And even if that were true, would that make it right?

My wife and I have, for years, financially supported an organization known as The Voice of the Martyrs. (You can check them out at Their newsletter came this week. Ironically enough, it contained updates on the persecution of Christians in China and India.

According to Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), "As the world's eyes turn toward China for the 2008 Olympics, the government (of China) is desperate to stash away unregistered house church Christians .... They are a blemish on the face China wants to show the world, a reminder that Jesus is more powerful than their own government. This is resulting in panicked attempts to smother Chinese Christians." They continue, "From April to June in 2007, the Chinese government waged a campaign expelling more than 100 suspected foreign missionaries. The massive expulsion was the largest of its kind since 1954. A month later, government officials at the national level ordered intensified persecution against their won citizens --- unregistered house church Christians."

VOM explains, "A July 6 directive posted on China's Ministry of Public Security official web site read: 'Strike hard against illegal religious and evil cult activity; eliminate elements that affect the stability of village governance.' Since July, Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers have attacked schools and house churches and arrested believers ... but the police often use more subtle tactics to hurt Christians, like verbal threats or cutting off their homes' water and electricity." It seems that my American materialism, selfishness and greed are feeding a monster that I wouldn't want to have to deal with myself.

Now India is heralded as the largest democracy in the world. Jobs from America are flocking there in droves. There is hardly a large company that does not have India on its agenda right now (much like they do with China). But listen to what VOM has to say about India.

"Persecution is exploding in India. In the past year, VOM has logged more than 300 religiously motivated, significant attacks against Christians by radical, nationalistic Hindus. While many see India as a democratic, technologically progressive nation, there is also a darker side: one of widespread poverty, extreme mistreatment of lower castes and growing religious oppression."

VOM explains, "Seven Indian states now have anti-conversion laws, known as 'Freedom of Religion Acts.' These laws are used by Hindu extremists to justify attacks against Christians, accusing them of converting people by force. Pastors and other Christians are frequently imprisoned under these laws, even in states that do not officially have such laws." VOM describes the situation in India (for Christianity) as one of "growing animosity."

One example cited by VOM helps illustrate the issue in India. A young evangelist named Ranjan Dangua was kidnapped by a mob of radical Hindus. He was beaten, cursed, had kerosene thrown on him, made to march around the Hindu temple 108 times and had his head shaved. The next day he was forced to drink cow-dung water, eat food offered to idols and otherwise humiliated --- all as part of a "purification ritual." Ranjan eventually escaped and continues to serve the Lord, declaring that has his only desire. He has since been attacked and stabbed by a Hindu fanatic.

Another example cited by VOM helps take it to the local church level --- and out of the house churches or personal evangelism level. Last December 24th, young people eagerly gathered to decorate Biriguda Pentecostal Church for Christmas. Mainly made up of Dalits, the lowest caste in India, the congregation of 150 built the church from their pooled, meager resources. Usually the decorators spent the night in the church building. But this time, they planned to return early the next morning to finish. That decision probably saved their lives --- as that night (Christmas Eve), Hindu radicals burned the church building to the ground.

I don't know if you've read your Bible much, but the Old Testament especially is replete with examples of God telling Israel as a nation not to do business with other nations. God's reasoning was that these other nations were not godly and would only corrupt and bring trouble to Israel. I wonder how it could be any different for the United States today. I am reminded of Proverbs 13:20, which says, "Be with wise men and become wise. Be with evil men and become evil." That seems simple enough to comprehend. Basically God is telling us that we will become like whoever we associate with, do business with, hang out with, etc.

So --- do we Americans really believe that we can feed our greed by selling our souls to China and India without any real consequences?

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