Author Topic: On the future of Christianity in China.  (Read 156 times)

Offline Xavier

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On the future of Christianity in China.
« on: August 10, 2018, 12:39:27 AM »
These three regions of the world - India, China and Africa - alone account for more than half of the world's population. They will certainly play an important role in the future of global Christianity in the 21st century. Generally, where Christianity goes, peace and love among men and nations follows, so even secularist countries should pay attention. Some estimates say there may be 250 MN Christians in China by the year 2030. Much of it is Protestant unfortunately. There definitely needs to be an Ecumenical Council in the 21st century re-uniting all separated Christians under the Roman Catholic Church. While there is not overt persecution, there has been backlash from the Communist government against Christians. If the Chinese government leaves Communism behind, there may be hope for world peace. Already, there certainly are more Christians in China than members of the Communist party. Many Chinese Christians see Christianity as the reason for the west's strength and success and hope it can be replicated in their country. Interesting, positive development to keep observing and pray for. Atheistic Communism must fall completely. Thoughts?

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2014/11/01/cracks-in-the-atheist-edifice

Quote
"It is hard even to guess at the number of Christians in China. Official surveys seek to play down the figures, ignoring the large number who worship in house churches. By contrast, overseas Christian groups often inflate them. There were perhaps 3m Catholics and 1m Protestants when the party came to power in 1949. Officials now say there are between 23m and 40m, all told. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, estimated there were 58m Protestants and 9m Catholics. Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist Party. Most are evangelical Protestants.

Predicting Christianity’s growth is even harder. 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.

In the 1980s the faith grew most quickly in the countryside, stimulated by the collapse of local health care and a belief that Christianity could heal instead. In recent years it has been burgeoning in cities. A new breed of educated, urban Christians has emerged. Gerda Wielander of the University of Westminster, in her book “Christian Values in Communist China”, says that many Chinese are attracted to Christianity because, now that belief in Marxism is declining, it offers a complete moral system with a transcendental source. People find such certainties appealing, she adds, in an age of convulsive change.

Some Chinese also discern in Christianity the roots of Western strength. They see it as the force behind the development of social justice, civil society and rule of law, all things they hope to see in China. Many new NGOs are run by Christians or Buddhists. There are growing numbers of Christian doctors and academics. More than 2,000 Christian schools are also dotted around China, many of them small and all, as yet, illegal.

One civil-rights activist says that, of the 50 most-senior civil-rights lawyers in China, probably half are Christians. Some of them have set up the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians. Groups of well-paid urban Christian lawyers join together to defend Christians—and others—in court. Missionaries have begun to go out from China to the developing world ...

Meanwhile, acts of defiance are increasing. A mid-ranking official in a big city was recently told that her Christian faith, which was well known in the office, was not compatible with her party membership and she would have to give it up. She politely told her superiors that she would not be able to do that, and that her freedom of belief was protected by the Chinese constitution. She was not fired, but sent on a remedial course at a party school. She is now back at her job, and says her colleagues often come to her asking for prayer.

Christians are becoming more socially (and sometimes politically) engaged, too. Wang Yi is a former law professor and prolific blogger who became a Christian in 2005. The next year he was one of three house-church Christians who met President George W. Bush at the White House. Mr Wang is now pastor of Early Rain, a house church in the south-western city of Chengdu. On June 1st this year, International Children’s Day, he and members of his congregation were detained for distributing leaflets opposing China’s one-child policy and the forced abortions it leads to.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 01:32:52 AM by Xavier »
Mary, our Heavenly Mother, implores those who receive Holy Communion Daily, or at least Weekly, to Offer their Lives. TEXT OF THE LIFE OFFERING: "My dear Jesus, before the Holy Trinity, Our Heavenly Mother, and the whole Heavenly Court, united with Your most Precious Blood and Your Sacrifice on Calvary, I hereby Offer my whole Life to the Intention of Your Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Together with my life, I place at Your disposal all Holy Masses, all my Holy Communions, all Rosaries, all acts of consecration, all my good deeds, all my sacrifices, and the suffering of my entire life for the Adoration and Supplication of the Holy Trinity, for Unity in our Holy Mother Church, for the Holy Father and Priests, for good Priestly vocations, and for all souls until the end of the world. O my Jesus, please accept my life Sacrifice and my offerings and give me Your grace that I may persevere obediently until my death." Amen. https://www.avemariamaternostra.com/life-offering-promises.html It is recommended that you make this Life Offering as soon as you feel ready, and to renew it from time to time.

Please read the Blessed Mother's promises in the link: those who make it seriously will face no Purgatory (promise 5) since they would have completed it here, will have all their loved ones released from Purgatory the day they offer their life with intent to persevere (promise 4), and can save the souls of all their family members in due time by their life offering (promise 3). It will benefit all souls who have ever lived until time's end (promise 2) A simple effective way for thousands of us to save millions of souls. Inflamed in Large Letters of Love, you will have your name written in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary forever (promise 1).
 
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Offline Davis Blank - EG

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Re: On the future of Christianity in China.
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2018, 02:37:38 AM »
I've been here in China since 2009 - as far as I can tell, Christianity plays no part in Chinese society and culture.  I would count on its conversion even less than I count on Europe or America becoming Catholic in this century.

People everywhere are too busy being dazzled by materialism - it will take a big wipe out to have society reorder its priorities.
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: On the future of Christianity in China.
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2018, 04:11:34 AM »
Davis, isn't it true though that the Chinese are very conformist as a people? So if their leaders were converted from materialistic communism to Christianity, wouldn't the possibility of an en masse conversion be very high?
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Offline Davis Blank - EG

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Re: On the future of Christianity in China.
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2018, 08:18:31 AM »
John,

An interesting question but hard to analyze.  The Chinese are a fairly cohesive society, especially compared to the West.  But they are not unique in their following of others, the West operates that way as well, its just that we have far more voices out there vying for attention, hence less conformity (since there is not really much of a unifying thing to be conformed too).

The Chinese definitely have more deference to authority and power than do Westerners.  In the hands of Mao this is a disaster, but in the hands of Good King Wenceslas this would be most excellent.

As far as I can tell, the Chinese worship money.  I do not think this a commie thing, but rather a Chinese thing.  One of their big gods is Cai Shen, Wealth God - he is a big focus of Chinese New Years, the biggest Chinese holiday.  From my conversations with people, I think wealth defines how virtuous a person is.  The richer you are, the better (in terms of character) you are.  Reading some Chinese history makes me think this is not a new development, but rather how they always have been.

I think the Chinese also worship their Chinese-ness.  I sense that being Chinese itself is in some ways like a quasi-religion, a little similar to American quasi worship of the flag and founding fathers.

Portuguese Macau is not Catholic (400 years rule), British Hong Kong (200 years rule) has a bit of Christianity floating around, but an enormous obsession with money, and Taiwan I am not too sure about (very friendly people, though).

The last big brush China had with (quasi) Christianity was the disastrous Taiping Rebellion.  And it was only last century that the major Western countries colonized parts of China (for example, Shanghai was controlled by the Brits, French and Americans).  They have pretty strong reasons to be highly defensive towards any Western influence whatsoever it be.

But they do have their quirks.  The Japanese were absolutely ruthless savages when they occupied China not that long ago, and the government propaganda against them is endless, yet the Chinese have a fascination with Japan and love Japanese things.  On one hand they hate the Japanese, on the other hand they love visiting there and buying their things.

Overall, I think the money-worship of the Chinese would be a major obstacle in modern times to Christianity ever taking good hold in China.  Today there are too many opportunities for someone to get rich in China, so all billion of them are hyper focused on this.  If there were an economic disaster that relegated them back to peasantry, with little hope of escaping peasantry, then maybe you could see a religious movement take China. But I think the same is true of the West.  As long as the perception of widespread opportunities for wealth exist, most people across the planet will be focused on that.

Christianity spread during the decline of Rome.  It had its greatest fracturing during the wealthy times of the 16th century.  Its been nearly wiped out of the West following the wealth of the industrial revolution.  I see a big connection between material abundance / scarcity and religious belief.  Today with the rapid prosperity in China, the Chinese are in money Heaven, especially given their money worship.  Its going to take a lot to get them interested in anything else.
 
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Online mikemac

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Re: On the future of Christianity in China.
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2018, 10:49:50 AM »
A couple of years ago I read that there are more practicing Catholics in the underground Chinese Church than practicing Catholics in all of Europe.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/world/asia/china-catholics-vatican.html
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10 Million Catholics in China Face Storm They Can’t Control
Feb. 14, 2018


FU’AN, China — For nearly four centuries, a swath of farming and fishing villages on China’s southeast coast has survived as a stronghold of Catholicism, sometimes flourishing, other times withering, its fate often dependent on decisions or conflicts far away in Beijing or Europe.

Now, a new clash is resonating in this rural region, known as Mindong. This time, it centers on talks between China and the Vatican to bridge their historical differences by settling the thorniest issue dividing them: control of the bishops and priests who run the Roman Catholic Church in China.

The basic plan would give the Vatican a formal role, and possibly even veto power, in how clergy are appointed in China. That would be an unusual concession by Beijing, which is deeply suspicious of foreign interference.

In return, the Vatican may force many local communities to accept clerics appointed by China’s Communist authorities rather than popular “underground” church leaders who have resisted state control for decades.

The prospect of such an agreement has unleashed intense emotions around the globe, with critics accusing the Holy See of “selling out” loyal Catholics in China. The Vatican’s defenders, meanwhile, argue that it must compromise to prevent China’s Catholics from splintering further, especially as the government of President Xi Jinping tightens control of religion.

But the people most affected by these proposed changes — residents in places like Mindong — say they feel a sense of powerlessness, as if awaiting a storm that they cannot control.

Many are less concerned about disputes over the clergy than about a hollowing out of Catholic life in the Chinese countryside. Others say that the outside world’s binary view of Chinese Catholicism — of loyalist underground church members and government flunkies — misses more subtle realities on the ground.

“This is something higher-ups will decide,” said Huang Xiaofeng, 40, a shopkeeper catering to pilgrims who visit a holy mountaintop cave. “We believers just go to church and pray.”

The Vatican has already asked Guo Xijin, the underground bishop in Mindong, to yield his leadership of an estimated 70,000 Catholics to a government-appointed cleric who commands about 10,000 followers — a huge concession to Beijing.

Bishop Guo, 59, who has been a priest in Mindong since 1984, said in an interview that he was willing to accede if it helped heal the long split between the underground and government churches.

But he added that it would not address larger problems that are diminishing Catholicism here. “The main problem is believers’ educational level and spiritual foundation,” he said. “They have belief, but there is no depth to it.”

Bishop Guo was referring to the fact that while Catholicism is strongest in poorer, rural parts of China, the countryside is emptying out. A few decades ago 80 percent of Chinese lived in rural areas; today only half do.

In areas like Mindong, that has meant a collapse of churchgoing. Bishop Guo estimates that more than a third of local Catholics have left Mindong to find work elsewhere. Almost all young people are gone, leaving villages dotted with churches used only on a rotating basis by a dwindling elderly population.

Mindong’s problems reflect a larger trend. According to surveys of the official and underground churches by Anthony Lam, a researcher with the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, the total number of Catholics in China peaked around 2005 at 12 million and has since declined to 10 million.

That makes Catholicism the smallest major religious group in China, and the only one that is shrinking — even as other faiths, especially Buddhism and Protestantism, have grown rapidly amid a nationwide religious revival.

Visitors to the Bishop Bai Cave near Mr. Huang’s shop speak constantly of these challenges. Many are migrants working in cities like Shanghai. In the days before the Chinese New Year, they come home to see their parents and visit holy sites like the cave, where a Dominican friar hid from Qing dynasty soldiers in the 1700s before being executed.

But few of them are practicing Catholics any more, and their own children are growing up without the faith. There are Catholic churches in the cities but they seldom reach out to migrants.

Lin Gang, 36, who left Mindong to open a shop in Changzhou, a prosperous city on the Yangtze River, said he rarely had time for church and that almost none of his neighbors there are Catholic.

“If we could get off Sundays for Mass it would be easier,” he said. “But I have to keep the store open to take care of my family.”

“One’s faith grows weaker when one goes out to work,” he added.

The roots of the church’s problems in China go far back. The Qing emperor banned Christianity for about a century before Western powers forced the dynasty to let missionaries in again. When the Communists gained control of China in 1949, Catholicism was hit especially hard because of the Vatican’s strident opposition to communism.

The new government also expelled most foreigners from China, decapitating the Catholic Church, which had relied on foreigners to run its schools, orphanages, seminaries and religious orders. Catholicism survived as a clan-based, rural religion without its old missionizing impulse.

In 1957, the authorities added to the church’s problems by setting up the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association to replace the Vatican in appointing the clergy and give Beijing’s atheist leaders control over the church.

Many worshipers resisted. They boycotted the government church in favor of underground churches led by clergy members whom they elected. Over time, the Vatican approved most of these locally appointed clergy. That created two Catholic lineages in China: those appointed by Beijing and those by the Vatican.

This is the rift that is the focus of the current negotiations. But the picture is more complicated than it seems.

Many government-appointed bishops, for example, have quietly received the Vatican’s blessing. And Pope Benedict XVI said in 2007 that loyal Catholics could worship in Chinese government-approved churches.

Even the term “underground” is largely a misnomer now. Although some clergy have been detained and face harassment, others mostly operate in the open. In many places, underground Catholics have built their own churches, sometimes huge cathedrals, without government interference.

Bishop Guo, for example, lives in a seven-story residence next to a twin-spired church clad in white tiles. Mindong is dotted with dozens of these churches, many of them with soaring spires, chapels, residences and nunneries, all of them technically illegal.

Moreover, many of the churches received construction permits with the help of Zhan Silu, the government-appointed bishop to whom the Vatican has asked Bishop Guo to cede his position.

Bishop Zhan declined to be interviewed, but local Catholics say he signed off on the permits to reach out to underground believers.

“It shows it’s not underground at all,” said Eugenio Menegon, a professor of history at Boston University, who wrote a book on Catholicism’s deep roots in Mindong. During his time in the region, he said, he found that the unofficial clergy often gets along fine with the local authorities.

Tensions arise when one side pushes the other. Recently, the pressure has come from Beijing, which has adopted new regulations that are meant in part to curb underground churches.

The Vatican’s desire to have Bishop Guo step aside in favor of Bishop Zhan also worries residents. Many feel they should be consulted on the appointment of their spiritual leader — an issue that could come up in other Chinese dioceses where the future of as many as 30 underground bishops is uncertain.

One lay nun whose order has deep roots in Mindong said Bishop Zhan would have difficulty running the diocese because most worshipers are in the underground church and support Bishop Guo. Still, she said that if the Vatican recognized Bishop Zhan, she would obey.

Though weakened by migration and buffeted by change, Mindong remains a place where one can still sense the world of the Dominican friars who first brought Catholicism to these hilly shores in the 1630s — and the powers of faith that can outlast politics.

Not far from Bishop Guo’s cathedral is Shangwan Village, the burial site of a Catholic priest named Miu Zishan who was persecuted by Communist zealots in the 1960s and died shortly after.

In front of his grave, Wu Saiqing, 49, was sleeping on a stone bed. Locals believe that doing so cures illnesses, and so Ms. Wu was there for a midday nap, hoping to improve her health.

Ms. Wu said her family’s Catholic roots dated to the 17th century. Two of her siblings serve the official church, one as a nun and one as a priest. But she attends an underground church.

“It makes no difference to me,” Ms. Wu said. “It is the Lord we believe in.”

Although this page says "In informal scholarly meetings, however, estimates range from 10 to 30 million Catholics in China."
https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2018/03/09/the-catholic-church-in-china-historical-context-and-the-current-situation/
« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 11:07:01 AM by mikemac »
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Offline drummerboy

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Re: On the future of Christianity in China.
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2018, 10:58:01 AM »
I thought Asians were general were "money-hungry."  That's the impression I got from an accounting professor who served as an accountant in the USAF in SE Asia, and one doesn't need to look to indepth at Japan.  It always struck me as part of their personality and culture of hard work;  Asian-Americans on average earn 7% more than white Americans, though this is also due in large part to taking advantage of family connections.  Most of the Hmong/Lao people I know and work with are like this.  They place a high value on material gain, and work quite hard to earn it.  They can seem rather brisque and rude at times (when I was an asst. manager at a hardware store my fellow asst. manager was Hmong, and I received some complaints in this regard, and I addressed it once with him, and he was really surprised he came off that way, and he was in fact one of the nicest, easiest going guys you could meet), but that's often because they don't want to dally around and like to stay busy.  On the other hand, they don't seem the best at retaining it, and the young men really like their fancy cars and trucks, and they often have their homes foreclosed on since, hearing from a realtor, they don't quite understand how a mortgage works.