Culture At Large

Christianity: the new Chinese social revolution?

Andy Rau

A piece on the rising popularity of Christianity in China, from the weekend Telegraph:

During the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao's China turned on itself, torturing and killing hundreds of thousands of people. But the seeds were sown for an unexpected upsurge in Christianity.

In a social revolution that has prompted a heavy-handed response from the Politburo, it is spreading through town and countryside and Chinese communities abroad.

Of course, the question of Chinese government control always lurks behind any story about Chinese Christianity. The piece touches on the government's troubled relationship with the Church:

China's rulers are said to be ambiguous about Christianity's growth. Some see its emphasis on personal morality as a force for stability. House churches which go along with the authority and theology of the official organisations are often left alone....

This year the Politburo made it easier for churches to register, but at the same time launched a wave of persecution of those which refused.

I still can't say that I have a very good understanding of the state of Chinese Christianity. How severe is the government's control over state-approved churches? A Chicago Tribune article from last year paints a pretty bleak picture:

The rules make clear that allegiance to the party comes first, and strict regulations must be followed, including a ban on baptism and Sunday school participation for anyone under 18. Proselytizing also is forbidden.

It's awfully hard for a church to grow if you aren't teaching young people or sharing your faith with others, which I suppose is the point. What does the Western chuch think about Chinese churches that accept these restrictions--can faith thrive under these restrictions, or do these rules cut the heart and purpose out of the church? Any readers have insight on this? What's life like for a "state-approved" Christian in China, as opposed to a "non-approved" Christian?

Lots more on Christianity in China here.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, News & Politics, World