Lei Feng (1940-1962) is a widely known Chinese hero who was a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army. He is characterized as a selfless and modest person who closely followed Chairman Mao and the Communist Party. As such he became the subject of a propaganda campaign by the Communist government called “Learn from Lei Feng
.” His name in mainland China represents earnestness and service. Everyone begins learning about him in school. The “spirit of Lei Feng” has been carried forward in the country for nearly half a century. It was hoped the people and their moral standards would get better by following his example. However, after so many years, we can only see corrupt officials falling from grace one after another, as well as stories of shoddy building work, gutter oil, tainted milk powder and dyed steamed buns. People are often reluctant to give a helping hand to an elderly person who falls over or a child who is knocked down by a car. They ponder if they should defend the weak when seeing injustice happen. What is the problem? Why is that? Details of Lei Feng’s life, as presented in official propaganda, have been subject to dispute on the internet. We do not discuss what kind of person Lei Feng was, but question if the officials or the system that created this model can carry out Lei’s spirit in their daily lives, workplaces and in society. China is an atheist country but it never lacks idols. Lei Feng is one of them. He became a political tool that the ruling class uses to fool the people and make them obedient from a young age. On the one hand, officials call on the people to learn from him, but on the other, they do exactly the opposite: take bribes, oppress the people, cheat their superiors and subordinates. Seeing “fine words dress ill deeds,” how can people believe Lei Feng’s spirit stand for proper values? Thirty years after China’s reforms and opening up, people have become affluent, but their spiritual life has become increasingly hollow and their values have become distorted. On different occasions, I have heard different people saying the same thing: “I don’t believe in Jesus. I don’t believe in anything. I only believe in money.” This reflects the awful hollowness of their inner world. Do atheists really believe in atheism? Or do they prefer to hold up money as a god? I like the saying that things that come from God shall be fulfilled and that things from Man shall be dissipated. When we do good deeds with any purpose, it’s from our selfishness. A few days ago, a news report on the internet said that a Catholic layman called Hu Jianhai in Handan diocese has been chosen as one of the 50 “Living Lei Fengs” in northern Hebei province. As a village chief and parish lay leader, he has done lots of voluntary work including installing street lights, repairing roads and taking care of poor villagers. His good deeds won people’s recognition. However, aren’t these deeds the duty of a village chief? Being a village chief is like being a local magistrate and both should be serving villagers. It is a sad fact that only a few among hundreds of thousands of village chiefs in China are genuinely doing something for their villagers. Most of them resort to dubious methods to further their own interests, or run up huge debts in the pursuit of advancement. Nowadays not many villages make their accounts public and people can easily find ways to fish in troubled waters. Such a way of thinking prevails not only in civil society, but also throughout officialdom and even in public service departments. Thus, our lay leader and others being named Living Lei Fengs is a satire on the failure of values in the country. I dare to say: Atheism leads our national morality away from its direction. An ancient sage once said “the highest good is like water.” Lord Jesus Christ taught us that when giving alms “your left hand must not know what your right is doing.” We are told we should do good deeds with selfless love from our hearts and from the good nature that God gave to us. Only the values of love without any interests, vanity and purpose can be long lasting. Yixiu Qingfeng is the pen-name of a Catholic webmaster in China.