A wise man makes his own decisions. An ignorant man follows public opinion.” This was one of the topics given as preparation for the English composition final test in one Chinese university. Meiwei, a Chinese freshman, asked me for help in preparing for her exam.
“Interesting topic!” I exclaimed in front of her discouraged face, as she was not truly fond of the English language.
Having grown up in the seventies in Europe, a society which exalted individuality over conformism, for me it was taken for granted that “to make one’s own decision” was the whole point of becoming an adult. Not so in this modern Chinese society. A strong mixture of nationalism, collectivism and scientism effectively curb individual ideas and aspirations since the family, the society and above all, the economy all expect you not to rock the boat.
“Is there in your life an instance in which you really made your own decision, without the influence of any other person and even against public opinion?” I asked.
“Yes. To believe in Jesus, and to get baptized!” I was taken aback by her answer, because religion is considered by most people as something a person inherits from one’s family or from tradition. For modernity, religion is an established morality which eliminates the initiative of the individual. There is no possibility of taking one’s own decisions in religion!
But this was not Meiwei’s experience. She got baptized two years ago, while still in high school. None of her friends, classmates or family members are Christian. After having listened to the Gospel stories during her education years, she took her own decision to follow the catechumenate and eventually to be baptized.
Contrary to what her classmates and family felt, she experienced that the Church was indeed a welcoming place where she could express who she was and what was in her heart.
In other words, for Meiwei, the Church was the place where her freedom and her capability to take decisions was enhanced and educated, not eliminated. What a difference with what the world feels about becoming a Christian.
I was reminded by Meiwei that we join the Church not as a blindfolded flock, but because we are invited by God, one by one, through a unique journey of freedom and of grace, to positively answer that invitation where true wisdom is. Needless to say, by then, there was enough material to prepare a good English composition.