The True Test of Courage – or – why I like Ai Wei Wei

ai wei weiSarah and I just watched the documentary Ai Wei Wei:  Never Sorry the other night.  We both thought it was a great movie.  Ai Wei Wei is a Chinese conceptual artist.  His work is very worthy of appreciation but he is equally well know for his anti-government activism.  Pondering the film has made me admire him more and wonder what his example means for me as a Christian.

Ai Wei Wei Doesn’t Give A Crap.  One of the things that is most impressive about this guy is how fearless he comes across.  He has consistently withstood the bad authority of the Chinese government and their unjust limitations of freedom.  The government in the doc is shown to be petty, capricious, and fearful of people’s resistance.  Bullies are often that way.  Ai Wei Wei does not seem to care one but what they can do to him.  At certain points he goes against Chine knowing that he will lose the fight.  He does so anyways because he knows it is right.  He is willing to oppose a more powerful opponent not because he thinks he can win but because he can’t stand to give in.

Ai Wei Wei Really Gives A Crap.  He is also portrayed as one who deeply cares about injustice.  He also cares about other people.  One of his most combative works is to document the names of the thousands of schoolchildren who were victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  He really does care.  At one point he denies being an optimist.  It is because of his pessimism that he must live in hope, he says, because if he does not speak and act, it will get worse.

Ai Wei Wei’s Courage Isn’t Perfect, But There Is One Whose Courage Is.  This guy is certainly no perfect saviour.  His personal morality is far from exemplary.  He is a little too crude for my taste – he seems almost addicted to the middle finger.  But there is something in his very imperfect courage that inspires.  There is also something in his imperfect courage that is lacking.  In last Sunday’s sermon, I said that Christ had the very best kind of courage – He cared deeply for others but did not care what others thought of Him.  He was both admired and bore reproach.  He had the perfect courage for both.  Seeing the courage of a very imperfect man – like AWW – can make us the lack of our own.  Seeing the courage of a perfect One, even more so.  The Gospel -Good News- is not that we must become courageous on our own power.  It is that we can not but as we look to One who had perfect courage, we are made more like Him.  As Christians we must be ready to resist some aspects of the world around us, to care about people deeply, to suffer shame/discomfort for our faith, to do so even as it costs us dearly.  Ai Wei Wei, by God’s common grace, may serve as an example even though he is a non-Christian and his courage is for different things.  But it takes Jesus, the Courageous One, to give us the courage we need.

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