Ich Bin Ein Beijinger

  Thirty-six years ago, an American president stood at the Berlin wall and electrified the world with four simple words: "Ich bin ein Berliner." John F. Kennedy's identification with the people of Berlin, a city divided by the will of tyrants, inspired not only Berliners, but freedom-loving people around the globe. President Clinton, who calls Kennedy his role model, ought to take a page out of JFK's book before packing his bags for China. There has been no shortage of people urging the president to cancel his trip to Beijing this week, and I can understand why. He'll be speaking to communist leaders in Tian'anmen Square, where just nine years ago Communist butchers shot down democracy-demonstrating kids in cold blood. The sight will sicken freedom-loving people everywhere. And the sight of the leader of the free world—a Christian—toasting a government that tortures and kills Christians for their faith will demoralize China's underground church. But, I have not joined the chorus of those urging the president to cancel the trip. I don't believe that the Chinese deserve the recognition that the president is going to give them, and I'm appalled by the outrageous allegations that the Chinese military poured money into the Clinton campaign. But I spent four years in the White House at the side of a president, and I recognize how important it is for the president to make foreign policy decisions—I respect his Constitutional authority, and Americans ought to stand together when the president represents us abroad. But President Clinton could turn the trip from a potential disaster into a great triumph for democracy and human rights. How? By imitating President Kennedy. Think about it. What better backdrop for President Clinton to make a bold statement about his commitment to human rights and religious freedom than Tian'anmen Square? Imagine the impact if President Clinton stood up and said: "I, like all freedom-loving Americans, identify with the Christian prisoner in the Chinese gulag. I identify with the young dissidents yearning for freedom. I identify with the Chinese political prisoner whose organs are harvested for sale to the rich." The communists would be stunned—but freedom lovers the world over would be thrilled. And then the president could teach Chinese leaders the most important economic law of the century—one that was so beautifully taught by Michael Novak: That a free society is like a 3-legged stool—it rests on three premises. It must have economic freedom, political freedom and moral truth. Take away any one of those, and society will be like a 2-legged stool. It collapses. This is, I might add, a pretty good lesson for American businessmen who look the other way at what's happening in China, so long as we can sell our products there. If President Clinton said these things, he would galvanize public sentiment behind him, and he would genuinely help the Chinese people. If nothing else, he would demonstrate the kind of courage that has distinguished American leaders through the centuries. So, instead of opposing Clinton's China trip, Christians should be praying for the president. Most of all, we should be praying that out of this trip will come a lesson for both communist tyrants and American tycoons. But it's a lesson that can only be taught if President Clinton will harness America's moral authority—to repeat what our founders proclaimed: that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.


Chuck Colson


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