The street and the altar

The Lutheran pastor, Christian Führer, whose prayer meetings became a catalyst for the protests that overthrew Communism in East Germany died Monday at age 71.

I was struck by this quotation from him:  “It is not the throne and the altar, but the street and the altar that belong together.”  That’s an interesting version of the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms.   That concept is often taken to refer just to the relation of the church to earthly governments.  That’s part of it, but I think it applies more broadly to society and culture as a whole, where God is also active in vocation and in caring for His creation. [Read more...]

“Maintaining stability” in China

Dissident Yu Jie on what is going on in China:

Contrary to myths and assumptions, economic liberalization and development will not inevitably lead to corresponding political liberalization and development. Economic power has only reinforced an increasingly absurd state power in China.

Rapid growth has transformed China’s party-state into the world’s wealthiest regime, thereby providing endless funds for “maintaining stability,” a pleasant-sounding euphemism for crushing dissent. The official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported that government expenses on “stability maintenance” totaled about $110 billion last year, more than even the defense budget. State expenditures targeting Chen alone reportedly ran into the millions per year, producing a rare growth industry in rural Shandong: monitoring Chen and blocking visitors to his home became the most promising career path for locals. Representing a similar mind-set, the police chief responsible for monitoring my life in Beijing once told me, “Since you moved here, our district has been able to enjoy millions in stability maintenance funds.” He did not see me as a threat or even a nuisance. He just saw me as a means of making money. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is the reality of China today.

China’s economic development over the past decade has refocused resources toward state control. State-owned enterprises have relied on monopolization and connections to realize rapid growth, while private enterprises have faced increasing policy restrictions. State-owned enterprises are not, in fact, state-owned but the private enterprises of well-connected princelings. Each important family in the senior leadership has its industrial fiefdom: former premier Li Peng’s family controls the power and coal industries; the family of former president Jiang Zemin controls telecommunications; the family of former premier Zhu Rongji is involved in finance. Premier Wen Jiabao’s family is involved in the jewelry trade. The average citizen, by contrast, has not derived similar benefits even after decades of economic growth: The gap between rich and poor continues to grow, and social inequality has become increasingly stark. . . .

In effect, the central government and local officials have taken each other hostage in the name of “maintaining stability.” Beijing has placed the burden of stability on local officials, who can face serious punishment from above for outspoken petitioners and activists in their jurisdiction. So local officials are willing to do almost anything to “deal with” people like Chen, rather than addressing the issues he and others raise. The central government then not only condones but also enables such behavior. . . .

If one local official were punished for his abuses, official morale would be damaged and the floodgates would be opened for similar cases nationwide, posing a direct threat to the regime. Although distinctions are often made between corrupt local officials and a righteous central government, their interests are aligned: maintain the veneer of stability at any cost.

via Chen Guangcheng and these Chinese imperative of stability – The Washington Post.

Pro-life dissident’s great escape

Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese lawyer who has been battling China’s forced abortion policy.  For his efforts, he has been in and out of prison since 2005.  After his last release in 2010, Mr. Chen has been under house arrest even though he has not been charged with a crime.  That means that his home is surrounded by armed plain-clothed guards who prevent him and his wife from leaving and from receiving any visitors.

Last week Mr. Chen somehow escaped and made his way 300 miles to Beijing.  Oh, yes.  Mr. Chen is  totally blind.

He has reportedly taken refuge in the U. S. Embassy.  American diplomats are saying that this comes at the worse possible time because Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner are coming to Beijing this week for high-level talks and they fear the incident may harm  relations between the two countries.

via Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese lawyer-activist, escapes house arrest – The Washington Post.

So why are we worried about how this makes China feel?  Shouldn’t China be embarrassed, at the very least, about its brutal treatment of Mr. Chen and, much more importantly, the untold numbers of women whom it forces to get abortions after they have the allotted one child?


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