According to the China Aid Association, Pastor Zhang Zhongxin has been sentenced to two years in a Chinese labor camp by Shandong Province authorities for participation in cultic activities. To American ears, such allegations bring to mind images of passing around poisoned Kool-Aid or of adolescent brides forced to wed lecherous old men; however, in this case this pastor engaged in religious exercises most of us take for granted as harmless as organizing a Sunday school.
Since freedom of religion is listed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it is a duty of the United States to stand for this liberty in any way proper or possible around the world.
Radical multiculturalists will respond that it is not the place of the United States to be spreading American notions around the world as this could be construed as imposing Western values on other societies. However, another axiom of the economic age in which we live posits that the customer is always right.
If the government of the Peopleís Republic of China wishes to continue to benefit from the financial patronage and cooperation of the United States, it is only reasonable for authorities over there to respect certain inalienable rights held by all individuals irrespective of what regime they happen to live under.
After all, firms here seeking to do business with the government in terms of being granted contracts are expected to honor any number of obligations that go beyond basic human rights such as minority quotas and prevailing union wages.
It is the prayer and hope of believers in Christ around the world that Pastor Zhongxinís sentence would be commuted or suspended because in the contemporary world citizens embracing Christianity bring stability to a nation rather than disruption. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ assists both individuals and communities in balancing the seemingly conflicting tendencies towards order and liberty, and in so doing actually makes a nation stronger.
In the Western press, considerable debate has taken place as to the prudence of allowing China to host the 2008 Olympic games. With the eyes of the world turning to that particular nation at this time, there would be no better gesture that China could make to prove it takes its responsibility as a leading power of the 21st century seriously than by guaranteeing that citizens within that countryís borders are free to practice their religion without fear of incarceration or reprisals
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.