Born into Chinese Communism, I Found Christ and Freedom in the West
I grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China. Both of my parents were Communists. I was taught that there is no God and all religions are just superstitions. Communism is scientific and therefore is true. I was expected to become a Communist official just like my parents.
But some life events changed all of that.
When I was five, my dad was imprisoned during the big purge after Mao overthrew the central government in a coup. The whole party apparatus was dismantled, and many party officials were jailed.
My family was kicked out of our nice apartment and exiled to a mud house near the countryside. My mom was forced to work in a factory cafeteria. Fortunately, she was a strong woman and took it bravely. After three years, my dad was reinstated back to his former position, and we moved back to an apartment.
Thinking About Life & Death
When I was about ten, one of my classmates died in an accident. I saw him leaving school excitedly one afternoon. A couple of hours later, I heard the news of his death. He had been trying to fetch eggs from a bird's nest and had touched a high-voltage power line. He was electrocuted.
Months later, an older boy who lived one floor below us drowned in a river. His death sent a shockwave throughout our community. He had been like a big brother to me. He owned many books and could build radio sets. I had spent hours in his home reading books. One of the books described a TV set as small as a watch that could also be used as a phone!
But I lost him so suddenly. I was so lonely and so afraid of death. One night, when I was looking at the stars, it dawned on me how small the earth is and how insignificant I am. I will die! Everyone I know will die! So what is the meaning of life? What is the purpose?
Losing Faith in Communism
The Chinese Communist Party indoctrinated us into thinking that our purpose was to make Communism a reality in China and spread it all over the world. The loudspeaker near our apartment complex would end each day with The Internationale: "Do not say that we have nothing; we shall be the masters of the world."
Mao died in 1976. A couple of years later, universities were reopened after having been closed during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution. Many evil deeds carried out in Mao's name were exposed. I started college in 1978 and had access to many books and magazines. As a result, I lost faith in Communism.
I found out that almost everything I had been taught was not true. I learned that people who lived in capitalist countries had big houses and nice cars. They even had real elections. People outside of China didn't need us to liberate them. It was we who needed liberation.
During that time, I did not read much about Christianity. I only knew stories that were usually negative, such as stories about hypocritical priests or kings who used Christianity to rule their subjects. I believed Marx's assertion: "Religion is the opiate of the masses."
Losing Faith in Science
After I graduated from college, I won a scholarship to do graduate studies in Canada. I spent two years studying English. One day I borrowed two cassette tapes to practice listening comprehension. When I got to side B of the second tape, all I heard were Christmas songs. I didn't understand the lyrics, but the music was so peaceful and sweet. Those songs gave me a glimpse of a wonderful, strange world.
I went to Vancouver, Canada, in the summer of 1984. I did not know then that it was a very liberal city. I didn't know anyone who went to church. When I visited a church as part of a tour, there were only old people inside, so I became convinced that Christianity was just a thing of the past.
Like other Chinese students, I firmly believed in science. But when I started my Ph.D. studies in 1987, I saw its underbelly. To the general public, scientists know what they are doing. But now that I was in that world, I realized that many times scientists can only make educated guesses.
In science, we use logic to prove a statement true or false. But to do so, we have to assume that the natural world is orderly and logical. If it is, then why is it so? Who gave it such an order? As an engineer, I see designs everywhere. Then, who is the designer? Many great scientists' discoveries came from inspiration. Who, then, inspired them?
To my surprise, I learned that many great scientists from the past were Christians who believed God created the world. Galileo Galilei once said, "Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe." Isaac Newton claimed, "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being."
It is ironic that I lost faith in science when I was doing my Ph.D. studies. But I consider it the most important education I have ever received. Science needs theology as its foundation.
Losing Faith in Democracy
In April 1989, students in Beijing occupied Tiananmen Square and demanded democracy and freedom of the press. The movement grew rapidly, and soon many students in other cities joined the protest.
On May 20, the Chinese government declared martial law in Beijing. As many as 250,000 soldiers were sent to the capital, but Beijing citizens bravely blocked their entrance into the city.
Angered by the government's totalitarian measures and encouraged by the bravery of Beijing citizens and students, many students studying in Europe and North America also started protests on their campuses to support the students in the square.
However, in the early morning of June 4, the Chinese government sent in tanks and soldiers with automatic weapons to forcefully clear the square. We still don't know how many students and citizens were massacred that day. The estimates range from several thousand to twenty thousand. The Chinese Communist Party finally showed its evil nature to the whole world.
I was blacklisted for my involvement in the protests. Fortunately, the Canadian government allowed all Chinese scholars and students who were in Canada to stay and become permanent residents. The United States and some Western European countries did the same.
I participated in the democracy movement after the June 4 massacre. But I was soon disillusioned after witnessing fights between and within different groups. I realized that democracy won't work for China unless the Chinese people believe that their rights are given by God and they have the moral courage to defend them. I later learned that John Adams said: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." We tried to copy America's form of government and failed miserably because we didn't have "a moral and religious people."
Searching for Truth
I was still not interested in religion, but my wife was invited to a Bible study on campus. As a good husband, I went with her. The first song we sang that night was Amazing Grace. It touched my heart. I was lost and wanted to be found. But was God real?
My wife and I spent five years in the Bible study group. Two Chinese students at Regent College led the study: one had a Ph.D. in chemistry and the other in theoretical physics. We asked all kinds of questions until we had none left.
One day, one of the two students was preaching. One of his arguments caught my attention. He said that if we are truly objective, we will find that there is more evidence supporting the existence of God than otherwise. Until that time, I had been looking for proof of God's existence. Now I realized that my atheistic belief was also lacking concrete proof. From a probability point of view, if I have to choose, I'd better choose theism.
By that time, my wife had accepted Jesus. I'd seen the change in her. Of course, she wanted me to become a Christian, too, and one day when a believer invited me to say the prayer, I did. On July 15, we both got baptized.
But I didn't yet understand what it meant to be a Christian. I didn't feel anything different. We soon joined a church and found that many members live like nonbelievers except for attending Sunday services. I started to doubt my new-found faith.
Following His Call
In late September 1995, I came to Indiana to work as an engineer. My faith was very shaky. Fortunately, my wife's faith was strong. We joined a house fellowship, and got serious about studying the Bible.
Through most of 1996, the Holy Spirit kept bothering me. I knew I was not a true follower yet. I didn't want to give up my career. I wanted peace, happiness, and success. I was afraid that God would call me to become a pastor or a missionary.
But I knew I had to make the commitment. In late December, my wife and I were attending a retreat. When the speaker invited us to commit our lives to God, I stood up, took her hand, and went to the altar.
But God didn't ask me to give up my career right away. Instead, he helped me overcome many difficulties in my work. But in 2008, I felt the calling to become a high-school math teacher. I had never wanted to become a teacher, and my kids were not in college yet. How would I put them through college on a teacher's salary?
Three years later, I finally submitted to the Lord's will and started looking for a math-teacher position. One day in late September, I attended a pastors' lunch. One of the pastors asked about my plan. He told me to apply to a Christian private school. I emailed the headmaster and got a response the next day for an interview. A couple of days later, I was hired. It turned out that the previous calculus teacher was on maternity leave and had decided to be a stay-at-home mother. Talk about God's timing!
In January 2019, I took another leap of faith and volunteered at Hope Center Indy to provide high-school equivalency and job readiness classes to survivors of human trafficking and substance abuse. I consider myself blessed that I am still serving them today.
I escaped from Communism at twenty-one years of age and then escaped from Satan's dominion at thirty-one. I have found true freedom in Jesus Christ. It has been and will always be with me regardless of my physical and financial situations.Dr. Pingnan Shi
grew up during China's Cultural Revolution and immigrated to the US in 1995. He became a high school math teacher after having worked as an engineer for 20 years. Disillusioned with the current schooling model, he became an independent math teacher/tutor in 2018. He writes mainly on education and culture.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #58, Fall 2021 Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo58/free-at-last