‘The unlikely protest anthem has even been embraced by non-religious protesters.’
This comment from our own ABC concerns the singing of the song ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ across the massive people movement in Hong Kong.
That it is of sufficient significance to have our ABC comment respectfully, we can take it that is more than just Christian hype.
How should we respond? Carefully.
To fill in the background, the movement is a revolt against Mainland China’s attempt to enact extradition laws under which ‘suspected’ criminals from HK can be removed to China to face the courts there. Criminality in China extends beyond our own legal definitions and encompasses those whose philosophies differ from the Party line.
This would include Christians but not exclusively so. Anyone objecting to the Government’s policies can be dealt with harshly. People just disappear. Or they can be publicly tried and sentenced to enormous prison terms. There is enough evidence to indicate that Falun Gong members are imprisoned and used for organ harvesting. The Muslim population and of course Christians can walk a knife-edge of insecurity.
With a few suspected exceptions, this has not touched Hong Kong. Under the ‘one country two systems’ arrangement, dissidents in Hong Kong, Christian or otherwise—cannot be dealt with in the same manner. If any action were necessary, they would be dealt with justly under the law.
This move by China, announced by the Chief Minister, brought one million people onto the street. When the Minister withdrew the Bill with words indicating that it was a temporary withdrawal, it brought two million people onto the streets. Nothing but permanent withdrawal would be accepted.
And notably, the unofficial anthem for the protest seems to have been the Christian song, ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.’ Placards even suggested to the police, ‘Stop using baton(s) or we will sing …’
Back to our question, ‘How should we respond?’
1. There is the need to make sure we don’t overplay the issue. If Christians around the world ‘rub China’s nose in it’, the fallout within China will be horrendous for Christians, and more than likely generate a long-term strategy for oppression in Hong Kong. It will confirm for China that Christians are the enemy of the state and need to be stamped out.
This is a time for us to ‘know’ what happened and to thank God quietly, allowing China gratitude and appreciation for responding to the people. Allow them ‘face’. To overplay the issue will undo what God has done.
2. For us as Christians there is the very great encouragement that God can and does move the hearts of people—His people and those who are unbelievers. He can do it in a moment. He can use unbelievers to sing His praises. So we need to be persistent and patient. God’s work is long, often multi-generational.
In our land we are heading towards a totalitarian mindset that requires agreement with fashionable ideologies, or suffer social, legal and employment consequences. Why doesn’t God act? Because His timing is not ours.
Hong Kong has been in China’s hands since 1997. Today, two decades years later, millions are singing Hallelujah in the streets. No one is suggesting that every singer understand or believes what they are singing. But that is not necessary to the impact of the moment.
3. Hong Kong stops for no one. I have been there many times for meetings and discussions, and have found the frenetic pace of work and business and moneymaking to be almost exhausting. But they have stopped for freedom.
This is common ground for us, whether believers or unbelievers. Sometimes we can drop the Christian terminology in favour of common ground terminology. This doesn’t make our action any less Christian. But it does enable many more to come alongside us, or we alongside them, to work for justice and righteousness.
Having done that, God stepped in and created the language that He wanted, in this case, ‘Hallelujah to the Lord.’ And did it so naturally that it seemed hard for anyone to be offended by it.
4. Issues of justice don’t need to have a Bible verse attached to be true. I sometimes think that as Christians we get into difficulty because we make universal justice issues—God’s issues– into what seems like exclusively Christian issues. This serves to separate us out as an exclusive tribe.
Abortion, gender insanity etc. can be seen and discussed as human issues that we as Christians also have a view on. And as in Hong Kong, so is justice. We stand with the people, even using their words, not as a separate group within. When that happened in HK, the people didn’t seem to find difficulty adopting a Christian song as their anthem. Interesting.
5. The heritage of common law, freedom and human dignity that persists in HK is testimony to the necessity of preserving those core values in our own society. The people saw China’s move for what it was, an affront to the deepest foundations of common law and justice, and they revolted. They had the philosophical and political foundations that emanate from a ‘Christian’ infused society and heritage and what happened occurred naturally on those foundations.
And, as expressed in secular media around the world, many, many Christians have been at the heart of the movement along with their non-Christian compatriots. So many as to be noticeable, not possible to be overlooked.
So, be grateful to God. In our meetings thank Him. Be cautious about ‘over-the-top’ public comment that might cause a backlash against our brothers and sisters in Mainland China (and HK). Learn from the situation the way God can use Christians in a not-essentially-Christian movement, rather than only in church-based movements.
And above all, ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord!’