Consider the example of Chang Ta Pao, an illiterate Chinese peasant who became a leader in the Red Guard, the brutal youth army that rose up in response to Mao’s teachings. Chang’s story is told by Niu-Niu, a victim of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. She was only a child of four when, in front of her eyes, her parents were brutally beaten and taken away. Their beautiful house was trashed and their possessions destroyed. Young Niu-Niu, her sister, Mimi, and their father’s parents were relocated to a vacated hovel in another part of town, where their grandparents were subjected to humiliating labor and frequent beatings. Their crime? They had been rich and educated, part of the bourgeois society and therefore branded as criminals and enemies.
Much of the brutal treatment was dished out by Chang. He was involved in the attack on Niu-Niu’s family, and he was responsible for much of the ongoing torment endured by her grandparents. Niu-Niu described what happened one day at a community gathering when she was just five years old. The memories remained vivid in her mind through the years:
It was a beautiful day. Everyone stood dressed in his or her best, solemnly waiting for the ceremony to begin. Finally, after a long delay, they all turned their heads to a man who was slowly mounting the steps to the platform.
“That’s Chang Ta Pao,” murmured my grandmother. He wore an army cap, a handsome white shirt, khaki pants, and was holding something wrapped in red paper. Slowly he approached Mao’s portrait and prostrated himself in front of it several times before he turned to the audience.
“Comrades! Today I am going to do something special to prove that my heart belongs to Mao. Comrades! Before the Liberation, I was miserable. It’s Mao and the Communist Party that saved me. Yet even then the criminals and capitalists continued to harass me…. With the Cultural Revolution, Mao saved me for the second time. All that I have today, Mao gave me. That’s why I swear before Heaven that I will give every drop of my blood for Mao….” Short of breath, he was unable to continue, his eyes welling with tears. He was really crying! 1
The young revolutionary unwrapped his package, revealing a large pin of Mao; then he opened his shirt, bared his chest, and, to the shock of the onlooking crowd, stuck the pin directly into his flesh, resulting in his hospitalization. What pathetic, misguided devotion! Yet the story doesn’t end there.
At a public meeting one day, he proudly announced that out of his love for Chairman Mao, he had named his newborn son Mao Zedong. This was an utterly unthinkable act in that culture (it was considered an insult to the honor of an emperor or supreme leader), and he was immediately denounced and disgraced for his foolish and ignorant zeal, being branded a criminal and consigned to hard labor for his “crimes.” Now he performed meaningless acts of labor, harnessed like an animal and harassed like an enemy. And he felt he deserved the treatment! After all, he had disgraced his beloved Mao. His death was even more tragic than his life:
Chang Ta Pao died a little while later. Like other gawkers, I went to see his body in the shack where his family had been “relocated” just as ours had been. I was still very young and horrified by the spectacle. The dead man was on his knees, his head on his chest. He had pierced his torso with another medallion of Mao. A piece of paper on his thigh read, “Forgive me, Mao: “A fragment of his bloody tongue was sticking to the paper. He had slit his wrists with a kitchen knife and cut off his guilty tongue.” 1
Yes, just as he had pledged, this deluded revolutionary gave his blood for Mao. Such was his dedication to the cause. And what a perverse, destructive cause it was! (He also left behind his little baby boy and his young wife, who quickly lost her mind.) Mao meant everything to Chang Ta Pao. Dare I ask what Jesus means to us? Dare I ask how important His cause is to us? Can we, in truth and integrity, give less (not in terms of self-mutilation or self-destruction or suicidal or violent acts-perish the thought!but in terms of healthy devotion, joyful sacrifice, and loving service) for the cause of Jesus?
Our society is deteriorating all around us and something is terribly wrong. Why? It is because we, the people of God, the army of the Lord Jesus, the messengers of liberation, the ambassadors of reconciliation, we have been sidetracked by the love of this world and distracted by the cares of this world. We have not changed this generation; this generation has changed us!
Rather than seasoning the world like salt and brightening the world like light, we now smell and taste like the world, and its darkness is snuffing out our lamps. Rather than setting captives free by the power of Jesus’ blood, we ourselves are being ensnared and enslaved, making a mockery of that sacred blood. Rather than making disciples of sinners and teaching them the ways of God, we are being discipled by them, learning their ways, imitating their lifestyles, and conforming to their standards.
Really now, in the last 40 years, whose standards have changed more-those of the Church or those of the society? Who is looking like whom? A 1997 survey conducted by George Barna used 152 different items to compare the Church and the world. He found virtually no difference between the two. We need a revolution!
Excerpt taken from Michael L. Brown’s book, entitled Revolution in the Church, published by Baker Books and available through ICN Ministries www.icnministries.org , p. 68-71
1. With permission from Niu-Niu,No Tears for Mao: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1995), p, 20, 22-23.