The experience of the church in the West suggests that the default methods by which groups in society—including Christian groups—tend to work toward social change are political in nature.
In China, although individual Christians may play a quiet role within China’s political system, the realm of politics is, by design of the state, largely off-limits for most believers. Many who have ventured into this space have paid a heavy price for doing so and, in the eyes of many Chinese believers, their experience serves as a dire warning of the consequences of political involvement. Thus what is considered “default” in many contexts globally is not an option for most Christians in China.
This reality raises the intriguing question of how Chinese Christians who are motivated to seek change within their society will choose to live out their faith. Christians in China are already providing examples through their forays into a number of areas.
In the nascent field of Christian education, parents, teachers and church leaders are currently experimenting with a variety of alternatives to the state education system.
In the business arena, according to one recent study, leaders are converting to Christianity at a rate faster than that seen in the society at large.
China’s rapidly ageing population presents another critical area where Christians are beginning to explore the church’s role in meeting what is widely acknowledged as a looming demographic crisis. The charity sector, although fraught with regulatory and cultural obstacles, provides fertile ground for Christians to explore how the fruits of China’s economic boom might be stewarded for the public good, a question that believers in the financial, legal, and nonprofit sectors in China have begun to tackle in earnest.
The internet, environmental concerns, family dynamics, and doing business abroad constitute additional areas where Chinese Christians will likely seek to have a transforming effect upon their society.
Given the growing disillusionment in the West over the church’s own efforts to work for change using political means, the China context could provide valuable lessons for Christians in the United States and elsewhere who are faced with living out their faith in increasingly hostile cultural and political environments.
Image credit: Church of TianJin City by 廷 温 via Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio
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