The triumph of the Communists in 1949 led to cutting off the Christian church (official and unofficial) from the outside world, organisationally and otherwise. But in the long term that led to the Chinese church doing the work Jesus sent it to do on its own. Today we are seeing the greatest Christian revival in human history in China, and the effort is almost entirely indigenous.
The government has generally reacted by attempted to suppress this movement. Part of the reason, of course, is that China is still in theory a Marxist-Leninist state, with the atheism to go with it. But there are historical reasons as well. The fall of virtually every dynasty was preceded by the formation of secret religious societies which would coalesce into a rebel force. In the nineteenth century, the most spectacular example of this was the Taiping Rebellion, where Hong Xiuquan claimed to be Jesus Christ’s younger brother and started a revolt that claimed 20,000,000 lives. Chinese regimes are routinely skittish about underground religious movements such as Christianity and Falun Gong, and the followers of Jesus’ greatest challenge in the long run is to show that secular revolt is not the objective of the religion.
RELIGIOUS belief under the guiding hand of the state can be a tool for promoting social harmony, the number four man in the Chinese Politburo said on Monday at the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing.
The chairman of the national committee of the CPPCC, Jia Qinglin’s (pictured) comments come amidst rising tensions and expectations from China’s rapidly growing Christian population. The state “should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion," Jia said on March 3.
"We should guide religious leaders and believers to improve their lives, and make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony," he said. The state will also liberalize its control of the growing professional classes, he said according to a report released by the official China Daily. The CPPCC needs to "maintain close ties with members of the emerging social strata, such as private entrepreneurs, accountants and lawyers,” he said and should “show concern for their interests, open up channels for them to articulate their views, and guide them to conscientiously assume social responsibilities and effectively promote socialist development with Chinese characteristics."
American Christians and conservatives may not find the emphasis on socialism to their taste, but my experience with the Chinese–and subsequent history bears this out–is that their idea of operating in socialism is vastly different from what we’re used to.