Greetings! My name is Chow Non Phat, the author of the material on this website. And, I am also a Chinese spy, here on the ground in America.
But don’t worry, my activities these days are hardly typical of a Chinese spy. You see, me and my fellow agent Paula Wong got into what you American’s might call ‘a bit of a pickle’ with both my government and yours. If you want to bite into that pickle, keep reading on this website.
For starters, Paula and I are on the run, hiding out in the foothills of The Strange Uncharted Mountains near Hector’s hometown of Nibbling, Minnesota.
And, as I shared in the About page, we have decided to publish this web site in our effort to find out what Christians in America want here in the unfolding drama of America.
But, to help you understand where all the material on this web site comes from, I felt it necessary to tell you my story.
I was born in China in 1985, and like many in China, I am an only child. And, like you, I grew up to deeply love the people around me. At first, since Mom died before I can remember, my loyalty centered on my Dad, and his brother, my Uncle.
But, when I was just four years old, my world imploded when my Dad disappeared, abandoning me. My Uncle took me in and raised me like I was his own. He saved me from a life of despair. I will always be deeply grateful to him and willing to put my skin in the game on his behalf.
My Uncle grew to become General Tso, a major player in the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China. I followed in his footsteps and became a member of our intelligence community. I was officially the Deputy Assistant Minister for Diet Control, working directly for my Uncle. Devoted to him, I was very proud of my country.
But, because of my ongoing troubles and consistent lack of skills, there were times when I was like a frightened baby bird in the nest.
And then, in 2012, a beautiful black swan flew by. Her name is Paula Wong. While I was still staring at her stunning plumage, my Uncle kicked me out of the nest. And, to test my wings, he sent me to a Robert McKee Story Seminar in Beijing –with Paula!
Following this were two remarkable years on assignment in Hollywood, during the first part of Obama’s second term as president.
Paula and I flew beautifully together in America as spies for China. And that was also where I met Hector Klumpp, who is now the head of the Nihilist Lites of America, and we became best friends and roommates.
My Uncle had landed me in Hollywood heaven. My Uncle was pleased, the Party was pleased, Paula and I fell in love, and I had never had a friend like Hector.
But, that’s when the villain entered my story, upsetting everything. Shih Tzu is his name, and you’ll see him wreaking havoc throughout this website, like he did in my life.
My enemy — my own countryman and fellow agent, Shih Tzu — would love to see me dead.
Why does Shih Tzu hate me so?
For years Shih Tzu and I have had conflict over China’s wisest approach to America as we pursue our China Dream. And, he might end up being a pain for you too, if our story unfolds that way. It’s because of what Shih Tzu wants — to take an aggressive military action against America in order to knock you off your throne and let us rise above you – and all the other nations.
But I believe such a move is too risky – for both the Communist Party and millions of our fellow human beings. So, I want to prevent him from being able to get what he wants.
I want to persuade the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China that we can continue to win against you without fighting. We should pay attention to Sun Tzu instead of Shih Tzu.
But the deeper issue between him and me is love and jealousy. You see, he has long been jealous of my developing love relationship with Paula Wong.
So, Shih Tzu jealously acted in a very tricky way to get me ripped out of Hollywood.
And that’s when my Uncle tested my loyalty to him to the utmost limits—he gave me a crazy assignment.
My assignment had two parts, the first of which wasn’t so crazy. My Uncle had asked me to head a team which was assigned to explore the question…
Will the United States Survive
It’s a great question, right? We in China are highly interested in its answer so we can know how to move forward in our tense game of thrones with the superpower America.
My team was delighted to plunge ahead with this part of the assignment, feeling it could catapult our careers.
But there was another part. My Uncle put me and our relationship to a tremendous test. He wanted me to consider the Will the United States Survive question…
…while also considering something crazy… An impossible possibility….
Christianity may be the story
we are in.
And that made it a crazy assignment.
No other intelligence team in the history of the People’s Republic of China has had to bear this burden.
And this crazy assignment made my team and I lepers in the Chinese intelligence community.
After all, who wants to be associated with such a task when the Communist Party of China is currently moving China’s Christians further on to desperate ground?
You know all this, right? …
China is an officially atheistic state, according to the Chinese Communist Party, and religious persecution is a staple of the regime’s repressive apparatus.A Vatican-Based Bishop Extols China, By George Weigel, National Review, February 7, 2018
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.Christian heartland opens window into fight for China’s soul, By YANAN WANG, Associated Press, Miami Herald, August 07, 2018
Finally, under the guise of the campaign to Sinicize Christianity, the CPC seeks to strip Christianity of its universality and to replace the sacred principle of “Christ as the head of the church” with submission to the CPC.China Aid releases 2015 Annual Report on Chinese Government Persecution, By Rachel Ritchie, May 18, 2016
I was gripped with fear. My team and I were set on a course which could kill our careers. Even my Uncle, who put me in this awful spot, warned me to be careful. He wrote the following to me…
Because you are my loyal Nephew, I have assigned you to come to understand the Christian version of the story – because the Party recognizes that the Christians in China may ultimately become the greatest domestic threat to our power.
But you should also know why some of our key players are rather uncomfortable with even giving you this assignment. They wonder at times if some of your team – or perhaps even you – will be tempted in a very personal way to consider entertaining the possibility Christianity might really be the story we are in. They fear if you let yourselves go too far down that road, you may begin to fall for those fairy tales and betray the Party.
So, I’d be very careful if I were you, Nephew! It would be easy to make a misstep in this delicate situation. But to help guard you from their criticism, I also want you, as you go forward with this assignment, to see if you can learn anything which may help us to stop the spread of Christianity in China.
It’s clear what we’ve been doing for the past few decades has been an utter failure.
No matter how hard we bring the hammer and sickle down on them, they just keep multiplying!
By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted. “Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.“China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years, By Tom Phillips, The Telegraph, April 9, 2014
So, if you can figure out how to stifle their growth, you’ll be a hero instead of a suspect!
And this can help you see why he warned me…
The head of China’s top religious affairs regulator said that Party members should not seek value and faith in religion, and that those who have religious beliefs should be persuaded to give them up, with experts saying this is meant to maintain Party unity.
“Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members … Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party’s faith … they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion,” Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) wrote in an article released in the Qiushi Journal on Saturday, the flagship magazine of the CPC Central Committee.
Officials who have religious faith should be persuaded to give it up, and those who resist would be punished by the Party organization, Wang wrote.Party members told to give up religion for Party unity or face punishment, By Liu Caiyu, Global Times, July 18, 2017
So, I struggled. I did want to come to understand how we could learn how to stifle the growth of Christianity in China.
But I was so afraid of putting my team in danger and losing them.
So, I took the only course I felt was open to me: I instructed our team to ignore the question about Christianity and just focus on the first question, Will the United States Survive Until 2025?
Well, as you might guess, that didn’t work. We weren’t far into our research before my Uncle confronted me, and we were forced to take his directive seriously — what if Christianity is the story we are in?
This assignment put me under incredible pressure, upending my world, both within and without. I lacked skill and felt overwhelmed and inadequate to fulfill the assignment.
It’s so hard, changing our behavior. I’m still working on that, of course. And it’s not easy for me, because of my struggles in life — which are multi-faceted. No wonder Shih Tzu calls me an “LLL” – Lowest Level Loser.
There seemed no clear way forward; the foreign waters of this assignment were beyond charting out. And I knew if I failed, I would disappoint my father-like Uncle (more on that story later).
Then, in my despair, I experienced something which has since happened to me more times than I can count. Paula came to my rescue.
But, wait. I need to tell you something. Paula isn’t just ‘part of my team’… Let me just say it right here: she is the key to our team. This research would not be possible without her ability to see and connect the dots.
And Paula’s ability to connect the dots is, well, I showed her this…
When trying to make sense of a complex, shifting situation – a national economy, or technological developments like the invention of a computer — the unified perspective of a single field of expertise or worldview actually appears to make you less able to project future changes. For the long view, you need to draw on multiple sources for clues; dabblers and hobbyists outperform the unified thinkers.Steven Johnson, Farsighted
I’d be lost without her. And as I was saying, she came to my rescue, reminding me of Robert McKee. I can’t overemphasize the impact McKee has had on our research. And I hope you’ll take some time to look into his work. We’ve devoted a full page to him here.
So, we dove into our studies drawing extensively from McKee.
And, as we studied these things, I began to experience epiphanies along the way. And the meta question, ‘Which story are we in?’, along with the personal question ‘How will my story turn out in the end?’ only turned up the internal heat.
I am anguishing still over these questions.
Anyway, my story goes like this: despite these internal and external sources of duress, we got started on our assignment. This began a journey of the mind for me, taking me places I never dreamed I’d go, having thoughts as foreign to me as an alien invasion on earth’s soil.
Apparently, I should have expected this…
That’s what stories are all about. They’re about changing our worldview so that we can learn deeper universal truths.Beginnings, by Shawn Coyne
Which brings us back to Paula Wong, my gorgeous fellow agent, the lifeblood of our team. She suggested our research is based on my ‘journey of the mind’ — the series of epiphanies I experienced as we moved through our studies.
Thus, you have this website and blog before you. Think of it all, if you’d like, as — The Epiphanies of Chow Non Phat.
Now, epiphanies are curious, transformative things. And to help you understand what I mean, I’ll take you back to one late night, very early in our studies, when the rest of my team had already gone home. I confided in Paula, sharing how this new way of seeing had changed everything for me.
She understood me immediately, as she so often did. “So, Comrade Chow,” she said, “it looks like you are experiencing what is called a ‘revelation story’.”
And she showed me this…
The revelation story is about the protagonist’s shift in worldview from ignorance to knowledge, through the revelation of hidden information.
The character begins lacking some crucial knowledge. Their story arc is a change in both attitude and action as the missing knowledge is revealed.Secrets of the Worldview Genre, By Rachelle Ramirez, Story Grid
“Missing knowledge, revealed?” I wondered, rubbing my chin. “That makes sense, Paula. For as we progress in our studies, I’ve had this crazy experience, which I’ve come to think of as ‘epiphanies’.”
“I’m already there, Chow,” she said. “There’s a connection between the revelation story and the concept of an epiphany.”
And then showed me this…
Throughout my research and discussions about epiphanies over the past couple of years, I get asked this a lot: “What do you mean by “epiphany,” exactly?”
As I say in my book, everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Mutual of Omaha is talking about realizations and awakenings, and many times these are referred to as “aha moments.” But to me, that term is a little more casual and speaks more to everyday insights. By epiphanies I mean the major, life-changing revelations that have had the greatest impact on our lives. It’s been very interesting to notice that every single person I’ve talked to, whether the person has spiritual beliefs or not, speaks of these kinds of moments with a sense of reverence.How Do You, We, I Define Epiphany, Exactly?, By Elise Ballard, Psychology Today, January 25, 2011
And look what McKee wrote…
Your intellectual life prepares you for emotional experiences that then urge you toward fresh perceptions that in turn remix the chemistry of new encounters. The two realms influence each other, but first one, then the other. In fact, in life, moments that blaze with a fusion of ideas and emotion are so rare, when they happen you think you’re having a religious experience. But whereas life separates meaning from emotion, art unites them. Story is an instrument by which you create such epiphanies at will, the phenomenon known as aesthetic emotion.Robert McKee, Story
I was so excited, I sent my Uncle, General Tso, a note about it.
But that also gained Shih Tzu’s attention, and consequently the attention of his uncle, also a major player in the Ying Pai, the group of hardliners opposed to us.
Thus began another tussle with the villain in my story, who, by the way, may also become a villain in your story too.
He sent me this note…
What a loser you are. Pathetic. Low energy. Weak.
And now your obsession with epiphanies has the attention of my Uncle. Because I showed him the role they played in the stories of two of our Marxist brothers from America in the past, who changed and became our enemies…
Few can doubt the moral earnestness of Whittaker Chambers. The writer, editor, and spy would renounce communism and testify against his former comrade-in-arms and traitor Alger Hiss—a change documented in the dense, haunting, unforgettable prose of his eight-hundred-page memoir, Witness. Most significantly, Chambers would influence the thinking of generations of important Americans on the nature of the communist menace. Before his turn to the right, he was a tightly wound spring, always impressed by the “seriousness” and “superhuman sacrifice” he saw in his intellectual friends and fellow travelers. He sought a “faith and vision” that gave men a reason to live and die, in a world that was itself dying. It was a faith and vision provided by the Communist Party. In managing a communist cell of government workers in Roosevelt’s Washington of the 1930s, he gave himself over to a cause, and found a reason to go on.
It was a series of epiphanies, rather than a single event, that led him to leave the Party. One was his recognition of the “spark of the divine in the soul” that was denied by Marxist materialism. Such materialism, far from being “a solution to the crisis of modernity,” of which the economic and spiritual miseries of the 1930s were only a sign, was in fact “its most terrible manifestation.” Other epiphanies were triggered by the unremitting cruelties of the Soviet regime: the drips that would, for anyone with eyes to see, become a flood. Oppenheimer reports that Chambers began praying by the late 1930s, as he became a seeker of a God that would not fail. But as he altered course, he remained dedicated to high purposes, and to politics: now he would fight against communism with the same commitment with which he once embraced it.Stepping Back from the Abyss, by Bradley C.S. Watson, Modern Age, WINTER 2017
James Burnham was an intellectual with deep reserves of emotional and moral energy. With a privileged upbringing that led him to become a professional philosopher, and, by 1929, an NYU faculty member, he cut a more conventional figure than Chambers. But like Chambers, he was seeking order and meaning in the face of their opposites, which he saw all around him. “He wanted to believe. His yearning for system and purpose had been acute before the world plunged into the abyss, and it was no accident that after the crash he’d turned for consultation to his friend and colleague [Sydney] Hook, who was emerging as one of America’s most influential interpreters of Marx.” The overlap between the world of the Trotskyists that he joined and the larger New York artistic and intellectual scene was particularly congenial for a man of Burnham’s training and scholarly disposition.
But ultimately he too experienced epiphanies, great and small, that would redirect his thinking and alter his fundamental beliefs. His “humanistic convictions about art” caused him to see how Marxism fell short of providing a sufficiently rich, much less complete, value system. Like Chambers, he came to see far more in the human experience than Marxism was capable of accounting for. Added to this was his growing sense by the late 1930s that stability was returning to the capitalist order after the great crash, his increasing awareness of the circularity of Marxist reasoning, and his jolting wake-up call in the form of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. Eventually, “almost all of his Marxist hypotheses had been refuted by the data of events.”Stepping Back from the Abyss, by Bradley C.S. Watson, Modern Age, WINTER 2017
Is that what you are going to do, Chow? Change? And betray us?
- Shih Tzu
What a pain he is.
At some point I have to just block him out. What we are doing is so important, and I don’t need his interference. Because we are exploring some crazy possibilities concerning what may be in play in your unfolding drama in America.
We are looking into the unknowns…
What it takes to achieve human progress are explorers and innovators with the nerve to weather the slings and arrows of their contemporaries while they cast their light into the darkness. Torchbearers willing to lead…to sacrifice their own lives/reputations if necessary (Galileo anyone?) in order to inform the rest of us as we take our mild baby steps behind them in our own private journeys from ignorance to wisdom.
As Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said:
“There are known knowns…there are things we know we know. We also know that there are known unknowns…that is to say we know that there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns…the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”Unknown Unknowns, by Shawn Coyne
Years ago, former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was widely mocked for talking about the “known unknowns” of the Iraq War during a press conference, but the concept he was alluding to is actually a critical one in complex decision-making. There is wisdom in building an accurate mental map of the system you are trying to navigate, but there is also a crucial kind of wisdom in identifying the blank spots on the map, the places where you don’t have clarity, either because you don’t have the right set of stakeholders advising you (as Washington experienced with the loss of Nathanael Greene) or because some element of the situation is fundamentally unknowable.Steven Johnson, Farsighted
And we were glad, well, to see this, from the famous Tipping Pointer…
Well, I’m a journalist. That’s what we do, right? If we’re going to only endorse the conventional wisdom, then what’s the point? My least favorite thing about journalism is when there’s a pack mentality and everyone agrees about the storyline. That drives me crazy. It’s your job is to reflect the kind of diversity of opinions. You should explore the alternative explanation. That’s your job. That doesn’t mean the alternative explanation is correct, but your job is to expose it and call it out for public review. If all you’re going to do is chant along in the chorus, then we don’t need you, right? Everyone else can do that perfectly fine on their own.Malcolm Gladwell on ‘Broken Record’ Podcast, Hanging Out With Musicians, By SEAN WOODS, Rolling Stone, November 25, 2018
And this kind of farsighted thinking has our attention…
Almost every strategy described in this book ultimately pursues the same objective: helping you to see the current situation from new perspectives, to push against the limits of bounded rationality, to make a list of things that would never occur to you. These are not, strictly speaking, solutions to the problem you confront. They are prompts, hacks, nudges. They’re designed to get you outside your default assumptions, not to give you a fixed answer.Steven Johnson, Farsighted
You can’t simply focus on the variables that you are confident about; you also need to acknowledge the blank spots, the known unknowns.Steven Johnson, Farsighted
Plus, this comment by one of your famous apologists encouraged us…
As travelers along life’s way, it’s our goal to make sense of things, to try to understand the way the world is.Does God Exist?, By William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith
And this is just the way it is…
We human beings ask questions. We want to know why. Our happiness depends upon it (and, of course, our misery).Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One
And you Christians are game with us asking questions, right?…
Since God implanted in us the drive to understand (even little children are born with the drive to raise questions), it would be a sin against nature to stifle questions. Besides, one way that we are each made in “the image of God” is in our capacity to raise questions without end. That capacity in us is our foretaste of the infinite. It is the root of our “natural desire to see God.”Michael Novak on Pope Benedict XVI and Andrew Sullivan on National Review Online, April 27, 2005
Even ‘what if’ questions, right?…
What if, as Kierkegaard (1846) suggested, God maintains God’s value by refusing to become a mere third party and instead offering second-person (I—Thou) access to humans? What if, in addition, God is elusive in hiding from people unwilling to cooperate with God’s will? Such “what if” questions can shake up misguided expectations for God and point us in a new, reliable direction.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
But you can imagine how this also created a problem for me and our team. The Communist Party of China is not interested in exploring unknowns such as this one your Moser man wrote about…
A better formulation is this: what, if anything, is behind all of the world’s changes, including the movements in my experiences, such as the experienced ups and downs, comings and goings, and dyings and risings?
The fact of the world’s changes seems undeniable, at least from where I sit (for a time). Is there, however, something behind it all, not just as a cause, but as a meaning-conferring explanation? In particular, is there a unifying power with constant intentions or purposes behind all of the movement or at least much of it? In other words, is there an intentional agent thus involved in the mix as a superhuman guide?Paul Moser, The Severity of God
Before this assignment, I pushed things like this away. I didn’t want to think about these possibilities. It was dangerous to think in these ways if you wanted to please the party, which I was all about back then.
But, people change, especially when they are put under a squeeze like I was. And now our team had to learn to think more like this. But it’s hard – and we know we’ll never fully get there…
Philosophy means reflecting on the entirety of what is encountered in experience from every conceivable standpoint and with regard to its unique meaning. The philosophizing person is thus not so much someone who has formed a well-rounded worldview as he is someone who keeps a question alive and thinks it through methodically.Josef Pieper, “Tradition: Its Sense and Aspiration” For the Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy
And I suspect this reflecting has played a role in the blossoming of the epiphanies you’ll find on this website.
Still, our team has spent a lot of time trying to understand America by watching your movies and television shows and listening to your music.
And since, as you’ll see on this website, we now think it is possible your story may play out in a horrifying way. Will America’s story be like this?
And will this song become your new national anthem?
Or, how about this song from back in the 1960’s?
Oh, and this one too…
So, you may want to get ready. It’s time to begin to
ask the major dramatic question…
How will this
By the way, as you’ll come to see, you’ll find a repetitive question on this website. It’s a basic question. And it’s a question central to your story, a question on which everything hangs—
What is it you Christians in America really want, here in the story?
I need to know, ASAP.
But first, before you jump into mucking about on this website, one more thing I must add. I need to apologize for something which is well expressed by one of your forgotten thinkers, Orestes Brownson, who was often trying to “bite off more than he could chew”…
My work can lay claim to very little artistic merit. It is full of repetitions; the same thought is frequently recurring,—the result, to some extent, no doubt, of carelessness and the want of artistic skill; but to a greater extent, I fear, of “malice aforethought.” In composing my work I have followed, rather than directed, the course of my thought, and, having very little confidence in the memory or industry of readers, I have preferred, when the completeness of the argument required it, to repeat myself to encumbering my pages with perpetual references to what has gone before.Orestes Brownson, The American Republic, 1865
So, Robert McKee opened my eyes to the reality that our research faces a difficult challenge…
Narratives tend to be flat, bland, repetitive, and boring recitations of events. They slide through the mind like juice through a goose, and as a result, they have little or no influence on customers.Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace
Stories, on the other hand, are value-charged and progressive. The mind embraces a well-told story; the imagination is its natural home.
I do apologize. And we hope to learn how to improve as we develop this web site. But we owe that Brownson guy also for helping us to think about something else…
We ought to follow reason, but we ought also to recognize its limits—and what those limits imply about the centrality of revelation. As Brownson writes, “Let philosophy go as far as it can, but let the philosopher never for a moment imagine that human reason will ever be able to understand itself.” Most crucially, the philosopher will never be able to answer, through reason alone, the most pressing question of all: Why did rational, finite beings come into existence in the first place?Orestes Brownson and the Truth About America, By Peter Augustine Lawler, First Things, December 2002
That is not something the Party wants its members to think about.
But you can see my dilemma. Because of my Uncle’s crazy assignment, we can’t ignore it.
Why did rational, finite beings come into existence in the first place?
Because of our assignment, we must embrace such pressing questions, knowing we’ll never be able to answer them through reason alone.
So, we are grateful you are looking into our research, and invite you to ask with Paula and me the most pressing story question we all seem to be facing:
How will this all turn out?
So, enjoy walking down this crazy path with us, and seeing the crazy epiphanies on this web site.
We think, at the very least, you may find it interesting.
And, at the very most, we hope it puts Christians in America to a test: Will you consider a change? Will you roll up your sleeves, and try a whole new way of seeing? Because we really want to know whether you want to change or not.
As for Paula and me, we have had lots of time to talk while hiding out in the foothills of the Strange Uncharted Mountains near Nibbling, Minnesota.
But don’t bother coming to look for us; you’re likely to get lost. Still, we will keep our ear to the ground as more and more people run across this web site, because we want to know: Will you change?
During one recent long conversation under the stars, Paula told me about C.S. Lewis’ “wood between the worlds”. So, in that spirit, let’s jump together into this pool — a whole new way of seeing the unfolding drama in your previously United States of America.
Your Humble Refugee,
Chow Non Phat