I have very mixed feelings about the Beijing Olympics. I’m glad because it will put China under the greatest world scrutiny it’s been under in modern times. Since China is extraordinarily image conscious, this may restrain the hand of persecution against believers. Whether or not it does, it will certainly result in the gospel being brought into China, because every Christian athlete, coach, trainer, and support personnel can bring in a gospel witness and many will bring in Chinese gospel literature. They won’t have as much freedom to go about the countryside as with many Olympics, but they certainly will be taken to the Great Wall outside Beijing, and the summer palace and the temple of heaven and other places that bolster China’s image. Ultimately, I believe the Lord will bring much good out of this. Also, with China being the focus of world attention, there will be more prayer, and God will answer.
On the down side, should a country that violates human rights in such dramatic ways be rewarded by the global community by being given the Olympics? No. Ethically speaking, it was a poor decision. It sends the message “human rights aren’t that big a deal—you can persecute people, imprison them for religious and political reasons, but we’ll still honor you by making you host of the Olympics.” Or it says, “Your propaganda efforts are effective—you’ve convinced us civil rights are being upheld in China.” In any case, it sends a “we’ll look the other way” message.
So, on ethical grounds I oppose the decision, but for the other reasons I cited, I certainly welcome many of the good things that will likely come from it. (The end doesn’t justify the means, but when there are good ends we can still be glad for them. Like Joseph to his brothers who’d sold him into slavery: “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good, to save many lives.”)
Will China’s general population benefit? Certainly there will be a huge flow of money into the country, likely a long-term increase in tourism as they enjoy this influx of tourist money (which should ultimately help the church and the penetration of the gospel). Beijing will no doubt demolish ghetto housing that’s visible to cameras. Will these poor people be compensated and relocated to better conditions? Probably not. Will they be allowed to inhabit whatever nice structures are built in place of the old hovels? Probably not. But we’ll see. Overall, I would think more Chinese would be helped than harmed economically by the Olympics. But once again, if you and your child are the ones being harmed this doesn’t make it easier. Everything is calculated for image and prestige and economic prosperity, especially that of the party, the elite. If the people benefit in the process, this is a nice bonus, but not the party’s main concern. I believe the time between now and the 2008 Olympics will put China before the world in unprecedented ways. Certainly there are two nations on the earth around whom more revolves than any others—the U.S. and China. (I wasn’t thinking mainly in these terms when I chose China rather than Sudan as a setting, but it confirms the strategic timing of Safely Home, and I pray God will use that to get the message to more people.)