China in danger from evangelism, Communist Party adviser warns: The Church of England Newspaper, Sep 2, 2011 p 6. September 2, 2011Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
Tags: House Church Movement, Ma Huchen, OMF International, Three Self Patriotic Movement
The “abnormal” spread of Christianity across China is a threat to the Communist Party rule and social stability, a paper prepared by a top party academic warns.
Ma Hucheng, an adviser on religion to the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party, warns that the government’s attempt to control Church growth through the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) — the state sanctioned Protestant church — is failing.
“If we are unable to hold the line here, this will damage our independent foreign policy and cause the government to lose control of religion in accordance with the law, and make Christianity once again a political and spiritual tool of control for the West, and make Christianity [in China] a pawn of the Western church,” Ma said, according to a translation of his paper, An Analysis of the Reasons for Rapid Growth of the Protestant Church in Today’s China, prepared by OMF International’s Director of China Research, Tony Lambert.
Since the Chinese government inaugurated an “open-door” policy towards Christianity in 1979, the official number of Christians has grown from 3 million to 23 million under the oversight of the TSPM. However, Christians outside the control of the TSPM are growing at the rate of a million a year to “become the first and largest religion in China,” states the article, which appeared in translation in OMF’s China Insight.
Party researchers disagree on the numbers of Protestants, but concur the church is growing rapidly. “We estimate the number of Protestants to be around 40 million on average, so with one million converts annually over the last 30 years, in another 20 years we give a conservative figure of about 60 million, but after 50 years conservatively there will be 100 million Protestant Christians,” Ma said.
However, this figure is the most conservative estimate, he noted. “As there is the tradition in Christianity of ‘everyone can be an evangelist’, as the number of believers multiplies so does the number of evangelists, so even more people become believers. So a moderate estimate is that, in 50 years time, the number of Christians will be 150-200 million,” Ma predicted.
Other researchers, he noted, estimate “that in just the next 20 years there will be 200 million and even 300 million Christians” in China, he said, citing the model of South Korea where the church in the last 40 years grew to comprise 35 per cent of the population and “the largest religion there.”
The reasons for growth were varied, Ma said. Government policy since 1979 had “created a favourable and broad external environment for the growth of Christianity,” he observed, coupled with the social acceptance of religious faith. “Religion was no longer regarded as backward and to be rejected. Believers no longer were regarded as dissidents to be attacked and in need of political re-education.”
While religion was now legal, local governments failed to “effectively and promptly” prohibit “illegal Christian evangelism,” Ma wrote, “hence, Christianity grew too fast and out of control.”
Foreign influence had also led to church growth, he argued. “Some nations have even made it part of their national strategy to evangelize China, planning to impose on China their views on human rights and cultural values, based on Christianity.”
The implications for China’s “national security” were clear, Ma warned. “Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities. Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime in power in China and to overturn it.”
There was, he noted, a “battle to gain the very soul of China,” which Christians must not be allowed to win.
“The present rapid grown of Christianity destroys the religious balance and is a negative influence on the State and society and Christianity itself. Thus, we must formulate a strategic plan and take comprehensive action to resolve the problem,” Ma concluded.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.