Morning Report, July 25: Hudson Taylor, Ri Hyon Ok and Tony Jones
1. ChristianHistory.net has offered a series of stories on missionaries to the east. Today they profile another one of the greats: Hudson Taylor. Taylor left England in 1853 at the tender age of 21; he set himself apart from other missionaries by disdaining their worldliness and choosing to adopt the clothing and styles of the Chinese. Taylor, in other words, did not believe that he had to “civilize” (read: impart English manners) to the Chinese before he could Christianize them. He entered into their culture, and left the posh coastal cities for the difficult interior.
What is fascinating about Hudson Taylor’s story is that the most important advance in his mission came when he was forced to retreat, when all might have seemed lost. In 1861, having been in China for roughly 8 years, Taylor was forced to return to England when he grew desperately ill. As he recovered he continued translating the Bible, and developed a vision to reach the whole of China through 24 missionaries (2 for each province and for Mongolia). Thus Taylor founded the China Inland Mission and returned to China, where his missionaries were required to adapt to local customs and dress. This ministry (now called the Overseas Missionary Fellowship) is still at work today. While Taylor may not be a model in every respect (his family suffered greatly from his radical devotion to his calling), he inspired thousands of missionaries to go to China and elsewhere. As someone who has gone to China on missions trips, I can attest that his impact is still felt. (Apparently this and other such profiles can be found in this book.)
2. Speaking of missionaries, Ri Hyon Ok, a 33-year-old mother of three, was executed in North Korea for her evangelistic activities there. North Korea, of course, is one of the most dangerous places to minister today. The conditions in North Koreas labor camps were described in a Morning Report earlier this week, and we also spoke of the persecution of Christians and people of other faiths in China. Today would be a good day to pray that once the economic crisis has passed (if not before), the Obama administration will see fit to press these nations for improvements in human rights, especially freedom of religion.
3. I am coming to this rather late, but I want to address it now since I want to examine it in greater detail in later posts: the Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly to ordain more gay bishops, and N. T. Wright, world-renowned New Testament scholar and a bishop in the Anglican church (and a hero to many evangelicals), responds to the development here. Popular evangelical writer Tony Jones, an emergent movement leader, upbraids those more conservative Episcopal churches who will seek to realign themselves with different bishops in response (and refers to my rebuttal of his argument along the way). I seem to have touched a nerve, since he’s referred to my response in two posts (and one comment underneath the first post). As Wright comments, one has to wonder who exactly is being schismatic here? The conservative Episcopal churches and priests who are now interested (or, rather, some of them) in aligning themselves with different bishoprics, or the liberal churches and priests who are pressing forward on this point against the express wishes of the leaders of the Anglican communion, knowing full well that this will lead to schism? (A lengthy article on “Is the Gay Marriage Debate Over?” is at Christianity Today, here.)
4. Evidence of the Fall, Items #5-7: “Police said about 150 dead dogs were found packed in freezers in the basement of a Michigan home where more than 110 live dogs, mostly Chihuahuas, were rescued this week. Investigators in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn said the two-story house was littered with feces and trash. The 54-year-old man who lives there was taken to a hospital for observation. Police said the man appeared confused and disoriented.” Good grief. And: a 77-year-old man underwent a surgery to become a 77-year-old woman. And finally: apparently Michael Jackson’s prosthetic nose went missing from the morgue where his autopsy was performed.
5. We have followed the story of an 8-year-old girl who was raped in Phoenix by four boys 9-13. The reaction of the parents, who are Liberian refugees and seemed to blame the girl and exonerate the boys, has sparked an outcry. Liberan President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, condemned the family’s response.
Sirleaf has tried to combat rape in recent years, seeking to dispel stigmas by publicly acknowledging that she was herself the victim of attempted rape during the country’s civil war.
But experts who study the developing world say the parents’ reaction highlights the struggles of many women around the globe.
“They’re always being blamed for everything,” said Monica Westin, founder of World of Hope International, which promotes human rights. “It’s always the girl’s fault. There’s no gender equality.”
Westin said West African refugees often keep in touch with friends and relatives back home and try to maintain their culture. Many have grown up uneducated and find it hard to change their customs.
If it is true, as I argued, that different cultures have different besetting sins, then perhaps assimilation is not always a bad idea–or, at least, maintaining what is best in one’s native culture and yet inheriting also what is best in the culture in America.
#6: The United States of Vinland? Perhaps.
Have a great weekend!