Shanghaiist’s collective eyebrows were raised today by the appearance of what’s essentially an evangelism guidebook written by Rev. Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, on the Foreign Policy magazine. In the article entitled Jesus loves China, too, the activist who was recently propelled into the media limelight through his advocacy for blind dissident Chen Guangcheng makes scant mention of religious freedom, the stated mission of ChinaAid. Instead, he lays bare his masterplan and agenda — to “save my homeland, one soul at a time” — so as to eventually turn China over to Jesus Christ.
That said, the article is an interesting read if you want to dive into Fu’s mind. First, he starts off by saying American missionaries looking to spread the gospel in China should turn away from their “fast food” culture and learn from the English teachers who introduced him to the faith in the 1980s:
Americans like to see things get done instantly: fast food, Twitter, and even “shock and awe” military campaigns. In the 1990s, one ministry organization put an ad in a major Christian magazine calling for donations with the slogan “one dollar, one soul,” the idea being one dollar will purchase one Bible in China, which will help convert one Chinese soul. This instant-noodle approach to the life-and-death decision to accept Christ as one’s only Savior and Lord is counterproductive. Chinese souls cannot be harvested like stalks of corn in a field, or iPads on an assembly line.
Missionaries should study China and it’s people, culture, and history, which is almost 20 times longer than U.S. history. Especially after 60 years of communism and wave after wave of class struggle, Chinese are desperate for trust. Many of my classmates were more willing to share their personal secrets with our American teachers than with fellow Chinese students because they found the teachers trustworthy and caring. The American teachers I know said it took years living and interacting with the Chinese before their mission bore spiritual fruit.
He also appears to frown on the Pentecostal/Charismatic brand of Christianity which he says some Americans seem intent on propagating in China. Their actions, he lamented, have divided the church in China:
In the early 1990s, I met with a famous American evangelist in a five-star hotel in Beijing. The first question he asked was, “How many Chinese Christians have the spiritual gift of speaking in other tongues?” While I don’t disapprove of this practice (and have even had this experience), it seemed that this secondary issue was his main concern.
After I left China in 1996, I learned that tens of thousands of copies of that minister’s book, translated into Chinese as How to Speak in Tongues, had been distributed in China by underground printing networks. Now the tongues issue has become one of the most divisive issues among Chinese churches (those who can speak in tongues look down on those who don’t, while those who don’t speak in tongues think that those who do are possessed by demons). This man’s “ministry” deeply hurt the cause of the Gospel in China.
Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times has also written an interesting piece on Bob Fu. The following snippet is telling of the concerns that some have about the work he’s doing:
[S]ome critics say that Mr. Fu’s high-profile role as an advocate for religious freedom is a double-edged sword. It has raised awareness of human rights abuses. But his close association with Republicans and evangelical Christians, the critics say, risks stoking China’s fears that foreign forces are plotting to subvert the ruling Communist Party.
“Bob’s heart is in the right place, but sometimes in his zeal to bring attention to his cause he gets sucked up into the partisan maelstrom of Washington,” said one American human rights advocate who works closely with ChinaAid and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend Mr. Fu.
More on Christianity in China here.