A billion strong in population and with endless centuries committed to the practice of Buddhism and Confucianism, China is now approving Christianity. It is beyond belief since thousands of Chinese Christians during the last century have been persecuted, imprisoned and killed. In spite of this, a 2 percent of Chinese have persevered underground. In the last 10 years, however, that number has grown to nearly 10 percent.
The big question: why would this atheistic, communistic government of China turn from a vehement persecution of Christians to an open endorsement of them? The Chinese Empire’s method to their madness is not for promoting faith in and worship of Christ, but to promote an agenda for unifying the Chinese people.
China’s study of Christianity began December 18, 2007 with all-day seminars on Christianity for all 23 members of China’s leadership. The endless diversity and lack of unity among Protestants has diverted China’s interest to the Christianity of the Catholic Church. The Chinese government has found Christianity as a most impressive method of drawing people together in harmony. The Christian teaching as coming forth from Rome for centuries impresses the atheistic mind of Chinese leaders. Christianity is desired as a catalytic agent for a peaceful and harmonious society.
A further enticer in the eyes of the Chinese government for Christianity is its correlation with economic prosperity. In the past 150 years, the economic boom in the world has been in the Western World (Western Europe and USA); a world permeated with Christian influence. China finds itself in a spiritual vacuum. There is no longer the centuries-old solidarity (and near-worship) with emperors (an imperial ideology ending with Mao). Further the Chinese people are divided by some practicing Buddhism and others Confucianism. China’s present atheistic form of government offers no social/spiritual cohesion.
However Catholicism is far from a shoo-in with China’s government. Much sparring is going on between Beijing and the Vatican. China’s leaders find it incomprehensible that the church is run by a supernatural power, focused on the spiritual rather than earthly authorities. China’s government sees itself as the rightful ruler of Christianity in China, even insisting it has the solitary power to appoint the bishops of the Chinese church.
The bottom line: China wants the supernatural wonder of the Gospel – unity, harmony and love - without acknowledging a Supernatural Power. Let us all pray that Christianity progresses in China.
“Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” [Mt. 16:18] Yes, Christ is in China.
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology
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