U.S. Closes Chinese Consulate in Houston: Explaining this escalating conflict and its relevance for American Christians today


US closes Chinese consulate in Houston: Explaining this escalating conflict and its relevance for American Christians today

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In The Daily Article for July 23, 2020

  • Why tensions between the US and China are rising
  • What I learned in Beijing
  • “Cancel culture” and Christian courage

People look on as the Houston Fire Department responds to reports of a fire inside the Chinese Consulate on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 in Houston. Houston police and fire officials responded to reports that documents were being burned in the courtyard of the consulate Tuesday night, according to the Houston Police Department. China says the U.S. has ordered it to close its consulate in Houston in what it called a provocation that violates international law. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

NOTE: My latest website paper, “What does the Bible say about cancel culture?” is now available. I invite you to read it here.

Yesterday, the US ordered the abrupt closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston. The Wall Street Journal reports that the State Department is accusing China of conducting massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the US against our government officials and citizens. The State Department adds that such activities have increased in recent years.

The closure order coincided with Washington’s unveiling on Tuesday of indictments against two hackers in China. They are accused of targeting American firms involved in coronavirus research and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in sensitive information from companies around the globe. This was done, according to the US, on behalf of Beijing’s main civilian intelligence agency.

The Journal adds that US officials have become increasingly concerned in recent years about China’s use of its Washington embassy and five consulates around the country to advance espionage and political influence operations. The Houston consulate has drawn particular scrutiny.

A Chinese official responded: “China urges the US to immediately rescind its erroneous decision, otherwise China will undertake legitimate and necessary responses.”

Worshiping Xi Jinping 

This is just the latest episode in a long-running conflict between the US and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The US Defense Secretary said earlier this week that our military is equipping and positioning its forces across Asia for a possible confrontation with China. The US recently declared China’s claims in the South China Sea to be unlawful.

China’s record on human rights, especially with regard to its minorities, is beyond horrific. The Uighurs, a Muslim minority, have been subjected to forced sterilization and abortion in a form of “demographic genocide.” Chinese Christians are being pressured to renounce their faith and to spy on other believers.

It has been reported that Christians who receive social welfare payments from the Chinese government have been ordered to remove crosses and religious symbols from their homes or lose their subsidies. One official posted portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping in a Christian’s home and said, “These are the greatest Gods. If you want to worship somebody, they are the ones.”

My experience in Beijing 

I was invited some years ago to deliver a series of lectures in Beijing. One request came from a group of professional leaders who asked me to lecture on business ethics. When I asked them to define the problem they most wanted to discuss, they identified corruption and a lack of honesty in their business culture.

This is a symptom of the larger worldview at work in the PRC. The second paragraph of the Communist Party of China’s constitution states that it “takes Marxism-Leninism” as its first guide. It adds, “Marxism-Leninism brings to light the laws governing the development of the history of human society.”

When I was a seminary professor teaching philosophy of religion, I taught a section on Marxism. Its foundational worldview places the state ahead of the individual and rejects any religious authority or ethical construct. The good of the state is the good of the people. Whatever serves the state is to be valued.

If this means spying on competitors, stealing coronavirus research, or oppressing religious minorities considered dangerous to the state, such immorality is embraced. What the participants in my business ethics seminar called corruption and a lack of honesty is how business is done. The bottom line for the state is the bottom line.

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien recently stated what has long been true in China: “Under communism, individuals are merely a means to be used toward the achievement of the ends of the collective nation-state. Thus, individuals can be easily sacrificed for the nation-state’s goals. Individuals do not have inherent value under Marxism-Leninism. They exist to serve the state; the state does not exist to serve them.”

“Cancel culture” and Christian courage 

What do recent developments with China mean for Christians?

One: We must redouble our intercession for our sisters and brothers who are standing courageously for Christ in their communist country. Let us daily ask God that they would “be strengthened with power through his Spirit” (Ephesians 3:16).

Two: We must follow their courageous example. What is happening in China shows what can happen anywhere a society abandons objective morality. The “golden rule” then becomes “the one who has the gold makes the rules.” If the majority rejects biblical ethics, for example, those who embrace them will face ostracism and worse. When the ship has no rudder, it will lean wherever the majority of its passengers lean.

“Cancel culture” is especially a problem for those of us who stand for biblical morality. Like the apostles, we must say to those who would censure and condemn us, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20).

Where are you being tempted to compromise with our fallen culture? I encourage you to read Hebrews 10:32–39 and claim this promise: “Do not throw away your confidence [in God], which has a great reward” (v. 35).

And remember this assurance from St. Teresa of Avila today: “Let nothing frighten you. Who has God, lacks nothing. God alone is enough.”

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