Signs and Wonders: Beijing 'barely suitable' for life

by Warren Cole Smith
Posted 2/13/14, 11:05 am

Chinese smog. Pundits and futurists have spilled a lot of ink in recent years claiming the 21stcentury would be the “Chinese Century.” Evidence for that possibility is easy to find. China is the most populous country on the planet, and its economy is growing at nearly 8 percent. It’s already the second-largest economy in the world. However, China also has huge problems. It’s tragic one-child policy is spiritually searing its people. Poverty and persecution are still very real in the communist country. This week, we got a reminder of China’s systemic problems with the release of an official report on air pollution. According to the report, pollution has made Beijing, the Chinese capital, “barely suitable” for living. A Reuters report said, “Pollution is a rising concern for China's stability-obsessed leaders, keen to douse potential unrest as affluent city dwellers turn against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has tainted much of the country’s air, water and soil.” The Chinese government said this week it would spend $1.65 billion to fight air pollution. Some of the money will be doled out as rewards for companies that clean up operations.

“Intersex realities.” An Assemblies of God minister has been dismissed for his controversial teachings on sexuality. According to the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), Paul Alexander “called for openness to the promotion of homosexual, transgender and intersex ‘realities’ as faithful representations of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity.” Alexander is (and apparently will remain) the Ronald J. Sider professor of Social Ethics and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary, a Baptist school attached to Eastern University in King of Prussia, PA. According to the IRD’s Jeff Walton, “He was recently named as co-president of Evangelicals for Social Action, a left-leaning advocacy group formerly led by Sider.” Alexander first created controversy with a speech to the Society for Pentecostal Studies at Seattle Pacific University last year, in which he promoted liberation theology.

Greater transparency. Regular readers of this column know that I often discuss “faith-based fraud,” scams and scandals within the church. The common theme of all these scandals is a lack of transparency and accountability. That’s why I welcome a call by Pentecostal pastor Frank Benson Jones of Compton, Calif., for greater transparency. According to Jones, “I find it strange and appalling that the salary of the president of the United States is made public; the salaries of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are made public; the salaries of every state governor are made public; but the salaries of pastors and church employees are kept confidential and top secret.Requiring churches and religious organizations to file an IRS form 990 would in no way impede the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, but it would help to expose those greedy preachers who are using the constitution to conceal their improper accumulation of wealth at the expense of American citizens.” Many conservative Christians will object to the government requiring this disclosure. That’s why Christian leaders who want to head-off that requirement should disclose their 990s voluntarily. All God’s people should say “Amen” to this reasonable call for transparency, but I’m guessing many in the Christian industrial complex will not.

Mission America. It’s interesting to note that the United States is turning into a mission field for Christians in other countries. The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and its dozen or so associated Anglican groups have been looking to Africa for leadership. Now comes word that one of Africa's biggest Christian movements, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, is spreading across the United States. According to the BBC, “the Pentecostal movement started in Nigeria and opened its first American parish in Detroit in 1992. Today, Church leaders say they have 720 congregations throughout North America. Their eventual goal: a church within 10 miles of every community on the continent.”

Warren Cole Smith

Warren is president of MinistryWatch and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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