Martin Marty writes about the tragedy in Paris. And, like always he is worth reading.
I have just received the English translation of a poem, from a dear friend who has a special heart for Vietnam. The author, Le Thi Cong Nhan, who is 30 years old, is an uncompromising activist and Christian lawyer. She was imprisoned in Vietnam from 2007 to 2010 for trying to help an independent labor union to organize. As ir is obvious from this text, she did not lose her spirit!
You may find HERE my previous post on her release from prison.
Her poem reflects the same longing for freedom, that many of us had, while living under communist oppression. At the same time, it expresses the same naive hope that when freedom comes everything will be different, kind of like overnight.
We all know now, here in the post-communist world, that such a hope is unrealistic and may lend us to much disappointment when faced with the grim reality of the ambiguous nature of freedom.
We know now (but had no idea at the time, although we should have known better) that we may need to spend the proverbial ’40 years in the desert’, before any hope of normality becomes reality). Yet, when under pressure, one can only hope the best for the future.
Here is the poem. May it help you remember, and pray for those who are not yet free. May God have mercy on Vietnam! Continue reading “Le Thi Cong Nhan – I Have A Dream – Poem of A Vietnamese Dissident”
Communism is basically a quasi-religious ideology. This is why it is violently opposed to Christianity and to all other religious systems.
Since God allowed us to live under such an oppressive political system, we have to accept it as part of God’s providence to us and strive to extract as much spiritual gain as possible from this traumatic experience. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – Final Conclusions”
Any given thing is as valuable as the price we are prepared to pay for it. If we really want to enjoy freedom, we have to be ready to pay the price that it demands. Here are some of the possible ‘prices’ we may need to pay.
5.1 Slower Pace of Growth
From a biblical perspective, faithfulness, not pragmatic effectiveness, is the test of our faith. This may sound strange in our pragmatic times, when we tend to consider that if something ‘works’ it must be right. The Bible tells us that Abraham believed God and he was counted as righteous on the basis of that faith (Gen. 15:6): nothing pragmatic about this story; it was all about faithfulness. Continue reading “40 Years in the Desert – 5. The Price of Freedom 1”
4.4 Money Talks
One other extremely serious risk that confronts Christians who have been freed from communist oppression is that of letting themselves be controlled by the power of money. The main reason for this is that Christians often hold a dualistic worldview in which prayer is ‘spiritual’ while money is just ‘a worldly matter’. Thus they never learn how to handle money properly or to use it as a way to worship God. Continue reading “40 Years in the Desert – 4. The Dangers of Freedom 4”
4.3 Devaluation of Freedom
People who have lived without freedom for a long time have no way of appreciating its true value. This is why, when they are confronted with the need to pay a high price for it, they tend to look back and fall into nostalgia for an idealised image of the ‘good old days’. Continue reading “40 Years in the Desert – 4. The Dangers of Freedom 3”
4.2 Freedom Without Responsibility?
People who are spiritually and socially immature imagine that freedom means that they have all the rights in the world and no responsibilities whatsoever. However, this is childish and ridiculous. Nevertheless, many people in post-communist societies, particularly younger people, think like this. Continue reading “40 Years in the Desert – 4. The Dangers of Freedom 2”
4.1 Freedom Without Limits?
Freedom is a dangerous thing. It is almost like dynamite. If handled in the wrong way, it can do a lot of harm. As we have already said, freedom is not an easily understood concept for those who have never lived under it. Continue reading “40 Years in the Desert – 4. The Dangers of Freedom 1”
2.6 Improper Understanding of Freedom
Freedom is the greatest possible dream for anyone living under oppression. God created us as free human beings and our search for freedom is an unrelenting one. Yet, as fallen human beings, we tend to abuse freedom and have always done so. Continue reading “40 Years in the Desert – 2. The Post-communist Mindset 6”
7. The Danger of Unrealistic Hopes
The greatest enemy of the church’s ability to function under freedom is the entertaining of false and unrealistic ideas about freedom and democracy, seen as a universal panacea, a cure for all diseases. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom – 7”
5. The Centrality of Leadership Training
The people of God have always been in need of godly and able leaders. The apostle Paul tell us that after the Lord had been exalted to heaven and had sent the Holy Spirit, he ‘gave gifts to the church’ (Eph. 4:10–11) for the building up of the body of Christ. These gifts come principally in the form of spiritual endowments (Gk. charismata) in response to the current needs of the church, but they are also represented by spiritually endowed leaders: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers, etc. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom – 5”
4. New Wineskins vs. New Wine
Personal story – For some time after my conversion, I was involved in dissident activities, fighting for religious freedom. In the name of the various Christian churches, we kept demanding that the communist authorities grant us free access to the media, freedom to train our own religious leaders without any interference, free access to all levels of education and many other similar things. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom – 4”
2. Between Dictatorship and Democracy
When the only leadership style that we have known and observed in our lifetime is dictatorship and control, it is very easy to internalise this approach and not be aware of the fact that we are tending to lead the church in the same way that we have seen communist leaders controlling our society. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom – 2”
Inner Freedom & External Freedom
In times when the hope is that social, political and religious freedom will soon become a reality, it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that inner freedom is far more important than external freedom. In fact, we may well say that only those who are truly free inside can handle the responsibilities of external freedom and protect themselves from the risks that it brings. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom – 1”
The year 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the communist system. Although a number of communist regimes still survive, their time is coming to an end. We do not know if this is a matter of months or years, nor is there an absolute guarantee that it will happen, but the signs we see in these contexts clearly point to the imminent end of communism as a system. Continue reading “From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom”
I will restart tomorrow the publication of my text on a Christian view of communist and post-communism.
The second section of my text, much smaller that the first and the third, deals with the short time between communism and post-communism that I describe as ‘preparation for freedom’ and I try to interpret through the metaphor of the Exodus.
I met James Houston, one of the founders of Regent’s College in Vancouver, in 1998, at a reunion in Colorado Springs, in preparation of the International Leaders for Discipleship Conference in Eastbourne, UK, in 1999. Before going any further, I have to confess that meeting James was one of the greatest spiritual gifts I have received from God in my life. If you have ever met him in person, you will understand what I mean.
In October 2000 he accepted to be the main speaker at the first World Vision conference I have organised in my new job with this organisation. His memorable lectures about Christian discipleship constituted later on the substance of his book The Mentored Life: From Individualism to Personhood. Continue reading “Letter to James Houston – mostly about freedom”
“No man appears in safety before the public eye, unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking, unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely, unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely, unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely, unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitatio Christi, 1. 20. 2).
One avva (a spiritual father) in the desert of Egypt asked his disciple to water every day a little branch that he planted in his garden. The stream was far away, and the disciple needed the whole day to get the water and come back. In spite of this, he submitted to the will of his master and faithfully did his duty every day. After a number of years, a beautiful apple tree grew from that branch. It blossomed and gave its fruit at the right time. Then, the avva called the other brothers in the monastery to celebrate and made them taste the sweet fruit of his disciple’s submission.
People everywhere long for and celebrate freedom. Marking the
twentieth anniversary of the collapse of Marxist-based totalitarian
systems, which ruled for decades over the eastern part of Europe,
Evandeoski Teoloski Fakultet in Osijek, Croatia is organising an
international consultation on “Challenges for Church and Society in
Post-communist Contexts. Celebrating and Assessing Twenty Years of