I’ve Seen This Evil Before, and I Recognize It This Time, Too
I grew up in China, a totalitarian society where freedom was absent. Without basic human rights and the protection of law, life was unpredictable and complicated. We had to learn to navigate among intricate relationships to avoid various pitfalls and misfortunes. We learned the many practices that would allow us to see through government deception.
Most people became good at it. They understood what was really going on. They knew the government media outlets only delivered propaganda messages; they put more trust in conspiracy theories shared among friends in secret. Without a free press, rumors were the only believable news. No one dared to admit it publicly, though.
Now, though, I live in America, the freest country on earth, with a great Constitution protecting the rights of the citizen.
I love America. I enjoy and appreciate the freedom it provides. Yes, freedom has limitations and drawbacks. Christian thinkers caution believers to avoid freedom’s traps, such as complacency and materialism.
Having grown up in a tyrannical society, though, I have a different perspective on the danger freedom has brought on Americans, and on Christians in particular. While freedom is desirable and rightly sought-after, it has unfortunately also dulled American Christians’ aptitude and willingness to recognize evil, let alone confront it. For me, this has become the grimmest reality since 2020.
The Dull Blindness of Too Much Ease
I always knew the American people in general were kindhearted and somewhat innocent when compared with most people from other parts of the world. Freedom here has largely eliminated the physical suffering and human rights violations which are still common in much of the world. It’s given Americans unprecedented prosperity.
The tendency, though, when life is so easy and free, is to push evil acts and other unpleasant subjects out of sight, beyond our peripheral vision. Turning inward, obsessed with feelings, American culture has developed its own way to express love. Affirmation and positivity have become the epitome of American moral standards.
Christians, who strive to show God’s love to the world, have wed our theology to American culture. Gradually, we’ve begun to think as the world thinks. So we hesitate to say anything negative, for fear of being viewed as unloving. We cannot tolerate denunciation, challenge, or doubt; they make us uncomfortable.
Will you see? Will you act?
We see evil, but we say to ourselves, “As long as we remain positive and show love, things will turn out alright.” Or we refuse even to recognize it as evil. It is not so where I came from. When life was merciless, in order to survive, Chinese people knew they could not afford to indulge their feelings. They had to look at reality as it was regardless of how they wished it to be.
The sad effect is that American Christians lack the skill and stamina to contend for what is right. This may be overly simplified, but it seems to me that those who stand up to oppose evil are now the marginalized minority among American Christians.
Christians Should Know Better Than This
It should not be this way. Christians honor God, who alone holds moral standards and has the final say in what is right. He tells us cheating and stealing are wrong. We who believe biblical justice know He will not let thieves go free. God alone created life. We know He will not acquit both the evildoers and the ones who fail to stand up to defend life, the order of His creation and the structure of family.
I have trouble seeing how people can claim to be Christians but refuse to obey or protect God’s truth. It seems to me it would be harder, in fact possibly even more miserable, than living as an atheist. Atheists can at least have a kind of “clear” conscience, believing they are doing what is right in their own eyes. Believers have the Spirit residing in us. He nags our hearts and brings restlessness to our conscience. How can we have peace when the Spirit convicts us and our flesh is weak? What can appease a troubled soul? For some, the events of Jan. 6 provided an answer. But it was the wrong one.
I’ve Seen This Evil Before, and I Recognize It This Time, Too
Let me back up again now to remind you where I come from. I have lived in a Marxist socialist country, and I’m conversant with its tactics and tricks. I grew up learning stories about how Marxists would infiltrate an opposition group and turn their peaceful activities into chaos and destruction, with the sole purpose of demonizing that group. By the way, I learned those tales in elementary school as heroic stories.
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So when I heard about the march to the Capitol that was going to take place on Jan. 6, the first thing that came to my mind was deep concern over potential infiltration by outside groups. I’m sure all those who share my background had the same fear. On Jan. 6 when the drama was unfolding in front of me, my heart sank. Seeing how quickly our congressional representatives decided to censure the march, I knew the preorganized setup had achieved its objective.
The Deceived Conscience of the Unaware Christian
I was dismayed, though not surprised, to see some of my friends quickly and eagerly jump to condemn the demonstration. Obviously, the riot had provided the irrefutable proof of the evil intent of those who gathered in D.C. It disqualified and delegitimized the demonstrators’ claims and demands. These friends of mine, Christians who had stood against Donald Trump in one way or another, were elated: “We were right! Here’s the proof!”
They’d been embracing a lie. The preorganized riot handed them a golden opportunity to appease their troubled conscience. This recovered their equilibrium.
What We Cannot Do in the Face of Evil
During World War II, the majority of German Christians sided with Hitler. They, too, had the Spirit inside them, didn’t they? What was their “Jan. 6”?
Having lived in a Marxist socialist society, I understand what has been taking place since early 2020. I know how to protect myself and how to avoid getting into trouble. The first rule is to keep quiet and go with the flow. Were I an atheist, I would have done that. But I’m not an atheist …
I know my life does not end at death. Like everyone else, one day I will stand before the Great White Throne, judged by what I have done and what I have failed to do.
I know I cannot hide behind God’s sovereignty to excuse myself from standing up because God gave me responsibilities to reject evil and requires me to be faithful. Should the Holocaust take place again, God forbid that we repeat the same mistake of the German Christians!
I know the destructive nature of Marxist socialism. It gives me pain to see the increasing probability of Marxist socialists’ taking over of our society. I have children. Not to prevent the danger from coming upon my children is unthinkable and against the natural instinct of a mother. But what can I do?
I know what I cannot do. I cannot tell Jesus I’m too weak and too insignificant to make a difference, because He told me that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
I know I cannot coil in fear, doubting God’s willingness to help me. If in peacetime He has helped me so often, will He not also help when I stand up for His truth in times of unrest and persecution? Has He not said He will never leave me nor abandon me (Heb. 13:5)?
What Jesus Calls Us to Do
I know Jesus Himself said that He came to bring divisions. How dissonant that sounds to American ears! The world tells us to compromise, to take the broad road. Jesus challenges us to take the narrow road, to count the cost and to carry his cross. See Matthew 10:34, Matthew 7:13, Luke 14:28 and Luke 9:23.
What option do I have? I must stand up! I see evil, partly because I am not unwilling to see it. Having seen it, I must resist it! My conscience will not let me rest; the Spirit of God Himself will not let me rest. I’m not an atheist. Neither are you. Will you see? Will you act?
Chenyuan Snider was raised in Communist China and majored in Chinese language and literature in college. After immigrating to the U.S. and having studied at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School, she became a professor and taught at Christian colleges and seminary. After March, 2020, she sensed God was leading her to use her unique voice to provide a warning about various kinds of Marxist influences in our society. She lives in northern California with her husband and has two grown children.