Fairly Spiritual: Flame of help could burn bright with $300 million

Rumor has it China spent $300 million on the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It looked more like $299 million if you ask me, but I’m a bit of a fireworks stickler.

Even so, China’s Olympic launch expenditures seem a bit excessive. With that kind of money, you could feed, clothe, and shelter a big oil executive for an entire year. Well, maybe if he was the CEO of a mid-level oil company.

Come to think of it, $300 million might not be adequate to satisfy the basic needs of an oil tycoon, but it certainly could take the edge off of the average Joe’s economic woes.

To translate $300 million into the everyday person economic sphere, I’ve done some complex calculations.

Instead of sinking their dough into inaugural excess, China could have bought 300 million 99-cent cheeseburgers, 300 million Lotto tickets, 300 million trinkets from a dollar store, and 900 million discounted Snickers bars. I’m not familiar with China’s tax laws, so I excluded this variable from my complicated computations. Also, my candy bar math might be inaccurate because I was using a solar calculator on a rather cloudy day.

I feel like I’m forgetting something. … Oh yes, you also could use $300 million to help thousands upon thousands of people deal with life-threatening issues. On second thought, I better leave that option out. I want my list to have a measure of plausibility.

On an entertainment level, China’s welcome to the world was a mesmerizing display of artistic genius, unparalleled in scope, precision and excellence. It seems highly unlikely that the Olympics ever again will produce a display of such grand scope and raw collective power – at least not until China wins another bid to host the Games.

What made the event particularly magnificent was the sheer volume of participating humanity. The ceremony had a multitude of unified Chinese artists moving together as a collective whole. They drummed, danced, and swayed in fluid synchronicity. A sea of meticulously choreographed individuals turned Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium into a pulsating work of art.

On a grand scale, China showed the world what can happen when many individuals choose to pursue and dedicate themselves to one over-arching goal. From a Western perspective, one can only hope China uses this collective will for peaceful purposes.

This reminds me of another number that is even more staggering than 300 million. It is currently estimated that there are 30 to 70 million Christians currently worshiping in China. Projections have a wide range because the Chinese only recognize state-sanctioned Christian churches. Consequently, many Chinese Christians meet in secret or informal settings.

Regardless of the differing estimates, it is clear Christianity is growing at a rapid pace throughout China. If current growth trends continue, China soon will have more Christians than any nation in the world. In other words, the Christian church of the United States of America won’t be the biggest

show in town.

As a pastor, I am looking forward to the continued spiritual renewal of China. I think our Chinese Christian brothers and sisters might have something to teach us about the power of collective accountability and mutual submission. They might help us Americans overcome some of our more narcissistic tendencies. Well, at least they’ll help you; I certainly don’t have a problem.

Most importantly, the growth of Christianity in China has and will continue to demonstrate the power of Christ’s love to overcome toxic political ideologies, dangerous rhetoric, and state-instituted oppression. I pray Christianity continues to grow in spite of the culturally bound entrapments existing in China and in the United States of America.

Even the grandest ceremony will do little to change society. However, God’s love can literally transform the world.

Doug Bursch is the pastor of Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Riverside High School Theater. He can be reached at www.yesevergreen.org, or evergreenlife@mac.com.