Great men are not always wise and it is a profound truism that wise men are seldom great; it all depends on the vagaries of context and association. One of the wisest, most perceptive men that ever live is never among the list of "wise persons" or "great thinkers" or given sobriquets of excellence in any form and yet however much historians try to erase his contribution, nevertheless his unique contribution remains. He was poor, very poor, described as ugly, even hideous by some and had the misfortune of being relegated and kept ensconced in the downtrodden and victimized underclass of his day. And yet here I am, some 2500 years after his death writing about him. When you add the salient fact that this was a black man, a proud and dignified Ethiopian, living in a Caucasian world with all its rampant mores of disguised barbarism and you realize that this episode becomes more compelling.
You might have guessed that I am referring to none other than Aesop. Because he was black his contribution to society was always hotly contested and there are those who have dedicated their lives to trying to obliterate his legacy. History is written mainly by two entities; on the one hand victors who have triumphed through conflict, mostly militarily and on the other hand the ruling classes who censure and promote according to their vested interest. Nearly all histories and particularly the so-called "approved histories" are examples of these practices. The world, happily, has a way of circumventing repression and censure and Aesop's case was a prime example. We know about Aesop not because the Greeks wanted us to or because Aesop had tremendous resources at his disposal and could get his message out despite the brutal opposition. No. We got to know about Aesop because, as I said above "the vagaries of context and association". One of Aesop admirers was the famous and much quoted historian Herodotus and the other was the father of philosophy and a thorn in the side of the establishment; none other than Socrates. Socrates would later be charged with Sodomy and died an ignominious death and his student Plato, even more erudite and famous, would have much to say about this.
I do not wish to evaluate the contribution of Aesop here for that is not my aim but to highlight that Aesop was derided, mocked, enslaved (for it was understood that he was previously an Ethiopian diplomat who, some say, offended an official in the Greeks' capitol), insulted, humiliated and tortured both physically and mentally and yet his legacy endured.
Greatness, one's legacy, one's contribution to humanity is not always the product and timing of one's sole choosing. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this in one of his speeches, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice". There is a popular saying that "time and tide wait for no man" and the notion of timeliness is reflected in the sayings "strike while the iron is hot" and "procrastination is the thief of time". We are familiar with the concepts; "an idea whose time has come" and "seize the moment" for these are concepts at the heart of progress everywhere and visionaries and entrepreneurs are always hyper-tuned to their arrival.
China's time for greatness has come. I have written elsewhere, "War and messy politics gave the Soviet Union their super-power status; War and European rivalries gave the USA the opportunity to acquire their super-power status; the West's decadence, economic mismanagement and financial recklessness ushered in China's super-power status". It matters not the precise route China took to get to this point and it matters even less that some entities have a history of vilifying China. China has endured vast assaults on her dignity and character and national pride, both from the East and the West, and still manages to develop her people without rancor and aloofness.
The United States of America has in the past shown itself to be virulently opposed to countries and people of color from the East, especially China, and the U S Congress has passed legislation that encapsulated its utter contempt for these people. The federal Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 along with a host of State laws and regulations bear testimony to the ill-will generated towards these people. Congressman after congressman, typifying the vast majority of congress was proud to go on the record as saying things about China that were severely derogatory and inflammatory to the extent that Chinese living in America were routinely harassed, victimized and in some cases killed. This xenophobia was rampant all across the western seaboard, especially California and the record shows the extent to which States went to pour scorn on the Chinese. In a landmark case People vs. Hall, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Murray said that the Chinese were, "a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point, as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions, color, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference".
That was then and the world has moved on somewhat but there are many in the developed world who still cling to the outmoded and self-serving notion that people of the developing countries, especially China, are inferior. This shows itself in their trying to re-write history, in their manic rush to demonize China and her achievements, in their obsession that everything Chinese is poor quality or toxic or undermining of their way of life or destabilizing or any number of derogatory descriptors. China launches a satellite for space exploration and look out world China is about to disrupt your satellite communications; China builds a dam in a neighboring country and hello why is China using other countries water for electricity for her domestic use; China builds up her navy and look out world China is about to launch World War Three. Everything Chinese is cast to make China appear an ogre, a monstrous threat to the world and a leprotic country to be feared and despised.
This concept of China is so at odds with the reality on the ground that it finds little resonance anywhere in the world beyond the neo-cons and the self-serving think-tanks and cloistered, blinkered rightwing ideologues. The world today has access to information streams not controlled and censured by the Mainstream media and as a result a lot of the disingenuous verbiage masquerading as news is shown to be just that. No wonder the MSM is rushing to buy up social networking sites and bloggers at a record rate but the genie is out of the bottle and cannot be returned.
China's time for leadership has come. Nelson Mandela was jailed for nearly 30 years in a South African prison and during that time made no serious contribution to the development and welfare of his apartheid-ravaged country. He was ensconced in a small cell while his country slid into pariah status and became a stain on the conscience of the world. But the time arrived when Mandela was freed and he gave Africa and the world beyond a unique brand of sophisticated leadership. Mandela is revered throughout the world today, and likely to remain so throughout history, because his time had come and he boldly seized the moment. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had lived an interesting but not overly significant life for the first 26 years of his existence and would have so continued except something significant took place in 1955; the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the annals of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA the Montgomery Bus Boycott is considered a seminal moment. Dr. King seized the moment to propel the Movement on to the national stage and beyond and created a new and irrepressible dynamic that changed America and the wider world. It is certain that we would not have a proud and respectful black man now occupying the office of President of the United States of America had it not been for the well-timed and competent leadership of Dr. King.
The same set of events that gave rise to Dr. Martin Luther King's and Mandela's leadership has now conspired to do the same for China.
The world from time to time reaches a point bristling with vacuity; a moment when anything can happen but there is foreboding that it may not be something good and it can be nerve-wracking. The world is in this state now as regards its finances and economies. Doing something has been shown to be as ineffective as doing nothing and so the posture is to run around and talk much, do little and just hope the problems disappear. But they won't and we all know it. International leadership has been put to the test and has woefully failed.
The world had this very same problem when transitioning from the Greek Empire to the Roman Empire. The transition from Babylon to Persia came through war and Persia won. The transition from Persia to Greece came through war and Greece won. The transition from Greece to Rome came not through war directly (although the Greeks were much weakened by previous lost wars) but after the last king of Pergamum died and left his lands to the Romans. Only then did Rome fully established its supremacy and created the Roman province of Macedonia.
China is now at this juncture because of a confluence of events and none of them include aggression on China's part. It is one thing to ascend to dominance because of the terror unleashed or the wanton destruction portended but quite another when the transition is wholly peaceful and entirely beneficent. In 2010 the President of China, Hu Jintao, was named by Forbes magazine as the most powerful man in the world. This is staggering not because of its truism but by the source confirming it. When a leading entity in the USA says that the President of China is the most powerful man in the world then you know a seminal moment has arrived. China's time for world leadership is now and so acknowledged universally.
China's time for moral world-leadership has come. China is a country of high morals and the leadership currently in China seeks to guide its people, and especially the youth, along paths of morality that, on evaluation, are highly compatible with Christianity. The decadence of the West have not as yet penetrated the stoicism of the Chinese nor polluted its indigenous culture or mores. Take for example the movies. Hollywood with its offerings of gratuitous violence, mindless pornography, superfluous sex, obscenities-laden speech and covert racism would be anathema in a Chinese context. The leadership in China understands this and President Hu Jintao has shown stellar leadership and introduced important moral guidelines for all of China. In 2006 he released the list containing eight honours and eight shames, a powerful set of moral concepts, and Christians everywhere would find them spiritually agreeable.
The eight moral concepts by President Hu Jintao are as follows:
1. Love the country; do it no harm.
2. Serve the people; never betray them.
3. Follow science; discard ignorance.
4. Be diligent; not indolent.
5. Be united, help each other; make no gains at others' expense.
6. Be honest and trustworthy; do not sacrifice ethics for profit.
7. Be disciplined and law-abiding; not chaotic and lawless.
8. Live plainly, work hard; do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures.
A quick perusal of these concepts, even by those with only a rudimentary grasp of the Holy Bible, will reveal that each and every one has scriptural underpinnings. When you make assertions or set out moral guidelines or ethical codes that fully accord with the Scriptures then by definition you are following a biblical pathway. Let us look more closely and respond to these eight moral concepts.
1. Love the country; do it no harm. We reply: Absolutely love your country and injure it not; just as the Jews were to do with respect to their country Israel ("Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee" Psalm 122:6).
2. Serve the people; never betray them. We reply: Unquestionably and without equivocation; for this is the abiding theme and recommendation of all the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament leadership ("And they that serve the city shall serve it out of all the tribes of Israel" Ezekiel 48:19, "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" Matthew 20: 27-28).
3. Follow science; discard ignorance. We reply: Utterly and enthusiastically; for Paul advocated fiercely against so-called science ("O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith" 1Timothy 6:20-21).
4. Be diligent; not indolent. We reply: Totally and unashamedly; for the New Testament commends it ("Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" 2Peter 3:14).
5. Be united; help each other; make no gains at others' expense. We reply: Entirely and joyfully; for this is very pleasing to God and a prerequisite for effective personal and community development. ("Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity"Psalm 133:1; "He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor" Proverbs 28:8).
6. Be honest and trustworthy; do not sacrifice ethics for profit. We reply: Completely and unambiguously; honesty and trustworthiness are highly commended in the Bible ("Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates" 2Corinthians 13:7; "Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly" Hebrews 13:18).
7. Be disciplined and law-abiding; not chaotic and lawless. We reply: Completely and rigorously: for the Bible teaches thus in both the Old and New Testaments ("He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity" Job 36:10; "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" 1Corinthians 14:33).
8. Live plainly, work hard; do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures. We reply: Absolutely and so affirms the Bible ("Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." Proverbs 6: 6-11; "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches" 1 Timothy 6:17).
Each and every concept promulgated by President Hu Jintao is in accord both with the spirit and the letter of Holy Scripture and hence absolutely acceptable to Christians everywhere. Think about this. President Hu Jintao is recommending to all China that they live to a code of moral principles that have underpinned Christianity and sustained its longevity and relevance for well near two thousand years. This is a powerful reminder that man was created with a moral character and imbued with spiritual sensitivities to enable him to be more, much more than a dumb predator. China sees and values the worth of each individual and organizes its society to benefit each and every one and it does so with profound sincerity and thoughtfulness. On the other hand there is always going to be a gap between precepts, admirable and efficacious though they might be, and practical attainment, however desirable and rigorously pursued because humans are famously weak and dilatory.
It is here, at this confluence of world events, at this nexus of philosophy, morals and religion that the Edict of Beijing can make a profound and paradigmatic difference. Moral codes are good (The Ten Commandments, Moses' Law, was/is a superb moral code) but they lack the means to reinforce and stiffen man's resistance to capitulation and regression. A popular saying in the annals of Christianity is this, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" and is used often as a mantra for a raft of failures. The Edict of Beijing commending Christianity to all China makes more likely the attainment of the goals of the eight moral concepts promulgated by President Hu Jintao and establishes China as the new moral leader of the world. With Christianity China gets all President Hu Jintao's moral codes and all the benefits of resurgent altruism plus a whole lot more and China will be one step closer to fulfilling, to the joy of all mankind, its ultimate destiny.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013
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