Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christianity: China’s best bet?

For many, many years, Christianity has dominated what has called "the West." However, the tides have changed in the recent years. Although there are still some very devout Christians living in the west, Christianity has left the West has now been replaced with Secularism and Postmodernism. The majority of the Christians in the world don't live in Western countries like the United States or France. They live in countries like China, where they are persecuted horribly. And it's getting to the point that China may hold the largest number of Christians in the world.

07/05/2011 China (Aljazeera) - Every night, when Yang prays with her seven-year-old daughter, she knows that she is doing something illegal. Like millions of other Chinese Christians, Yang refuses to be a member of one of the official state-sanctioned churches. Instead, she gathers twice a week with two dozen other Protestants in a private living room to pray and sing - far away from the gaze of the Communist Party.

She says she is not opposed to the Chinese government at all, but just wants the freedom of religion that is guaranteed in the Chinese constitution. And she wants her daughter to grow up as a Christian. In China's state-sanctioned churches it is prohibited to share faith with anyone younger than 18.

"Our life has become so hectic, there is so much pressure. When my husband left me, I was devastated. But one of my friends took me to one of their gatherings and I realized that someone loves me. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that there is more in life than just money. I want her to care more about other people," Yang says.

Officially atheist, Communist China is witnessing a massive rise in religiosity. Recent surveys have found that one in every three Chinese consider themselves to be religious. "All Chinese religions have been growing, especially popular or 'folk religion'," explains Daniel Bays, a professor of history and the director of the Asian Studies program at Calvin College in Michigan.

"Protestant Christianity seems to be growing fastest, because it is congregational, providing a social-belonging aspect, leaders can be self-proclaimed, not needing formal credentials."

Historically, China's policies on religion have veered between approval, bloody repression and grudging tolerance. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the new regime was largely tolerant of religion, believing it to be a backward vestige of the country's imperial past and thus doomed to extinction. But, like other religions, Christianity suffered during the mass nationalism and atheism of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, it was viewed as a foreign doctrine that served the interests of capitalist imperialism - an ideology that led to decades of bloody persecution.

A 'thirst for spirituality'
But economic reforms, changing attitudes towards Communism and the liberalization of religious policies during the 1980s have led to a dramatic growth in Christianity. According to China Aid, a US-based human rights group, the number of Christians in China has increased 100-fold since the PRC was founded. Current estimates range from 80 million to 130 million active Christians, including members of so-called house churches.

 In a country of 1.3 billion that figure may not seem too high, but its significance becomes more apparent when compared to the 78 million Chinese that China Daily reports were members of the Communist Party as of June 2010.

"The Cultural Revolution disillusioned Chinese people and the brainwashing atheist education made people thirsty [for] spirituality," says Mark Shan, the spokesperson for China Aid.

Over the past 30 years, Christianity has gradually adapted to local realities and is no longer seen as a faith imported from the West. And while in the West, Christianity may be widely associated with tradition, in China it is increasingly identified with modernity, business and science.

"We should view Christianity as a Chinese religion, not a Western one any longer," says Bays. "There is very little left of viewing Christianity as the religion of the West as it was in the 1950s."

Some experts believe that China could soon be home to the largest Christian population in the world. And the Chinese government has been surprisingly open towards Protestantism - funding the construction of churches and providing seminaries for the training of new church leaders - at least until recently. (Source)

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