When I was an undergraduate, I studied history; mostly Chinese. I remember a moving story from one class that happened during the Communist-Nationalist struggle in the 1930’s. It is a story that informs how we Christians might think about having lost the culture wars.
(Before I begin the story, I know many can’t imagine communists being the good guys in any story, but at this moment in history, they were. The Nationalists had a corrupt, crony, system of entitlement while the Communists advocated for Chinese people. That didn’t change until some decades later.)
In 1933, the Chinese Nationalists, with superior weapons and funding had surrounded the Communists, and began to lay siege to their outpost in southeast China. Their intent was to starve them into oblivion; and it was working! For all practical purposes, the Nationalists had won the war; had brought the Communists to the brink of annihilation. They would have mopped them up, except the Communists did something unpredictable.
In early 1935 they broke through the blockade and made a harrowing run for the west and north. They zigged and zagged, evaded attack, broke into smaller groups, and ran for their lives; 8000 miles to the north of China. It took them over a year, and many lost their lives on the run. But in the north, the Nationalists didn’t have territorial control. Unfortunately, the Japanese did! The poor Communists. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
They fled and arrived with no food, no arms, no funds. Theirs was a withdrawal to survive; to hide, find refuge, and lick their wounds. It was a time to mourn their losses, assess what had gone wrong, and figure out what to do next. In their season of reflection, they came up with two organizing truths to guide them.
- First: we will champion the cause of the poor; those the Nationalists exploit.
- Second: with nothing much more than rocks and sticks, we will fight the Japanese.
At the time, the Japanese were advancing into northern China, scooping up Chinese ancestral lands, enslaving the people who lived there, and most atrociously, raping Chinese women. (Remember, they’re still the good guys.)
These two truths became their north star. Guided by them, they began to gain the trust and support of the Chinese people. Without guns or money, they began to advance; first against the Japanese, and then turning south, against the Nationalists. With only these two truths, they learned to fight on the cheap, stealing arms when they were victorious, and supported by the hearts of the people. By 1949, they had kicked the Nationalists all the way to the south, and would have wiped them out, if the United States had not facilitated their flight across the Formosan straits to Taiwan.
It was a victory fueled by truth and conviction.
In the next post, we’ll see how this experience could inform us as Christians, in our own defeat, having lost the culture wars.