Why China’s present may be America's future

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Why China’s present may be our future: A reflection on apocalyptic danger and transforming hope

June 5, 2023 -

FILE - In this June 5, 1989, file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File). The 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre was June 4, 2023.

FILE - In this June 5, 1989, file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File). The 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre was June 4, 2023.

FILE - In this June 5, 1989, file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File). The 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre was June 4, 2023.

I remember my visit to Beijing’s massive Tiananmen Square some years ago as if it were yesterday. The area is named for a gate in the wall of the Imperial City built in 1417; the square was built in 1651 and enlarged fourfold in the 1950s. It is intended to impress visitors with its size (it measures more than fifty-three acres) and thus with the grandeur and power of the Chinese ruling dynasty.

Its political purpose was tested as never before, however, when nearly a million protesters crowded into central Beijing in May 1989 to call for greater democracy. Yesterday marked the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the day when Chinese troops and security police stormed through the square, firing into the crowds. Perhaps thousands were killed; as many as ten thousand were arrested.

What kind of government fires on its own citizens?

The kind that violated maritime laws in the Taiwan Strait two days ago in what US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called an act of “coercion and bullying.” The incident marked the second major provocation by China’s military in the span of a week.

The kind that props up North Korea as it continues to develop nuclear warheads that, according to its latest claims, could be capable of striking South Korea and Japan. The kind that supports Russia’s immoral war in Ukraine with economic aid and military technology. And the kind that serves as Iran’s largest trade partner as the latter moves closer to obtaining nuclear weapons than ever before.

“You are not destined to live in quiet times”

Imagine a future in which three nuclear-armed powers (along with a fourth if Iran fulfills its nuclear ambitions) are aligned against the West. Add the warning last week from technology experts that artificial intelligence could lead to the extinction of humanity. And the partisan political divisions that are deeper and more vitriolic than they have been in decades.

The fact is, as Walter Russell Mead recently noted, “You are not destined to live in quiet times.”

Mead is the Global View Columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a Strategy and Statesmanship fellow at Hudson Institute, and a foreign affairs and humanities professor at Bard College. In my view, he is one of the most perceptive geopolitical analysts working today.

One factor he identifies in “making sense of our times” is the widening gap between technological advances and cultural values. Mead writes: “Our political parties and institutions took shape long before the internet and social media existed. Our government bureaucracies, our schools, and our legal system were all built for conditions that no longer exist. . . . Many of our political ideas and ideological assumptions also reflect the conditions of an earlier era.

“If society’s operating system is running on the equivalent of a long-outdated version of Windows, that makes real reform difficult to imagine, and harder still to carry out.”

Mead concludes: “While the ever-accelerating and ascending wave of human progress has brought us to peaks of achievement and affluence that our ancestors could scarcely imagine, it has both failed to keep us safe from the most dangerous predators of all and—to the degree that the rate of progress has become a major force of destabilization—progress itself may now be the greatest source of danger humans face.”

A culture at a crossroads

As China’s autocratic dictatorship widens its influence and enforces its will on more and more of the world, we are seeing Mead’s thesis in action. A government bereft of biblical or even objective morality, one that exists solely to protect its leaders and advance its national interests even at the expense of its own citizens, shows us what happens when technological progress outstrips moral boundaries.

As America moves further and further from biblical morality and objective truth, we are illustrating the same warning culturally and spiritually: “Progress itself may now be the greatest source of danger humans face.”

Our “progress” with human sexuality is destroying families through adultery, damaging minds through pornography, and deceiving generations of impressionable children and teens through LGBTQ ideology. Our “progress” with artificial intelligence is, in the view of many experts, threatening our future as a civilization. Our “progress” with information technology is enabling us to consume only the political perspectives with which we agree while demonizing our political opponents.

At such a crossroads, you and I hold the only hope for a flourishing and redemptive future.

The choice that defines our future

Perhaps Tim Keller’s most famous quote was his observation, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

I invite you to embrace and proclaim the two biblical facts Dr. Keller noted.

One: Humans are so “sinful and flawed” that we have no assurance of a better future of our own making. Left to our own devices, we invent nuclear technology that powers cities but also destroys them. We create innovations that improve our lives immeasurably but also threaten our survival as a species. And, whatever our particular experiences with these realities, we will all die one day (if the Lord tarries) and face eternity.

Two: Humans are so “loved and accepted in Jesus Christ” that, when we put our hope in him, he is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). When we make Christ the king of our lives and encourage everyone we know to do the same, our future is as bright as his omnipotent love.

Our choice between these two realities defines our future as a nation and as individuals.

Choose wisely today.

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