Stuart Beaton is back guest blogging about the wild world of teaching at Tianjin University in China. There’s always something new with Stu, and he doesn’t disappoint here. But before you read further, be sure to check out his author podcast site at http://rastous.podomatic.com.
And now here’s Stu:
Yesterday I took pity on a couple of my best students, who aren’t going home for the Summer Vacation, and invited them to come and watch some TV at our place.
These two young ladies are sticking around to “tutor” at an “English Summer Camp” for kids from the Chinese countryside, which I’m fairly sure isn’t going to be buckets of fun. From the description of duties I heard from another student, it sounds like they’ll be basically working as indentured slaves for up to 14 hours a day, supervising all aspects of the kids’ lives. I don’t know about you, but the idea of chasing kids in and out of showers, mess halls and classrooms doesn’t exactly sound like it’s not worth going home for….
Anyway, they duly fronted up at 1000, and I let them wander around the house while the kettle boiled. Measuring the coffee into the pot, I could hear the noise of endless photos being taken of the stuff that litters our apartment – Spongebobs, Totoros, Doctor Who bits, Godzillas… all the little things I like to clutter the place up with.
So, when I was asked “Where are all your photos of God?”, I was a little puzzled.
It transpired that when they’d last visited a foreigner’s apartment, they’d been horrified to find that it was filled with “seriously ugly” religious icons.
“He had these horrible photos, of this guy nailed to wood, and another that when you moved, he was holding his heart in his chest… some crying woman… seriously ugly stuff.”
Which left me at a bit of a loss for words.
Sure, I could explain some of the concepts (“lenticular artwork”, anyone?), and gently wonder about the other guy’s state of mind, but I was really thrown by what some people must come to China to do.
I sat them down at the table, and explained to them that I didn’t believe in God, that I just looked on the whole idea as “having an imaginary friend, or a big beard in the sky”, which I know can start wars, but… that’s what I believe.
“So, if you don’t believe in God, what do you believe in?”
“Well”, I replied, “I believe in giving people a fair go – in not judging people on how they look, or dress, or how much money they have, but on the way they treat other people. I believe in giving everyone a chance – but what I don’t believe in is going around to someone else’s place and inflicting my beliefs on the people who live there. I think I’ve been saying as much for the past couple of semesters, don’t you?”
Much staring at coffee ensued for a few seconds, broken by one of the lasses saying, “Ok, so, what’re we watching today?”
“The Avengers” in 3D from BluRay, on a Sony Bravia TV, is something to behold.
However, it left me really wondering why some people come to China. I’m not against people holding beliefs, and I would never, ever interfere in the right of someone to believe something – but I am aghast at these people who turn up to work in the Chinese University system, and think that they can use the opportunity to inflict their religion on others.
I’ve heard students tell me stories of how other professors have made them do Bible studies in order to get the credits necessary to pass their course, and one who lead them all in prayer, and it just sounds wrong.
You wouldn’t do it at home. You’d lose your job if you pulled a stunt like that in Australia, the UK or the US.
So why do it here?
At the end of the day, the girls had had a great time. I’d cooked pasta for lunch, we’d watched “The Avengers” and “Captain America” in 3D (with Chinese subtitles and all)…
And not a single photo of God had been displayed.
As my old Chaplain used to say, “Here endeth the lesson”.
(But I much prefer Dave Allen’s “Goodnight – and my your God go with you.”)