by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
The growth of Christianity in China has been astonishing. At this point, it’s no longer a question of if China will become a Christian nation, but when. The ramifications of this religious shift are massive, and will shake China’s culture and economy to their cores.
Since 1979, Protestant Christianity has been growing in China at a compound annual growth rate of more than 10 percent. There were 3 million Christians in China in 1980, compared to 58 million in 2010,according to Fenggyang Yang, director of the Center of Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University. By 2025, that number could swell to 250 to 300 million.
Surprised? That makes sense. The Chinese Communist Party has done all it can to downplay this phenomenon and keep a tight media lid on it. Meanwhile, Western media outlets are so taken with the idea that religion is an irrelevant (and declining) facet of modern life that they don’t pay attention to its growth in most places outside calcified Western Europe.
But this shift is happening, and it is astonishing, especially considering that China is officially an atheist country. From Chairman Mao’s accession to power until his death, China officially banned all religion, the only country in history besides Albania to do so. Then, in 1979, in keeping with its liberalization program, China cautiously allowed a few places of worship to open. But the government’s policy is still that religious expression must obey the party. Religion that is not officially sanctioned is still oppressed.
While it might seem surprising that Christianity could grow in the face of such repression, it is repression that prompted the growth of Christianity in the first place. In the third century, the church father Tertullian famously boasted that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”
To better understand what’s going on in China, let’s look back at the Roman Empire. There, both government and society had values that were at odds with Christianity. The religion was so foreign, the reaction was an incoherent mix of savage oppression, benign neglect, and attempts at cooptation.
SOURCE: The Week