China’s Christian Future

China’s Christian Future, by Yu Jie.

At the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when the Communist party defeated the Nationalists and founded the People’s Republic of China, Christians in China numbered half a million. Yet almost seventy years later, under the Chinese government’s harsh suppression, that population has reached more than sixty million, according to Fenggang Yang, a sociologist at Purdue University. … At this rate, by 2030, Christians in China will exceed 200 million, surpassing the United States and making China the country with the largest Christian population in the world.

The beginnings of this immense growth can be traced back to two moments in contemporary Chinese history: the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong in 1966 and the Tiananmen Square massacre instigated by Deng Xiaoping in 1989. Countless innocent lives were lost as a result of these two cataclysms, and the people’s belief in Marxism-Leninism and Maoism was destroyed. These events opened up a great spiritual void, and the Chinese began searching for a new faith.

The communists killed off Confucianism, though they are now desperate to resurrect it.

The tradition of teaching that began with Confucius has guided the Chinese over two millennia. Confucianism emphasizes the importance of cultivating one’s character as well as intellect, of curbing desire and keeping things in moderation, and of having goodwill toward all. …

The Communists had strictly ideological reasons for discarding China’s Confucian heritage, but for Mao, the hatred was personal. In his youth he worked for a brief time at Beijing University Library. There he felt looked down upon by professors and students who took Confucius as their model. From this sprang his abiding hatred of intellectuals. … Many scholars and writers were subjected to physical and psychological torture by Mao; a number were driven to suicide. The supreme leader even had his Red Guards tear down Confucius’s temples and dig up his grave. …

Now they suppress Christianity:

At the National Conference on Religious Work in Beijing in April 2016, [Chinese President Xi Jinping] declared that religion must adapt itself to China’s existing social order and accept the party’s leadership. As a leader, Xi seems rather insecure. He is suspicious of civil society and sees Christianity as a threat: It is the largest force in China outside the Communist party. …

In China, home churches outnumber government-sponsored churches three to one. Against home churches that refuse to cooperate, the government has waged a large-scale cleansing campaign in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, particularly in the city of Wenzhou, known as “China’s Jerusalem,” where 15 percent of the population is Christian. In two years, more than two hundred churches in Zhejiang have been demolished, over two thousand crosses removed.

Even if you aren’t religiously inclined, note that religious institutions can sometimes be the only counterbalance against an oppressive state.

hat-tip Stephen Neil