February 1, 2015 9:00 AM Subscribe
Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire."
- The world's biggest and most important ideological battle - "When individuals engage in a 'portfolio' approach to religion, social evolution can occur much more rapidly. Not everyone has to fully convert to Christianity, or to embrace Confucianism wholeheartedly, for those approaches to suddenly acquire much more influence."
- In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions [CSM] - "Christianity is booming in China, propelling it toward becoming the world's largest Christian nation. But as religion grows, it spurs a government crackdown."
- The rise of Christianity in China - "The demolition of the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou marked the start of a state campaign to rein in the rise of Christianity. This has included harassment, detentions, removing crosses and destroying churches in Wenzhou and throughout Zhejiang Province."
- China Bible publisher prints 125 millionth copy - "The Amity Foundation is China's biggest faith-based NGO [non-governmental organisation] and uses profits from its printing operations and donations to do charity work promoting education, social services, environmental protection, health and rural development."
- Orthodox Christianity in China - "One Orthodox resident of Beijing told me he knew of about two dozen Chinese converts to Orthodoxy; they were usually people who had switched from evangelical Christianity or Catholicism after a deep study of Christian history. By some estimates the total number of Orthodox Christians in China is between 10,000 and 15,000. In May last year, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow visited China and met President Xi Jinping; but these stratospheric connections didn't immediately change the fact that not a single Chinese Orthodox priest functions in mainland China. The only ray of light comes from the fact that a handful of Chinese students have been allowed to study in Russian seminaries. They may eventually return to their homeland to serve as priests."
- Christianity with Chinese characteristics - "Christian theology in China should be 'compatible with China's national conditions' and be 'incorporated into Chinese culture.' "
- Why Is China Nationalizing Christianity? - "The rapid growth in religion is particularly troubling for the CCP given that its own abandonment of Marxism has created an ideological vacuum. In its place, the CCP has increasingly turned to Chinese nationalism as the ideational complement to economic growth and prosperity. The 'Sinicization of Christianity' would be consistent with its drive to push Chinese nationalism."
- The rise of Christianity in Asia - "The reason for this rise in Asian Christianity is as varied as the region is diverse. However for South Korea, China and other economically vibrant neighbours contributing to the rise of the Asian Century, German sociologist Max Weber got it right. Christianity is like the spiritual backdrop to the market economy."
Apart from the speed of growth, the party is very concerned about the type of person being converted... These days, most conversions happen in the burgeoning cities and new believers are increasingly well educated, influential and demanding when it comes to their personal freedom and individual rights. These are the very same middle-class constituents the party has relied on for support in the past three decades, since it abandoned utopian communism and the cult of personality centred on Mao Zedong. In the early 1980s, the party made a wrenching change, from trying to wipe out religion and ancient culture to telling its people “to get rich is glorious”. Today, after decades of rampant consumerism and rapidly rising inequality, even China’s top leaders lament the cynicism, materialism and lack of idealism or ethics in modern Chinese society.
In its attempts to fill this moral vacuum, the party under Xi Jinping has reached for old methods and symbols, stirring up nationalist hatred against past invaders such as Japan and Britain and recycling familiar propaganda from the 1960s. Ordinary citizens are once again bombarded with images of communist saints such as the tireless oil worker “Iron man” Wang Jinxi or Lei Feng, the model soldier who washed his comrades’ socks in secret. But for an increasingly sophisticated and worldly urban middle class, these efforts to instil “traditional” values only highlight how hollow and bankrupt the official ideology of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has become. For many, these images draw attention to the contradictions of a nominally communist system struggling to provide even basic social services and dominated at the top by a tiny, autocratic political elite accumulating enormous personal wealth.
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