When talking to people about their lives in China there was always this one profound disconnect from logic that drove me crazy. When people would honestly tell me about struggles in life and what made them miserable, I’d ask for details.
“There is so much pressure in life,” they would say.
In a large part (though not exclusively) because of the one child policy, most people in their mid–30’s or younger were an only child and felt the need to support both their parents and their two sets of grandparents. Many of these parents sacrificed everything they had so their kids could go to college and get a good paying job. As such these folks grew up and got a decent job and now their parents feel they owe them something in return.
What they owe could be money to pay things back, but usually it’s the pressure to buy a car (always brand new, always financed), and then an apartment (often bought on a 75 year mortgage), and then find someone to get married to so they can have a kid (grandparents raise the kids usually, and they find a lot of meaning in life through this). Marriage was almost never about finding someone you enjoyed being with, or were in love with, but someone who was your social equivalent and would make a “good wife” (have kids, be loyal etc…) or “good husband” (by providing the things mentioned above).
And I would always ask, “To what end? Why do you want to have a kid? Because you want to? Or because it’s what you’re supposed to do? And how are you going to raise your kid to not fall in to the same pattern of giving that kid immense pressure, to the do the very things which cause you to be profoundly dissatisfied with life?”
After asking this there would be silence for a few minutes. Then a shrug and, “But this is how we live life here.”
Fatalistic and sad.
So then yesterday I’m talking with a friend of mine who grew up in the church like I did and is wrestling with a lot of the same things I’m wrestling with. I hate going to church on Sunday mornings right now. We’ve been to a million churches and almost everything about all of them drives me crazy. They’re overly concerned with the minutiae of things like how far apart the chairs or, or what color the auditorium is to be lit during each worship song—all at the expense of, you know, actually connecting people. Actually preaching the gospel etc… (though the good ones still pull this off sometimes).
And my friend asks, “Well, why do you go?” I go because I want my kids to enjoy church. I go to a big church because they’re the only ones with decent kids programs even though they’re the very ones that make me crazy for all the other reasons.
“Why do you want your kids to like church?” He asks.
“So when they grow up they want to be part of a church.” Is my embarrassing excuse for a response…. I want my kids to enjoy church now so they grow up as frustrated with church as I am, and they feel the need to keep going and to bring their kids because “That’s how Christians live life here.”
- The cognitive dissonance that drove me crazy in China and I could not get people to see beyond is the same cognitive dissonance I’m now dealing with regularly. And I have no idea what the answer is.