As Easter approached a few days ago, the leaders of an unofficial Christian church in China proclaimed their intention to defy Communist Party officials and hold outdoor Easter services. And sure enough, hundreds of church members were detained in their homes and 36 others were taken into custody after they tried to hold an Easter worship service in a public square. This new confrontation comes amid an increasing crackdown on unregistered faith groups. The conflict, overall, has inspired a condemnation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and raises questions about the state of religious freedom in China.
The Shouwang Church was established in 1993 and, according to its leaders, has sought government registration since 2006, but has been repeatedly refused. This is because the Chinese government, despite their claim to promote religious freedom, requires religious groups to gain government approval before they can legally gather. Earlier this month, hundreds of church members were rounded up and detained after they tried to hold another public worship service. The Shouwang Church has over 1,000 members. The public prayer services have been a response to the government’s attempts to restrict their access to property purchased in 2009.
“Beijing has again responded with ruthless intolerance to peaceful religious activity,” said Leonard Leo, the chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. “The Shouwang Church tried to play by rules that the Chinese government keeps changing. Beijing’s action further alienates the fast growing number of religious believers in China, particularly during Easter, the most sacred week in Christianity.” […]
Just in time for Easter, the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is poised to be shown in an expanding number of theaters. And, as Ayn Rand would be the first to admit, you could not set up a sharper clash of world views.
There is Jesus Christ, who, the apostle Paul writes, “died for the ungodly.” Then there is the atheist Rand—”by all accounts … one of the central intellectual and cultural inspirations for the base of the Republican Party,” Think Progress writes this week—who once told Alvin Toffler in a Playboy magazine interview that ”nothing could make me more indignant” than the idea of a “man of perfect virtue dying for the ungodly, “the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal.”
Rand is very clear: walking in the path of Christ and walking in the path of “Atlas Shrugged” hero John Galt will take you to two very different places. Which ought to give pause to political leaders who claim to embrace the values of Christ but adopt the politics of Rand.
Before Congress went on its Easter recess, the House of Representatives passed a 2012 federal budget blueprint drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who credits Rand for inspiring him into entering politics, and who reportedly encourages his staff members to read “Atlas Shrugged.” The budget unabashedly bears the trademarks of Rand’s thinking: its glorification of individualism and private enterprise not as a companion to the collective pursuit of the common good but as a replacement for it; the gradual elimination of anything that compels the haves to share with the have-nots; the presumption that have-nots are “moochers” or “looters” and must be treated accordingly.
It is this view of how America should work that is at the root of such schemes as turning Medicare into weakly subsidized private insurance, shifting increasing health care costs onto seniors as well as the burden of negotiating a predatory insurance market.
Shades of Rand are also present in a speech Ryan gave on the House floor March 2010 in opposition to the health care reform bill. In that speech, Ryan turns the question about how the nation should make health care affordable and accessible for all people into issues of “rights” and false choices. […]