Thursday, September 22, 2011

Are Chinese Christians Threatened by Freedom?

9/21/11 China (WND) For decades Christianity in China has been officially and forcibly repressed: Believers have been arrested, house churches broken up and Bibles restricted. And the community of the faithful has grown by estimates as high as thousands per day.

Now, religious freedom is growing along with Westernization in the Middle Kingdom and the discovery that businesses that operate by Christian concepts often are the most successful.
Is that good for Christianity?

Maybe not completely, says one expert.

"One of the ironies is that the great teacher for the global church of how the church thrives not in prosperity but under persecution is the Chinese Christian movement from the time of the Cultural Revolution until the present," said Open Doors President Carl Moeller.

"Chinese Christians themselves are really the great teachers to the Western church in this area that they in fact know that the secret to a healthy, growing and powerful Christian movement is not a wealthy, prosperous, materially affluent church but a church that has learned to endure hardship because of the truth of their message," Moeller told WND.

"In that refining fire of persecution, it's come away with a more rigorous, tested faith. So, one sense or another, maybe the seeds of the future weakness of the Chinese church might be planted if they are now being more sympathetic to a prosperity theology," he said.

His concern is partly because of how Chinese society is impacting the growth of the Christian church in China. Recent reports from Christian human rights and missions groups say the Chinese church is experiencing explosive growth. Moeller notes that the church is growing quickly among young people, because they have discovered a powerful dynamic.

"The younger generation is, in fact, now seeing as an addition to the spiritual dynamic of Christian theology a very practical dynamic of Christianity being an advantage economically," Moeller said.

The estimates for the number of Christians in China range from between 60 million to 100 million, and International Christian Concern's China analyst Kris Elliott says the increase is the result of several social factors.

"From what I've seen until the recent months, Christianity was allowed to operate in China without much persecution. There had been substantial progress in getting Christians more freedom there," Elliott said.
"Even though we talk about the fact that there are illegal house churches there, the government pretty much knew in some places where those churches were and they were allowed to operate under the radar without much interference from the government," Elliott said.

But she said the advent of the so-called "Arab Spring" of revolutionary actions across the Middle East and in northern Africa prompted Chinese officials again to begin pulling the reins.

"With revolutions taking place in other places in the world such as Egypt and Syria, the government has been tightening up control on its people to try to ensure that a revolution couldn't take place," Elliott said.
She said that in itself may not necessary be bad for Christians.

"In that environment of persecution we know the church always grows very strongly. The Lord told us that would happen and that has happened for 2,000 years," Elliott said.

China's culture, economy and even government have been heavily influenced by capitalism in recent decades. And the result of that has been a greater return for the workers, business operators and others. It also has allowed Christianity a greater platform.

"Because the regime in China has opened the doors to capitalism over the past 20 years, that has opened up the nation to Western ideas and that goes together with the idea of Christianity," Elliott said. "Capitalism has been influenced very heavily by Christianity and Chinese have been learning more and more about Western religion." She said the fact that people see the answers as coming not from the government or communisms but from God is good(China).

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