|LIFE AND MISSION IN THE CHURCH OF TAIWAN|
Associate Professor of Church History
Taiwan Theological College and Seminary
In this presentation I will first give a short historical account of the island-state of Taiwan and its peoples, including the experience of the Christian missions in Taiwan. Then I will introduce specific issues of concern in the life and mission of the Taiwanese church. Lastly, I will present two mission projects of PCT as a concrete example.
1. A Brief Historical Account of the Taiwanese Setting:1
The history of Taiwan is packed with tragic ethnic conflicts and gloomy colonial experiences. For several thousands of years various groups of aborigines lived at peace on this island, until the early 16th century when small unorganized groups of settlers and privateers from China and Japan began to arrive and occupy certain parts of the island. Before the arrival of Dutch and Spanish colonial forces and subsequent Chinese feudalistic regimes, Taiwan was a "no-man's-land" which enjoyed a free and unaffiliated status. Recently some scholars have even claimed that Taiwan is the origin of the Austronesian peoples.2 During the early 17th century Taiwan formally surfaced on the world map, after several foreign powers began or intended to invade the island. Over the last four centuries Taiwan has been occupied and ruled in succession by the Dutch, the Spanish, the Manchurian Ching Empire, the Japanese and finally the Chinese Nationalist regime. Due to the "rule and divide" policy of these various colonizers, there have always been ethnic hostilities and cliquish clashes among the various ethnic/clannish groups who had settled in the island, especially between the earlier and later immigrants. At present, noticeable prejudices or perhaps concealed bitterness still exists among the four major ethnic or language groupings.3
The historical experience of the past century is especially worth mentioning. During 50 years of colonial rule under the Japanese regime, Taiwanese people experienced harsh political oppression and cultural discrimination. In response to that, resistance movements, resorting first to violent (1895 to 1915) then non-violent measures (1915 to 1945), went on forcefully and continuously throughout the period. Ironically, Taiwanese society was at the same time gradually modernized and transformed under such circumstances. The experience of the "rule of law" under the Japanese regime was particularly rare and valued. Furthermore, in spite of a discriminatory educational system, many Taiwanese people were introduced for the first time to modern knowledge and learning, such as science, law, medicine and democracy.
After the Second World War, Taiwan was forced to "return to China" on the basis of the Cairo Declaration (1943), a clandestine agreement settled between Chiang Kai Shek and western leaders, which totally disregarded the political interests of the Taiwanese people. As a result, a representative body from the Chinese Nationalist regime (KMT), headed by Chen Yi, arrived in Taiwan on Oct. 25, 1945. Even though guilelessly welcomed by Taiwanese people in this initial stage of the take-over, corrupt administration combined with extreme economic inflation, along with the "conqueror" mentality of the Chinese occupation troops led to an autonomous, island-wide uprising.4 What the Taiwanese people naively hoped for were simply peaceful negotiations and ensuing political reforms. Although the demonstration and petition was unarmed and peaceful, one week later approximately 20,000 Taiwanese, mostly intellectuals and elite, were brutally massacred by the Chinese troops sent by Chiang Kai-Shek. The following decades witnessed a series of "white terror" rule, and superficial political stability.
In 1949 the Nationalist regime was defeated and expelled from China by the Communist Party. The Nationalists fled China and retreated to Taiwan. For the next 35 years Taiwan was forced to serve as the refuge of the Republic of China (ROC) and the military base for the KMT's illusory goal of the "restoration of China."5 In 1971 the People's Republic of China (PROC) was admitted to the United Nations, while the membership of the ROC was concluded because of the KMT's above-mentioned ideology and policy. From that moment Taiwan began to experience its most critical period of diplomatic setbacks and "international isolationism." A new phase of history had to be contrived.
On Dec. 10, 1979, World Human Rights Day, the "Kao-Hsiong Incident" signaled the dawning of a new era in the history of Taiwanese democratic movements. On that day, during a peaceful human rights rally conducted by an emerging opposition organization called the Formosan Magazine Society, the KMT Nationalist regime ordered a systematic island-wide crackdown on the burgeoning opposition movement. Dozens of opposition leaders were arrested and indicted with the charge of treason. Several Presbyterian ministers, including Dr. C. M. Kao, then General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), and other lay people were arrested.
However, the budding democratic movement was not to be easily subdued. The Kao-Hsiong Incident deeply "conscientized" the Taiwanese people, and eventually led to the founding of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which on September 28, 1986 brought together all the indigenous opposition groups. Taiwanese society entered its initial stage of "partisan politics." In 1987 Martial Law, which had lasted for 38 years, was finally lifted. Once the process of democratization was well underway, Taiwanese people were able for the first time to elect representatives for their Congress (in 1991), the Legislative Assembly (in 1992), the provincial governor of Taiwan and the majors of Taipei and Kao-Hsiong (in 1994), and finally their own president (in 1996). Thus, the government of Taiwan has been transformed from an alienated totalitarian model to a more indigenized and democratized one. On March 18, 2000 Chen Shui-Bian, the DPP candidate, was elected as the new president, thus marking an entirely new phase in the history of Taiwan. It is significant to note that President Chen was one of the defense lawyers who argued on behalf of the opposition leaders who were arrested unjustly during the Kao-Hsiong Incident. Since then President Chen has become a close friend of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.
The history of Christian mission in Taiwan came about in three separate waves. The first wave started in the early 1620's when Dutch Reformed missionaries accompanied the Dutch East India Company to southern Taiwan and successfully evangelized local aborigines. Beginning in 1626 Spanish Catholic missionaries, predominantly Dominicans, established brief missions in northern Taiwan. Unfortunately, after the expulsion of the Dutch regime by Koxinga, a famous general from the late-Ming Dynasty, all traces of these Dutch and Spanish missions disappeared within half a century.
A second wave of mission activity began in the late 1860's, initiated by the "Great Missionary Movement" of the West. This was also facilitated by the Tien Chin Treaty of 1858, which was contracted between the Ching Empire of China and several foreign imperial powers, and guaranteed the freedom of evangelism within foreign settlements. English Presbyterian missionaries arrived in southern Taiwan in 1865, followed by Canadian Presbyterian missionaries in the north in 1872. Because of the anti-foreign mentality of the Taiwanese people, many religion-related incidents occurred, which resulted in missionaries and local converts experiencing various afflictions and persecutions. Under trying circumstances, Presbyterians endured in their faith and bore witness to the Reformed spirit of "Nec tamen consumebatur." In addition, early Presbyterian missionaries adopted a rather comprehensive approach to mission, engaging in evangelism as well as medical, educational and social services. The English and Canadian missions joined in 1912 and formed the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT). It was on this foundation that the church in Taiwan endured difficult times under the Japanese regime and its "Royal citizen movement" which was associated with Emperor worship, Shintoism and military patriotism.
The third wave of mission began after the Second World War. It consisted primarily of an influx of mainstream Christian denominations, as well as some independent or indigenous churches from China, who arrived in Taiwan along with the defeated Nationalist regime. All churches seized the opportunity to engage in evangelistic works among the numerous refugees whose lives had been so disrupted. Up to 1965 these missionary movements were quite successful. However, with gradual industrialization and urbanization throughout society after 1965, the growth of the church became stagnant. Currently, the majority (75-80%) of people are affiliated with either Buddhism, Taoism, or Folk Religion - a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, folklore, and animistic beliefs. Christians, including Protestants and Catholics, consist of only 2-3% of the entire population.
From the 1970's on, democratic development and the political future of Taiwan became a paramount concern, as well as a divisive issue, for the Taiwanese churches at large. The PCT issued three public statements during the 1970's entitled: "A Public Statement on Our National Fate," "Our Appeal," and "A Declaration of Human Rights." Through these prophetic statements the PCT called for social and political reforms, proclaimed the right of Taiwanese people to self-determination, and expressed hope for a "new and independent country." Consequently, the PCT was severely persecuted and suppressed by the Nationalist regime. But the PCT did not give in to government pressures. The Church's concern for the future of Taiwan has remained deeply connected with the renewal of the corporate spirituality of the people, and is an indispensable way of expressing the meaning of gospel to them, namely to restore and affirm the Taiwanese people's identity and dignity, as an integral part of the salvific mission of God.6
Unfortunately, other Christian churches, both mainstream and many from smaller denominations, did not share these same convictions, and were ready to bring criticisms and charges against the PCT. The grounds for their negative reactions were evidently not theological in nature. Rather, they stemmed largely from ideological and ethnic conflicts in the Taiwanese context.7 It is thus worth noting that these two "camps" (PCT and non-PCT) often divided, not only because of ethnic and language differences, but also along denominational lines. It is especially revealing to note how the two groups often split in their pro-ecumenical or anti-ecumenical rhetoric. To this day, conflicting political ideologies and contrasting attitudes towards the China-oriented policy formulated by the former Nationalist Regime, to a certain degree still alienate Christian churches from each other. On the whole, the particularity of the historical experiences of Taiwan, especially that of colonization and cultural alienation, has profoundly shaped the development of Taiwanese contextual theologies.
2. Specific Issues of Concern in the Taiwanese Church:
By my own observation and assessment, there are four pressing and unresolved issues in the Taiwanese context. For the most part they have originated from Taiwan's own historical experiences and cultural background, yet I believe they are also highly relevant to other parts of Asia. Let us examine them one by one.
a. Indigenization and Contextualization: The Question of Gospel and Culture
For Christians in Asia, the relationship between gospel and culture is the most critical and perplexing theological question. As a general principle we can all agree that, whereas on the personal level mission primarily means "evangelization," on the corporate level it is predominantly an issue of the relationship between gospel and culture. How can we be appreciative and critical of our own culture, while at the same time we are engaged in Christian mission and witness? Can we learn to evaluate our culture critically and yet at the same time esteem our own cultural integrity properly and with dignity? To achieve this, the first step is simply to embrace heartily our own cultural identity and subjectivity. It is often when we have established that identity that we can then truly appreciate the significance of the gospel and bring the two parts together in a mutually critical and enriching way.8 In brief, in order to ensure a more fruitful and rewarding outcome in Christian mission and witness, we need to endorse more efforts of "the gospel illuminating and transforming cultures" as well as "culture illuminating and incarnating the gospel."9
In this connection, in many parts of Asia attempts at "indigenization" of the gospel have been a major task for Christian scholars. For them, indigenization is a "missiological necessity when the gospel moves from one cultural soil to another and has to be retranslated, reinterpreted, and expressed afresh in the new cultural soil."10 However, since the term "indigenization" is often used "in the sense of responding to the gospel in terms of traditional culture it is in danger of being past-oriented."11 Hence, Shoki Coe, the Taiwanese theologian who coined the term "contextualization," was deeply convinced that this latter term is not only able to convey all that is implied in the familiar term "indigenization" but also to press beyond for a more dynamic concept which is both open to change and future-oriented. He presents the following remark:
Contextuality, therefore, I believe, is that critical assessment of what makes the context really significant in the light of the Missio Dei. It is the missiological discernment of the signs of the times, seeing where God is at work and calling us to participate in it. Thus, contextuality is more than just taking all contexts seriously but indiscriminately. It is the conscientization of the contexts in the particular, historical moment, assessing the peculiarity of the context in the light of the mission of the church as it is called to participate in the Missio Dei. Such conscientization can only come through involvement and participation, out of which critical awareness may arise_ Authentic theological reflection can only take place as the theologia in loco, discerning the contextuality within the concrete context.12
In the late 1970's, the Commission for Theological Concerns of the Christian Conference of Asia (CTC/CCA) initiated a series of consultations to search for motifs for contextual theologies in Asia. Two themes proposed by Taiwan's consultation were "Homeland Theology" and "Chhut Thau Thin" (meaning "liberation" or "free at last"). Both themes emphasized historical experiences of suffering, including colonization, martial law, and the confusion and distortion of identity caused by policies of the colonizers, especially contemporary threats of imperialism that might deny the Taiwanese people's rights of self-determination. In the mean time, the Catholic Church in Taiwan has focused more on issues of "inculturation" based on the traditional cultures of China.13
Hence, following Shoki Coe's insightful remarks on "contextualization," scholars such as C. S. Song, Wang Hiang-Chi, Chen Nan-Jou, Huang Po-Ho and others had continued to contribute and bring forth new ideas and reflections in this regard. Just take an example, Po-Ho proposes "reconfessing" as the new paradigm for theological reflection and construction. He contends that we need to come to realize that:
The gospel cannot be pulled out from its cultural form; neither can it be identified with any particular culture. This awareness of the entanglement of the gospel and various cultures has strongly influenced the development of contextual theologies. The effort to do theology with indigenous cultural resources while reconfessing the Christian faith in particular social contexts has become a major theological thrust in the mission of the churches in the third world. Thus, the call is made for inter-religious dialogue and for the articulation of a theology of religions in order to reach new understandings about the relationship between gospel and culture.14
Thus Po-Ho proposes the following tasks for the future theological agenda:
(1) Churches must re-examine traditional elements of Taiwanese customs and practices that sustain value and meaning systems for people, such as ancestor worship, festivals, and symbols. This will prevent churches from being alienated from their land and people.
(2) Churches must re-consider the relationship between Christianity and other religions in society through constructive dialogue with them.
(3) Churches must strive for ecumenism among different confessions of the church. Aspects of both the universality and particularity of the gospel should be equally considered.
(4) Churches must construct a relevant theology in the socio-political context of Taiwan, while continuing to participate in political movements of the people.15
For Po Ho, it is the gospel that frees people from their bondage, and it is culture that sustains and nourishes people's identity. Freedom and identity are the two most essential and inter-dependent elements for a person to be human. While true freedom may transcend even the bondage of one's identity, freedom however will not be preserved if one's identity is denied. Thus, the assertion of self-determination, taken as the essential political and theological component in the effort to solve the crises at hand and related to all spiritual, cultural and socio-political aspects, is an assertion that can fulfill the need to achieve freedom and at the same time preserve identity for the people in Taiwan.
b. Ethnic Relations and National Identity: The Question of Faith and Ideology16
During the feudalistic and corrupt rule of the Manchurian Ching Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, different ethnic or interest-bound groups in Taiwan fought fiercely with each other and were shrewdly manipulated by the ruling regime. The historical wounds of these cliquish conflicts and the "ethnic complex" that derived from them have since haunted the minds of various ethnic groups in Taiwan. What is even more dreadful is the "February 28 Incident" in 1947, a tragic and traumatic event which has plagued ethnic relations in Taiwan for more than half a century. As a result, the ethnic relationship between the "Chinese" ("mainlander") and the "native Taiwanese" has been tense ever since.
It is regretful that the "ethnic complex" growing out of these historical experiences has had stressful repercussion over issues of ethnic prejudice, ideology, and national identity. Yet, since Taiwanese people have been inescapably forced to confront and settle their ideological differences and ethnic conflicts, both individually and collectively, especially in face of hegemonic threats from China, it is the church's mission to rebuild a society which will reflect qualities of harmony and dignity. Consequently the relationship between ideology and Christian faith has become exceedingly critical.
It is now generally argued that no theology can definitely claim to be ideology-free, since every theology has its own "political quotient."17 The Christian church has to concede that at times theology may, consciously or unconsciously, serve as an "accomplice" to certain "false ideologies" or become an ideology itself. As Jose Miguez-Bonino aptly puts it, "the substantialization of ideology is the temptation to idolatry which Christians must fight in every revolutionary process." There is always a danger of "ideological captivity."18
In fact, the fundamental problem of Taiwanese society is not a matter of confrontation between the ruler and the ruled, nor an over-simplified matter of "ethnicity," nor the so-called "provincial complex," but a matter of "identity and acceptance." In order to create a creative and collective identity for the people of Taiwan, it is necessary to reach a distinctive and all-inclusive consensus regarding their future and destiny. This should be done through a common reinterpretation of Taiwanese history, so as to formulate a common vision for Taiwan and to call for corresponding responsibilities from all of its inhabitants. To me, such a reinterpretation should and can only be done in conjunction with the following principles:
(1) The political future and destiny of Taiwan should be settled through the principle and due procedure of self-determination.
(2) Peace can only be established on the basis of justice. Thus, in order to redress and heal so many historical wounds resulting from various tragic events throughout Taiwanese history, it is very crucial to vindicate those who were harmed and wronged and to render justice to all victimized people, before we proceed to plead for peace and reconciliation.
(3) Unity or harmony can only be established on the basis of diversity; a forced conformity is always false and unreliable. True unity or harmony can only be realized on the
asis of diversity and mutual respect among differing groups.
(4) Genuine identity can never be obtained through manipulation or by force. It can only be established through a spontaneous, cordial and concrete attitude of being "rooted in this land, identifying with its entire inhabitants, and through love and suffering becoming the sign of hope," as is aptly attested by the The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.19
c. Identification and Co-suffering with the people:
If the mission of the Taiwanese church has been and should continue to be a mission which is "rooted in this land, identifying with its entire inhabitants, and through love and suffering becoming the sign of hope," then the missiological experience of "co-suffering with the people" is of utmost importance. The people of Taiwan have always been a people who are longing for "Chhut Thau Thin." Through the historical process of immigration, the struggle to settle down, identification, and self-determination, the Christian church is through its identifying and co-suffering with the Taiwanese people striving to participate in the shaping and formative process of the Taiwanese identity. As a result, the Christian identity and the Taiwanese identity gradually merged and became mutually enriched. Indeed it was by way of this process of co-suffering with the people that the Taiwanese church has gradually been able to cast off the impression of being an "alienating and foreign religion." This is evident from her missionary experiences in the late 1970's and early 80's. I am going to use the story of Gi-Kong Church in Taiwan to illustrate my point.
Fifty-three years ago Taiwanese people experienced the February 28 incident mentioned above. At that time, the church in Taiwan was so frightened and concerned for its own security that it not only didn't condemn this horrible tragedy but never extended its concern and care to the families of the victims. Hence, the church silently condoned the unjust massacre and failed in its role as the light of the world. The result of this tragic silence is that, for 30 years, Taiwanese people were deprived of their human rights and dignity and the entire society was hard-pressed and cast in "darkness."
Thirty years later, in 1979, as an opposition party was beginning to materialize and the quest for political reforms loudly proclaimed, there occurred the Kao-Hsiong Incident, also mentioned above. In this event, the Nationalist regime cracked down once again on the democratic movement and arrested more than one hundred political leaders and activists, including some Presbyterian pastors and lay people. Then, mostly strikingly, on February 28, 1980 (another February 28 incident!), the mother and lovely twin daughters of former senator Lim Gi-Hiong, a famous human rights lawyer and political dissident, were brutally murdered. Undoubtedly the Nationalist regime had a hand in this terrible act of violence. This time, however, the Presbyterian Church no longer remained silent. Instead, it strongly condemned the injustice and cruelty of this tyrannical regime, and began to get involved actively in the concern and care for human rights, political reforms and the future destiny of Taiwan. The Church extended its care in particular to all the families of the political prisoners. Most prominently, it bought the house of Lawyer Lim Gi-Hiong, where his mother and two twin daughters had been murdered, and turned it into a church.
This church believes that its task is to turn a place of suffering and bloodshed into a church of God's peace and justice. The church was appropriately named Gi-Kong, literally "the light of justice." For the PCT, the most important role the church can play, under such unjust circumstances and as a voice of the voiceless, is to witness to the good news of God's love and grace and to reclaim justice and dignity for those who are oppressed, exploited, victimized and marginalized. Today, Gi-Kong Church is still the most typical example of social witness and faith engagement of the PCT. It has been involved not only in political issues but engaged deeply in various tasks of community development in the city of Taipei.
d. The Impact of Globalization: Economic Justice and Sustainable Spirituality
The emergence and "reception" of globalization in Taiwan were due to a combination of economic and political factors. First, recent Asian economic crises have challenged Taiwan's economic system so that most Taiwanese people's eyes have focused on economic trends. Second, the Taiwanese government has been trying to change its isolated status in the international community, because it has always been boycotted by China. As a result of such isolation, Taiwan has had no choice but to become dependent on superpowers such as the United States when developing its own policies, especially in the areas of economy and diplomacy. Third, widening gaps in social stratification have caused some unstable phenomena in Taiwanese society. One example of the impact of globalization is the considerable import of foreign laborers, a fact which has not only contributed to the unemployment of many aboriginal Taiwanese but has also caused severe problems for social life, public security and the uneven distribution of wealth. Moreover, the recent entrance into WTO of both China and Taiwan certainly carries a critical economic as well as political connotation and will continue to pose serious challenge to both the government and people in Taiwan.
In fact, the structure and pattern of the Taiwanese society had already experienced a rapid and momentous transformation since the late 1960's, resulting in the collapse and disruption of the rural and aboriginal communities.20 Indeed the impact of globalization has been profoundly felt. The prevailing phenomena include: the disintegration and distortion of traditional ethical values, the emergence of a popular and westernized "mono-culture," the dwindling of communal ways of life and ethos, the existence and self-rationalization of an individualistic and privatized mentality among the bourgeois class, the unending pursuit of materialism and, most critical of all, the confusion of national identity. Unfortunately, even though people have faired well in their pursuit of material well-being, they have still felt lost and have tried to seek comfort through different religious beliefs. However, almost all the religious traditions in Taiwan have been so immersed in and accustomed to the values and mentality of society, that they have not been able to provide genuine spiritual guidance for the people and satisfy people's real need.
We can examine popular or folk religions in Taiwan from both positive and negative viewpoints. On the positive side, folk religions to a certain degree offer comfort to people's hard and gloomy feelings and provide them with guidelines as to how best to engage in social lives. Also, with their help, people can find a path to vent their unbalanced anger and reduce problems of individual and social concerns. But there are also negative consequences that are caused by many folk religions. For example, people usually expect these religions to satisfy their desires, especially those which are focused on material goods. Hence, in order to attract more followers, they often emphasize their potential and power to help people pursue their fortune successfully. As a result, they do not transform or improve social values but promote commercialism. In fact, folk religions have often been manipulated as a tool to satisfy people's desires. They are often the root cause of many conflicts and scandals in Taiwanese society.
The Christian churches in Taiwan were no exception. With the grave impact of the globalizing trends, the "marginalization" and "privatization" of faith within the lives of Taiwanese Christians became almost inevitable. The "marginal utility" mind-set, the "self-rationalizing" mentality and the self-centered parochialism of the middle-class oriented churches had rendered lives of the church formalized, meaningless, disengaging and alienating to the larger society. Thus, it is no surprise that, as a result, charismatic movements of various forms and "worship renewal" movements emerged and flourished across the boundaries of the Taiwanese churches during the last two decades.
3. Concrete Projects of PCT for the New Millennium:
In response to the preceding issues, i.e. the interaction between gospel and culture, ethnic relations, the well-being of the people, and particularly the serious impact of globalization, the church in Taiwan feels that it is necessary to develop a sustainable spirituality with reference to the gospel proclaimed by Jesus, namely the liberating good news of the kingdom of God. Within the framework of the "Missio Dei," the PCT has formulated convictions and developed concrete projects to engage in mission. The purpose of these convictions and projects is to preclude distortion and confusion over the identity and value of Taiwan. In fact, these ideas are very crucial for the development of a sustainable spirituality.
So far the PCT has worked out several sets of convictions, namely principles of self-determination, gender equality and the call to return to a simple life, as guidelines for a living faith. What are these concepts exactly about? First, it is necessary to strengthen the Taiwanese people's consciousness of self-determination in order to resist the invasion of globalization. Moreover, Taiwanese people have the right to make their own political, economic and diplomatic decisions, for Taiwan is not the affiliate of any country or any political-economic interest group. Only by holding the initiative in their own hands can people retain the right to change their lives and make plans for their future.
The second principle is gender equality and justice. Legally speaking, the PCT had from early on adopted a more sensitive policy of ordaining woman pastors and leaders in the church. However, the male-dominant and patriarchal culture of the Taiwanese society still had strong repercussion in the church life of PCT. Thus, following and building upon the formal completion of WCC's program of "Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women" in 1998, the PCT launched the program of "Promotion of Gender Equality" for another 10 years.
The third conviction is that Taiwanese people have to pursue a life of simplicity and a revaluation of spirituality. Only when people are dissuaded from running after success or overusing limited natural resources can they seize the opportunity to reflect upon the true meaning of life, that is, the real hope they aspire and their real purpose for struggle. Only by going back to a simple life, i.e. simplifying the eagerness for material goods and success, and achieving balance and harmony with nature, will distorted minds be mended.
In order to implement the principles of self-determination, gender equality and a return to a simple life, the PCT has recently promoted two concrete projects. The first is "Engaging Mission via Local Community Works" and the other is "Reading the Bible with New Eyes." In fact, local community service or development has been practiced for years, and it has become a well-received idea and hopeful project in Taiwan. A community is the prior starting point for developing any feasible plan because it is the basic element of social organization. In response to rampant globalization and prevailing individualism, the development of alternative and cooperative local communities should be the best groundwork and strategy to construct a spirituality of self-determination and resistance. Walden Bello, a Philippino sociologist, after analyzing two major competing paradigms of economic programs in contemporary Asia, i.e. the free market approach and the "NIC" model of state-assisted capitalism, proposes the paradigm of "sustainable development" as a regional alternative.21 In fact, the current effort of the PCT is a modified version of such a "community-based" model.
Nearly three years ago, on September 21, 1999, a devastating earthquake measured at 7.3 degrees on the Richter scale took place in central Taiwan. More than 2300 people died, nearly 10000 people were wounded, and more than 13000 houses were ruined. This horrible disaster is regarded as the biggest social event in Taiwan in the 20th century. The ironic fact is that the tremor belts lay primarily in the most beautiful areas of Taiwan. In view of the enormous loss of human lives and properties, one began to think what had contributed to such great damage. No doubt it was a natural disaster. However, hiding behind the many fallen buildings and bare mountaintops there existed many human failings and wrongdoing. The corrupt complicity between builders and government officials, the serious violation of building codes, the unlimited exploitation of the natural surroundings, and total disregard of environmental parameters, etc., all played a role in this appalling calamity. Indeed the quake "shook out" many problems, such as human greed, unending economic pursuit, unfit development projects, ecological devastation, etc.
Yet what are most intriguing and noteworthy behind the stories of pain and suffering are the many stories of compassion and self-sacrifice. Numerous voluntary groups and officially designated teams from the PCT, in close cooperation with other religious groups, threw themselves valiantly into relief and reconstruction works for the entire year. They will continue to do so over the next few years. Along with local congregations, qualified social workers and counselors, they formed coalitions at the community and grass-root levels, and witnessed to the presence of the compassionate and "vulnerable" God who is in the midst of suffering peoples. More importantly, encountering "deterministic" views and life attitudes prevalent among all major religious traditions in Taiwan, the theological praxis of a God who always has a "preferential option" for the afflicted and the suffering is truly a counteractive and redemptive testament.
As churches promote the project, "Engaging Mission via Local Community Work," they also need to apply the second project, "Reading the Bible with New Eyes," which will provide relevant answers to the problems at hand by means of a contextual re-reading of the Bible. This second project was first introduced as a joint project of the two desks of Theological Concerns and Mission and Evangelism of the CCA in 1996.22 The PCT formally adopted it in 1997. It has been promoted and well-received among local congregations during the past three years. In short, it offers people a new way to read the Bible, especially from the perspectives of women, the marginalized and the aboriginal people. It begins by probing into and reflecting upon the living situations and existing cultures in Taiwan, then creates a contextualizing way of thinking to understand the Bible. Such re-readings will bring the living context of the people into a correlative interaction with the Biblical message and allow for a fruitful and enriching dialogue and deepening of meaning. Currently more than 30,000 copies of the "New Eyes" materials are published every month by PCT and circulated extensively all over churches in Taiwan. Another useful project is the "Spiritual Hotline 23629252," which offers basic thrust of each week's "New Eyes" materials through telephone automatic recordings in 9 languages.
In terms of perspective and method, in view of recent developments and debates over "text-centered" and "reader-centered" theories following the breakdown of the dominance of "author-centered" theories in Biblical scholarship,23 the PCT offers an inclusive approach. Thus, methods and approaches such as "life-situational readings," "literary/ rhetorical criticism," "people's hermeneutics," and "readers' response" theories are all welcome and employed. For example, during group leaders' training programs at the Presbytery level, as well as during its actual implementation at the congregational level, the findings of historical-critical methods were presented in handbooks as background and references for Bible studies. This provided a starting point for people to relate their own contextual experiences to the Bible either through situational, literary, rhetorical or readers' readings. This also allowed the Biblical text to address the alienated and marginalized experiences of women, minority or ethnic groups in a meaningful and relevant way. In the meantime various samples of Biblical studies written from different perspectives have also been published as exemplars and references.
Such is the basic scheme and approach of the "Reading the Bible with New Eyes" movement. Because of this new approach, the Bible is not just a record of faith but has become the real guide for all aspects of people's lives. We believe that if this project can be fully practiced in each local congregation, it will provide Taiwanese Christians with true spiritual guidance and will have a real impact on their faith and life. In this way they will be able to respond meaningfully and appropriately to the impact of globalization, as well as other political, ethnic and religious issues.
1 For a more complete account, see Cheng Yang-En, "A Historical Review of Christianity in Taiwan at the Turn of the Century," Taiwan Journal of Theology, Vo1. 20 (Taipei: Taiwan Theological Seminary, 1998), pp. 123-143; Idem, "Taiwan," A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, edited by Scott W. Sunquist (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), pp. 815-817.
2 Taiwan Aboriginal Groups: Problems in Cultural and Linguistic Classification, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica Monograph, No. 17 (Taipei: Academia Sinica); Anthropological Studies of the Taiwan Area: Accomplishments and Prospects (Taipei: Department of Anthropology, National Taiwan University).
3 The percentage of constituents from the entire population is as follows: the Hoklo people (73.3%), the Hakka people (12%), the Aborigines (1.7%), and the so-called "Mainlanders" (13%).
4 On the evening of February 27, 1947, police officers from the Alcohol and Tobacco Monopoly Bureau seized unauthorized cigarettes and money from a Taiwanese woman vendor near a Taipei park. While she urgently pleaded, a KMT agent's pistol struck her, and fired upon the gathering crowd, killing one onlooker. Protests over this incident rapidly turned into an island-wide uprising against the Nationalist regime's tyrannical rule. On this event and its traumatic impact, see An Introduction to the 2-28 Tragedy in Taiwan: For World Citizens, edited by Tsung-yi Lin (Taipei: Taiwan Renaissance Foundation Press, 1998).
5 Almost 30 years ago the famous Japanese theologian, Kosuke Koyama, had the following to say about the mentality of the ruling party and its political leaders in Taiwan: "In 1949 the Communist Mao Tse Tung drove the Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan. The latter came with two million mainlanders and took control of fifteen million defenseless Taiwanese. Chiang Kai-shek is 'the saving star of the whole Chinese race', as the omnipresent billboards throughout the island of Taiwan proclaim. The fundamental policy of the Chiang Kai-shek government since 1949 has been liberation of the mainland. This is more than a national policy and ideology, it is a creed which every person in the island is required to recite liturgically at all occasions. This strange unrealistic creed is the official political 'religion' of the Chiang Kai-shek island Everyone, including perhaps Chiang Kai-shek himself, knows well of the impossibility of such an enterprise. Yet the nation must propagate the illusion and on the basis of that illusion survive, justify and unify its existence." See Kosuke Koyama, Waterbuffalo Theology (N.Y.: Orbis, 1974), pp. 17-18.
6 See Shoki Coe, Recollections and Reflections, edited by Boris Anderson (N.Y.: Formosan Christians for Self-Determination, 1993); Huang Po Ho, A Theology of Self-Determination: Responding to the Hope for"Chhut Thau Thin" of the People in Taiwan (Tainan: Chhut Thau Thin Theological Study Center, 1996); and Self-Determination: The Case for Taiwan, edited by C. S. Song (Tainan: Taiwan Church Press, 1988).
7 Cheng Yang-en, "Building a Harmonious Society in Taiwan - An Analysis from the Ideological Perspective," in Taiwan Journal of Theology, Vo1. 18 (Taipei: Taiwan Theological Seminary, 1996), 121-130.
8 The following is taken from the official statement on the "interactive relationship between gospel and culture" of the Eleventh Conference on World Mission and Evangelism sponsored by the World Council of Churches at Salvador, Brazil, 1996: "The dynamic interactions between the gospel and cultures in human history have been both constructive and destructive. In many cases the gospel has illuminated and transformed particular cultures and has received illumination from and become embodied in them. But there are also cases in which the style of proclamation of the gospel has caused cultural alienation, because the culture has not been allowed to illuminate and give genuine expression to the people. Christians must be aware of the limitations of any culture, for there is always the danger of the gospel being domesticated and made captive to that culture. Similarly, there are situations where the gospel has been abused for political purposes or to exploit people." See Called to One Hope: the Gospel in Diverse Cultures, edited by Christopher Duraisingh (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1998), 36.
9 Ibid., 34-37.
10 Shoki Coe, "Contextualization as the Way Towards Reform," in Asian Christian Theology: Emerging Themes, edited by Douglas J. Elwood (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1980), p. 51.
12 Ibid., 52-53.
13 Huang Po Ho, "Taiwanese Theologies," in Dictionary of the Third World Theologies (N.Y.: Orbis, 2000), 195-196.
14 Huang Po Ho, A Theology of Self-Determination, 64-65.
15 Ibid., 69-70.
16 For a fuller account on this issue, see Yang-En Cheng, "Building a Harmonious Society in Taiwan," 125-128.
17 Clodovis Boff, Theology and Praxis: Epistemological Foundations (N.Y.: Orbis, 1987), 315, n.32.
18 Jose Miguez-Bonino, "Violence: A Theological Reflection," in Mission Trends No. 3: Third World Theologies, edited by Gerald H. Anderson & Thomas F. Stransky (N.Y.: Paulist Press, 1976), 126.
19 Yang-En Cheng, "Building a Harmonious Society in Taiwan," 128.
20 See Justus Freytag, A New Day in the Mountains (Tainan: Research Center, Tainan Theological College, 1968); Idem., The Church in Villages of Taiwan: The Impact of Modern Society and Folk-Religion on Rural Churches (Tainan: Research Center, Tainan Theological College, 1969).
21 Successful stories in Thailand and Philippines are cited. See Walden Bello, "The Asia-Pacific Region: Present Realities and Alternative Futures," in CTC Bulletin, Vol. (1996), 70-71.
22 The CCA has made specific suggestions for reading the Bible from the perspectives of women, the marginalized and mindful of the reality of religious plurality. See Towards An Asian Theology of Hope (Hong Kong: CCA, 1997).
23 See Susan E. Gillingham, One Bible, Many Voices: Different Approaches to Biblical Studies, Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans, 1999.