Yesterday on my way into the city I heard a report from Amnesty International which said that in the run-up to the Olympics, the human rights abuses of the Chinese government are getting worse as they try put on a good face for the world.
About a year ago I had an article published at CE on China and the Olympics. (You can read the whole thing here). I started by saying:
When Richard Nixon "opened" China to Western trade, the argument for doing business with such an oppressive and totalitarian regime was that the infiltration of Western culture, business and freedom into China would inevitably lead to liberation of the Chinese people. Over thirty years have passed. What freedom has blossomed?
If you look at the progress (again from the article)
The Communist Government of China has managed to maintain their oppressive hold on their people by controlling their most basic instincts and rights, the very things which make us most human; that is the rightful worship of God and the procreation of new life — in effect dehumanizing its populace. And the West, which in many quarters agrees with the Chinese government control over procreation and doesn't often care about the worship of God, cannot offer hope to the Chinese because we are indifferent to their plight. In fact, the West contributes to the dehumanization because Western business leaders only see the Chinese population as a utility to make money through cheaper manufacturing. The West sees the Chinese people the same way the Chinese government does — as tools with no humanity. (Notice this very ideology is the battleground in the US regarding in vitro fertilization, human cloning, and worker issues.)
The "opening of China" to promote freedom in that nation has failed miserably. But instead of admitting that the experiment, which had goodwill in its origins, is a disaster, our nation and the world persists in self-delusion — or is it greed? Opening China to Western business has been good for our economy. We have invested in business and factories. We send our unskilled jobs there so Western consumers can buy cheaper products.
I believe the greatest fear among many US government and business leaders during the "crisis" with China over our downed military plane in 2001 was that a public outcry against China might damage our business investments.
China now exports their culture of death and oppression to us. It is ironic that when the United Nations wanted to hold a conference on women's rights they picked China. During that conference, China population control policies were praised by Western representatives. The US imports the abortion pill, RU486 from China. They export their ideology and death to us and we give them our technology and business. Who does this benefit?
I guess that it would be legitimate to say that our "engagement" of China has poisoned us much more than converted the Chinese. Deal with the Devil .....
As I thought about all this yesterday, I also thought about some combox debates I have been reading, which started with this article at Inside Catholic by Steve Skojec. The debate continues at Jeff Cultbreath's.
In some ways I think the disagreement is due to a vague definition of "engaging the culture". Sure we must EVANGELIZE the culture. And this does mean, if we make a movie, it needs to use all the best tools, actors, etc. (As Catholics, we should always bring our best to every endeavor.) However, we can't compromise. Mostly evangelization happens by example and personal relationship-and this is how most of us have the opportunity to do God's work. All of us must be careful we are not swallowed up in the culture of death. The compromises we may make (if any) must be prudential.
As an example, growing up I did not know one family (friends, school mates, relatives) who were divorced until my teenage years. This environment could not be found today. So it is an issue which must be addressed in the home, as the family encounters it in the world. But this doesn't mean watching TV and movies where broken families are portrayed as ho-hum. A broken family is always tragedy (even when it can't avoided), and while the culture doesn't recognize this, we must and our children must.
We need to be counter-cultural. The early Christians were different than everyone else. As with the example of US/China relations above, if we evangelize by going to R-rated (and most PG and some G movies) to get in with those we need to evangelize, then we are endorsing the culture and may be swallowed in it. But...
Each man has his own vocation from God. Each man has his own weaknesses and strengths. Some, with true love of God can look at current fashions etc and pity the wearer as he or she is missing the beauty and purpose of God's creation. Others can only look with lust. We must know ourselves. (Confession is great for this.)
In like respects, for any given time, each family has a vocation for a time and place. I think we must ask ourselves: What is the culture that needs to be built? and What is my role or place (my family's place) in building it? What should the culture look like? Are my compromises with the existing culture acceptable in the culture which should be built? Many other questions need to be asked and prayerfully answered when "engaging the culture". And yes, read St. Paul for guidance.
We can not cover the light under a bushel basket by a wholesale retreat to isolation (religious, excepted), but we can not either cover the light with the smog of the culture of death.
There is so much more to say and so much more to clarify...
Oremus pro invicem!