Monday, October 30, 2006

No Peace on the Beach

Today my wife, Sandy, and I drove the scooter down to the beach.  From our home in Neipu, the Kenting (pronounced Kun-Ding) beach area is only about 45 minutes by scooter.  We took a portable tea set and some sandwiches and had a picnic.  Sandy read from the Scriptures (I Timothy as I recall) and wrote in her journal.  I brooded and talked to God about this place.  Taiwan can be overwhelming.

Taiwan has 23 million or more people crammed into an island 90 miles wide at the widest and 250 miles long.  Only about 1/3 of the island is habitable as the rest is rugged mountains.  This makes some parts of Taiwan (the cities of Taichung and Kouhsiung in particular) some of the most densely populated places on earth with upwards to 5,000 people per square kilometer.  

Of that mass of scooters, cigarettes and tea; only about 1% of the population can be called any flavor of evangelical Christian.  Oh, the number crunchers like to say there is about 5% Christianity on the island, but this number comes from people who are NOT Christens and do not come from a Western/Judeao-Christian culture. Therefore, they do not have the cultural baggage that helps to define what a "Christian" is.  They count every flavor of religion that includes a "Christ" within its mantra.  

Even with that most liberal of figuring... Taiwan is pretty lame in the salvation department.  There have been active missionaries here for at least 5 decades working diligently on this problem.  Racially, the aboriginal population does well at a nearly 50% Christian population (but there are only 100,000 of these subjugated people left).  And at the other end of the spectrum is the Hakka.  The Hakka are a racial group from the Han people of mainland China.  They emigrated here mostly at the end of the Ming dynasty (apx 1644).  These people rate at lest than 0.2% Christian.  Books have been written on the Hakka's nonviolent resistance to conversion.  

These numbers are numbing for a Christian convinced that God has called the Taiwan population to His throne and shelter.

But there are worse numbers.

Every 15 minutes in Taiwan a teenagers "successfully" completes a suicide.

The abortion rate per capita is greater in Taiwan than in the United States.

The majority of Taiwanese married couples are not faithful to their spouses.  This is an open situation where verbally they don't see a problem... but emotionally they are torn apart inside.

Pornography is practically available to anyone of any age simply by turning on the TV late at night or by going to the local pirated DVD store where such DVDs cost only a buck in US currency. 

In Taiwan, one is brought face to face with an argument that has raged in the USA for decades:  Do you legislate morality or do you teach morality and show people how to legislate themselves?

The legislation of morality in the USA has an interesting variable that Taiwan does not have.  In the USA we have a history of Lex Rex, Rex Lex: the philosophy of "Is the Law King or is the King Law?"  We have chosen Lex Rex as a people for more than 200 years... really even further back to the Magna Carte and even the 10 commandments!  But the Taiwanese people have lived for 2000 years under Rex Lex, where the Emperor or the Minister's WORDS were the law of the moment.

For example: In Taiwan many American and Canadian english teachers have been frustrated by the fact that they came here on a contract only to see the contract change at the whim of the employer.  They started with 20 hours a week on paper but after a few weeks there are "just one more class" arguments.  This is because as a culture the Taiwanese see the Boss as the authority more than the Contract.

Because the King is Law, policemen are in an entirely different light here than in the West.  People will SPEED past a cop here because today may not be the cop's day to catch speeders.  Today he feels like only catching jaywalkers.  Tomorrow he will catch speeders.  Because of this, traffic LAWS that are ON THE BOOKS are rarely enforced unless the cops feel like it or are facing a quota for the day.  Everyone, even cops, run red lights and drive on the wrong side of the road as they feel the need.

The laws are there... and they don't matter.  No one is afraid of the law here.

Now, put that in the "Legislating Morality" argument.  Can you pass an anti-abortion law in Taiwan that will be obeyed?  Can you put a law on the books that limits teen access to smokes, porn, and beer and expect it to be followed? 

Robert Heinlien wrote in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" that one of the main character's political leaning was "Rational Anarchist."  In other words, he argued, that people will do just whatever the heck they WANT to do... but they rationally try to get along and follow the rational laws.  He argued that no matter the political system employed, that most people are in fact Rational Anarchist and just don't know it.  it is up to them how much of the law they will follow based on their "rationality" of the use of that law.

So the key in his political view, and in my view of missions, is not to make laws or create "dos and don'ts" but rather to show/teach people what the rational truth is.  Let them legislate themselves.  

Well, not everyone is really very smart... but everyone acts in their own interests.  Yes, they will fail, that is why there is grace.  But they will not TRY to act rationally if all there is is force and law to guide them.

I sat on a mountain top, near a temple, drinking tea one day.  A man who was a retired school teacher stopped to talk.  Upon hearing I was a missionary, he asked many questions about Jesus.  He assumed, as many do here, that Buddha and Jesus are basically the same in their theology and teaching.  I explained to him the trap of Karma and how Jesus paid the price so that sin (or even Karma) cannot be counted against us. He took it upon himself.  Buddha said he could not do that for us. Jesus said that only he could do that.  Sin (even Karma) cannot be paid for in our own lives because the sin (or karma) has already devalued that currency.  

With wide eyes and a pale face, he declared, "That is probably the most important thing I have ever heard in my life."

No law passed by any government is going to get THAT description.

Jesus changes lives.  

-The Haggard


Michael Turton said...

The Hakka are a racial group from the Han people of mainland China. They emigrated here mostly at the end of the Han dynasty.

Hmmm...are you sure about Han? I thought it was 1500 or so years later


The Haggard said...

They are inded a Han people but I misspoke... they emegrated after the Ming dynasty apx 1644. The majority of the mass moved in after 1700. But Meinung claims homesteads over 300 years old.

I will change the word in the Blog. Thanks for pointing that out.

-The Haggard