If you haven’t yet read Yu Jie First Things piece on “China’s Christian Future,” do it now. It’s a first-rate piece of political-religious analysis, a moving story of faithful witness, a powerful brief for the Christian future of the world’s most populous country, which will, by 2030, be the country with the largest Christian population.
Among other things, the article offers concrete examples of how the church forms civil society and shapes politics. A few samples:
“to this day the Chinese have no real voting rights, but congregants can elect their own board members and administrative leaders. For those inexperienced with running and voting for office, churches are a seedbed of civic activity. Many of these churches are Presbyterian and Calvinist, the same tradition that played such a central role in the rise of democracy in the West.”
“in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, hundreds of churches quickly formed the China Christian Action Love volunteer association to provide relief, which many disaster victims praised as besting government efforts in both speed and constancy. In addition, some churches have established schools for members’ children as an alternative to the statist curriculum of public schools. Through the churches, Chinese Christians are becoming active agents in society rather than passive subjects controlled by the government.”Of his own Bible study group, he writes that it “became an ark. As human rights lawyers, independent writers, journalists, and Tiananmen survivors joined us aboard our vessel, our community of faith also became a thorn in the regime’s side. My dear friend Liu Xiaobo, the courageous human rights activist, was a friend of the church and expressed his support for us in writing when we were harassed by the administration.”
All of which illustrates that the church is most politically potent when she is the church.
(Photo by Peter Morgan.)