By Barbara M. Leung Lai


On the evening of September 11, 2001, I began teaching a course on Daniel and apocalyptic literature. Students were stunned by the tragic events still unfolding through the afternoon hours into the evening. A student whose husband, daughter, and son-in-law were working in the World Trade Center was sitting in the corner of the room. She refused to go home and wait for phone calls. Instead, she chose to stay with the class through those agonizing hours. (She would later learn that her immediate family all survived, but she lost her niece in the tragedy.) It was more than a coincidence that I had adopted my course's subtitle from the theme identified by Tremper Longman III in his commentary on Daniel: "In spite of present appearances, God is in control."

Fifty years ago, millions of Red Guards—a ruthless cadre of radicalized students—waged war against tradition and religion, the twin threats to Maoism. This was modern China’s darkest decade: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Several thousand years of Chinese history were reduced to rubble and ash.

The Red Guards looted and demolished all kinds of cultural sites: temples, shrines, mosques, churches, monasteries, libraries, museums, and even burial grounds. Across the country, bonfires consumed ancient artworks, rare books, and priceless relics. Scholars, teachers, clergy, scientists, and artists faced the most severe persecution. Hundreds of thousands were humiliated publicly, tortured, imprisoned, banished to labor camps, and murdered or driven to suicide. Millions were forcibly displaced. Religion, in particular, was targeted as the insidious instrument of class enemies and foreign saboteurs. 

Last summer, our purebred chocolate lab enlivened our home with a litter of puppies. One of them captured the hearts of many visitors, both in person and online. Flash had looks and personality—and the ability to soothe the soul of whoever held him. But he remained available until we got a call.

A Facebook viewer had seen photos of one of my friends holding Flash, along with her comments expressing her wish to win the lottery so she could buy him. The man on Facebook offered to buy Flash for her anonymously.