Monday, June 11, 2012

What Chen Guangcheng's Escape Means for Us

State Department Flickr
This is a Guest Post by Grace, one of our readers. She maintains her own blog at WatchmenCinema. 

Memorial Day, celebrated two weeks ago, reminds us of the great sacrifice many have made in defense of our country so that we Americans may live in peace and freedom.  But Americans are not the only ones celebrating the fruit of no greater love (John 15:13). I’m pretty sure, for one, that Chen Guangcheng is grateful to be enjoying the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave right now.

You might have missed his story, which briefly captivated national headlines a few weeks ago as he arrived in New York City after a harrowing escape from the guarded compound of his own home, where he has lived for 18 months under house arrest. It was the culmination of seven years of persecution at the hands of Chinese government officials, which included false accusations, imprisonment, beatings, threats, and attacks on family members. All this in retribution for challenging the horrific practice of forced abortions, an enforcement of China’s infamous One Child Policy. A full account and timeline of his compelling story can be found at the New York Times.

As the dramatic final weeks in China unfolded – escape under the cover of darkness, travelling hours away to Beijing, taking refuge in the American Embassy, creating a diplomatic crisis for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, negotiating terms to return to China, being whisked away to isolated confinement in a hospital, managing once more to make connection with the Americans, then finally entering America on a “Student Visa” – media coverage increased and more Americans learned of his plight. When Guangcheng, his wife, and children finally arrived in New York, they were welcomed with open arms.

It was a timely reminder that America serves not only to bless its citizens, but also the entire world. The United States is a beacon of hope for those suffering injustice around the globe. It is a place of escape and safety – a place to be free. Knowing both traditional immigrants and those here seeking asylum has only increased my love for America and appreciation for the role it plays internationally. It’s not that America is perfect, or that Americans are inherently better than any other people. Yet most of our founders believed in a God that gives grace not only to individuals, but to cultures and countries. Thus one nation under God became a city on a hill, and a vessel of God’s grace to millions – including me and Chen Guangcheng.

Grace is a gift that’s passed along – because you have received it, you can give it. When America is strong, it offers hope and courage. When the U.S. economy is stable and flourishing, Americans can support ministries and missionaries worldwide.  When America is influential, it can speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, and effectively intervene on behalf of the persecuted, like Chen Guangcheng. With America, a ministry like Voice of the Martyrs can exist.

This is why I am involved in American politics. America is a gift. The very least I can do is work to preserve this great gift that others have died to defend. The very thing that I’m called by Christ to do is love my neighbors as myself, both in America and abroad. When I consider my role as an American citizen in these terms, the only real option is to step up to the plate and do my part.

It’s a big election year here in America, and politics is the air. It’s easy to dismiss it as the Olympic Games equivalent for political junkies – fun and captivating for those genuinely interested in the subject and a passive amusement for everyone else.  Sure, we have a vague idea of how politics impacts our lives (if we pay taxes), but honestly, most of us are willing to pay for apathy. If personal gain was the only thing at stake, a cost/benefit analysis would make sense: is it really worth the time, effort, and potential anxiety, for me to inform myself politically? Unless you possess an innate relish for data, drama, and debate, the answer is probably no. It’s a stretch to argue that your immediate, daily life is going to be substantially improved by political involvement.

But what if politics isn’t about just you? Chen Guangcheng’s story forces us to realize, and accept, the greater potential impact.

-By Grace Tate
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