The Role of the Hong Kong Church in a Society in Turmoil
by an Anonymous Guest Writer
A possible call to action for the HK Church:
- The Church could be the broker for a resolution between the HK Government and the youth. There is need for dialogue, but neither side trusts the other; here is our opportunity to step into the breach.
- The Church can help Chinese Government understand HK better. China now recognizes the need for new ways to administer HK. Through this the HK Church may speak to the mistrust and persecution of the Chinese Church by the current Chinese regime.
- In practical ways, the Church can help the HK Government improve housing programs, drive economic opportunities, and reduce social tension through political reforms.
I was reading the papers Saturday and I came across the following letter to the editor.
The newspaper writer I’m sure is referring to recent articles in the news about how a Christian worship song became an anthem in earlier protests outside the government offices.1
Since I was travelling for most of the latter part of June and the beginning of July, I missed most of the excitement. But as I travelled around Europe and Asia, the activities in Hong Kong made the headlines everywhere I went.
So should we be happy that a Christian worship song was sung in the midst of a political protest? And what is the role of the church in the midst of all of this? I can’t help but think that this is a great opportunity for the church to make a meaning impact in HK, but what is it and what does it look like?
So in a city in turmoil, what should we the Church and Christians be doing?
- Join the students on the ramparts and march in the streets;
- Speak of law and order, condemn violence and support the HK Government; or...
- Stay in our churches, sing hallelujah, and not engage or get involved.
Good Christians will be divided on the subjects of civil disobedience, contemporary China, and the extradition proposal itself. But here are a few thoughts that I’ve been wrestling with, and possibly a call to action in response to the opportunity to speak of salvation to our community.
Salvation comes only from the work of Christ on the cross.
There is no perfect political system this side of heaven—democracy will not solve all our problems. However, there are “better” functional political systems and “not as functional” political systems. Our living out our faith in society is to seek the good for all, while proclaiming the Good News in a living way.
The young people who marched are frustrated, angry, and see little hope for the future under the current system. We should acknowledge this, address this, and do what we can to reform the system that created this current problem. Better communication to understand the issues is a good place to start. Anything is better than more violence.
Opportunities for the young to work, to live reasonably, and to have creative expression are probably some of the fundamental issues. Both the earlier reluctance of the government to dialogue, and the current rejection of the youth to meet will polarize the situation even more.
The Church should be a neutral trusted 3rd party that can bring everyone to the table to start the dialogue.
The root frustrations that spilled over to the streets seem to be from deep social despair about the future, and a lack of trust in the current HK administration and the developing Chinese political system. The Church should address these. The Church has had 100 plus years of social and educational involvement in HK, we can use these institutions to first dialogue and then look for solutions. The lack of political trust is a challenge that needs to be addressed since the Church has such a long history of trust from our local community; this seems to be the right time to put this to good use.
If we accept that there is no perfect political system, we should not put our trust in finding solutions to our current issues with system changes alone. We can strive to make the current system better (more representative, more transparent, better for more in society…). However, this has to be accompanied by reforms in many other aspects of society and fundamental change of man’s relationship to God.
HK is currently a temporary political compromise—neither independent nor totally part of China. The unique status of HK means there is room for creative solutions and novel ideas. We have no precedents, so we can be innovative and creative...
Man is fallen; we are all saved by Grace.
There is good and evil, right and wrong. The Church should not be shy about this. Divine Grace should mean we speak firmly but gently, using vocabulary that is understandable to the listener and contemporary to our society. Fundamentally our sinful nature is why we are where we are. There is no perfect leader or totally righteous people movements. It is imperfect man that has brought us to where we are today. The Church should say that.
The lack of trust in the current Chinese legal system is obvious. Without the cooperation of its citizens, the current Chinese regime is unsustainable in the long run. The persecution of the Chinese Church is wrong. This may be an opportunity for dialogue. There may be an opportunity to speak into the insecurities of the Chinese regime. Christ is not after political dominion, but the salvation of us fallen men.
God is sovereign in the affairs of man.
It is no accident that we are where we are. God has called us or placed us to be here for this time. Perhaps it is so that we should speak into the affairs of our current times. If we don’t, I’m sure He will raise up others.
The worship song “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” came out of the Calvary Chapel movement in Costa Mesa California in the 1970s. I happened to be in University in Southern California at that time, so I got to know bits of this movement. The movement then came out of young Christians’ frustration with the then denominational churches and their failure to speak to contemporary society in general. Now, with its recent use in Hong Kong, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” has taken on a second life.2 The Calvary Chapel movement in the 1970s saw a period of revival in the Church, hopefully, the current movements in HK will do the same.
1 https://coconuts.co/hongkong/news/keeping-faith-religion-front-lines-hong-kong-anti-extradition-protests/; and https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/world/asia/hong-kong-extradition-protests-christians.html