Martin: A letter about the phrase “Chinese Virus”

A few days ago, I received a newsletter from a missionary which used the phrase “Chinese virus.” Here was my letter to them as I sought to urge them to reconsider their use of this phrase.

Grace and peace to you [names redacted],

I have been receiving your newsletters for over ten years and just unsubscribed today. I have been so thankful and grateful to God for your ministry for so many years. Your faithfulness and perseverance have been used by our Lord and the fruit God has born to you and though you is precious in His sight and rare in [the country in which you serve]. I was blessed to visit [the city in which you serve] in [year redacted] and was blessed [details about the trip redacted] and seeing your heart for our Lord.

I just read your recent newsletter and was horrified to see you use the phrase “Chinese virus”. I must confess that I have not read every issue of your newsletter, and may have missed previous uses of this phrase.

Calling COVID-19 the Chinese Virus is inflammatory and shocking behavior from a Christian. The new heavens and the new earth will be filled with millions of our brothers and sisters who are of Chinese ethnicity and who were of Chinese nationality. Using xenophobic language is unacceptable for all believers who bear the name of Christ. It does not sow shalom but breeds hate. We are called to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been reconciled to God and are called to be reconcilers of others to Him. The gospel of reconciliation should also make us reconcilers between other people as we are conformed into the image of Christ.

Using inflammatory language to demean another country or nationality does not bring reconciliation and is especially troubling coming from those who are supported by churches and tasked with the mission of spreading the reconciling power of the gospel of our Lord to other countries. I am concerned that the politics of a temporal nation, which we may love, but which will possibly fall—if Christ tarries long—is superseding your witness of the kingdom of Christ which will never fall. Churches are supporting you in gospel ministry so that the Church of Christ will be built and strengthened in [the country in which you serve] as the Lord uses you. I am worried, that you may be damaging the witness of Christ in [the country in which you serve] by using such hurtful and xenophobic language. I would be horrified to hear that you had used that phrase among believers or unbelievers in [the country in which you serve]. I must confess, that I am deeply troubled to see it used in your newsletter.

Furthermore, we have no credible evidence that the Chinese State is responsible for the virus. Eugenics was greatly developed in America and encouraged by agents of the United States government, but we don’t call the Nazi evil, which copied many American Eugenics beliefs, the “American philosophy” or the “American evil.”

COVID-19 may have originated in China but calling it the Chinese virus doesn’t lead to shalom among Christians, rather it sows division. We are called to love God and love our neighbors, and not only are millions of Chinese men and women our brothers and sisters, but all Chinese men and women are our neighbors.

I hope God blesses your ministry, but am shocked by such political and xenophobic language from a missionary. I want to be charitable and so deeply hope that you were unaware of the troubling nature of the phrase “Chinese virus.” I deeply hope that you aren’t xenophobic and didn’t mean to disparage our Chinese brethren.

May the remainder of your time in these United States be restful and rejuvenating and may God bring you in safety back to [the country in which you serve]. Please, for the sake of the witness of the church and for the sake of the reputation of Christ which you bear, consider using language that reflects our unity with our Chinese brethren rather than language which demeans and alienates them and their ethnic brethren.

Grace and peace from God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by God the Spirit be abundantly yours.

Erik Martin

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