Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Shen Yun?

By Dr Charles H Roberts

You’ve probably seen the posters, flyers, brochures and full-page, color newspaper ads promoting Shen Yun

In the 1980’s I used to work in retail advertising at a daily newspaper in North Carolina. Back then, a full page color advertisement was around $3,000. 

In 2016 that’s close to $7,000. In many places the ads are run in multiple newspapers.

In other words, there is a rather large amount of money spent to promote something that would be of not much more than passing interest to the typical American.

The phrase Shen Yun means “divine performing arts,” and it purports to be a panoramic dance, music and acrobatic performance of 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

Shen Yun performances take place in music halls, auditoriums and performing arts centers around the world.

A few years ago, the New York Times published an article about a Shen Yun performance and included this bit of background:

A nonprofit group supported by ticket sales and donations Shen Yun began as a single company of 30 dancers.” (August 13, 2010, NYT)

The “nonprofit group” that is the driving force behind Shen Yun is the Chinese religious group known as Falun Gong (or sometimes, Falun Dafa).

 A Google search for Shen Yun finds reviews that give it passing approval as a performance, but also express serious concerns about the propaganda nature of the production as a tool to promote the religion of Falun Gong.

Before saying anything else about Shen Yun and the Falun Gong religious movement, I want to acknowledge the terrible suffering and persecution that  its followers have endured in Mainland China.

You can read about the awful things that many of them have had to deal with here.

The suppression of Falun Gong in China notwithstanding, Christians who attend Shen Yun performances ought to be aware of the religious content that is a vital part of the performance.

Although to the casual observer Falun Gong looks to be an exercise and breath control program for health, the teachings closely associated with the program are what ought to be of interest to Christians who plan to attend Shen Yun performances.
Deeply embedded in the performance (and in Falun Gong religion) are fundamental ideas that separate traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism and Buddhism from the Biblical, Christian worldview. You can read the Christian Research Institute’s analysis and comparison of these differing worldviews here.

Christians should be aware that, although the Shen Yun performance may be entertaining and engaging, there is more included in the purchase price than 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

copyright: Dr Charles H Roberts, Pastor
Reedy River Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Cruel Mercy of the State

The Cruel Mercy of the State
by Rev. Charles H Roberts, D.Min.

E.J. Montini, in his March 13, 2016 column in the Arizona Republic newspaper reports the impending closure of the Arizona Children’s Colony. Established by the state of Arizona in 1952, it is located near Coolidge, AZ between Tucson and Phoenix. The facility is now called Arizona Training Program. You can read the story here.

At its height, it housed over 250 mentally and physically disabled children and adults. Legislative action in 1979 determined to close the facility and move its residents to normal society.

To that end, in the same year, a law was passed banning any new residents to the facility, and those that remained would either end their days there or, at some future time, be removed. And as Mr. Montini has well chronicled, that future time is now.

Today there are around 86 residents, all mentally and physically disabled, and many of them in their 50’s and 60’s. They have known no other home.

In the article, various reasons are given by a representative of the state as to why this action is being taken, none of which have  well satisfied many of the family and loved ones of the residents who are being impacted by the decision.

Many suspect the real reason for the action is because the state wants to sell the property for a profit.

Care for the sick, disabled and the dying by state agencies is, relatively speaking, a recent occurrence. From ancient times the less fortunate (and in this case, the less healthy) in society were ignored by state governments.

Ancient Roman society, for all of its advances over barbaric paganism was not a happy place if you become sick or born with a deformity.

Gary Ferngren tells the story of how the rise of Christianity brought sweeping changes to the ways that the most vulnerable in Roman society were treated.

Because the Christians believed that all human beings are created in God’s image, and because of New Testament exhortations to care for widows and orphans, and the example of The Good Samaritan, extensive networks of charity and care were developed to address the needs of the less fortunate.

The foundation of those networks was solidly Biblical and theological, and based on the belief that God, not the state, is sovereign. God’s Law, not the laws of the state, was the ultimate basis for how ailing human beings should be treated.

The decline of those theological commitments eventually lead to the state taking over, if not usurping, the ministry of the church in those areas.
According to Holy Scripture, Almighty God established three foundational institutions in creation: the family, the church, and the state. Each of those three are independent in their own spheres of authority but they share the common bond of being submissive to the Law of God.

In societies where the state has tended to see itself as its own ultimate authority, answerable to none else, least of all God’s Law in Holy Scripture, tyranny and cruelty soon follow.

Only a return to the Biblical model will guarantee the best interests of folks such as the residents of the Arizona Training Program.

Until families, churches, and state governments once more embrace God’s word in Scripture the text of Proverbs 12:10 remains sadly accurate: the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

copyright: Dr Charles H Roberts