Perseverance & Power: Christianity in Contemporary China (RELS 348)

In the article entitled “Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice,”the writer discusses both the rapid growth of Christianity in China and the Chinese government’s evolving response to it. According to the article, many experts both in China and abroad believe that there are now more Christians in China than there are members of the Communist Party, which numbers 87 million. Religious expression, especially from the Christian tradition with its Western roots, has long been suppressed by the Chinese government. However, government crackdowns have become increasingly rare in recent years, as Christians have grown in number and influence, and the government has come to view them both as valuable suppliers of important social services and as responsible citizens in general.

It is interesting to see Christianity, which has been tied to various Western empires over the last two millennia, come to increasing prominence in China, a powerful and growing country which may, in the not-so-distant future, seek to establish itself fully as an empire. It has taken steps in that direction. As the article indicates, some Chinese Christian leaders have concerns about Christianity becoming intertwined with power in China as it has been in the West. From its humble beginnings as a fringe cult within the expansive Roman Empire, Christianity has long been a tradition that prides itself on its defense of the disadvantaged and dispossessed. In many ways, the Christianity of China today is closer to the roots of the first-century Christian church than the Holy Roman Empire ever was. It remains to be seen whether it will stay that way.

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