A recent Chinese Church Voices post translated from the online Chinese periodical Christian Times started out discussing the revised religion regulations that went into effect February 1 of this year.
Unlike much current commentary on the regulations, however, the purpose of this particular author, Yan Yile, was to contrast the considerable discussion in Christian circles around China’s newly implemented religious regulations with the relative silence about recent charity legislation. By focusing on what they see as impending persecution, said Yan, many Christians fail to appreciate the opportunity presented by the government’s openness toward local NGOs:
In today’s context, the church cannot focus solely on how to cope with the problem of persecution. We admit that there is persecution, but many times it is exaggerated. Therefore, one of the big issues that the church should consider is how to seize the day, take advantage of the situation, and accomplish something big. This will undoubtedly also involve the transformation of the church itself.
Yan is representative of many Chinese Christians who are calling for believers to step into the NGO space as a means of extending the church’s witness in society and establishing its credibility in the eyes of the government. The church, Yan argued, needs to get beyond its “bunker” mentality and the traditional dualism that separates the sacred from the secular. He is encouraged that, since the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008, more Christians have been making this transition in their thinking even as the environment is becoming more welcoming of such involvement:
The good news is that while the church has begun to be more aware of social care, the external environment has also been constantly improving. Especially in recent years, with the development of society and the transformation of the government’s roles, the demand for public welfare organizations is becoming more significant. Government departments have also continuously issued relevant laws and regulations, and are encouraging religious communities to participate in charitable public welfare. They are doing this not only by lowering the threshold, but also by giving more support….
As the country continues to open up policy, we ought to see it as being driven by the hand of God. Christians can find a vast world here, where churches and Christians can enter together and participate.
For more on Yan’s views of the church’s role in society, see "Is a New Door Opening for Churches?"
Image credit: SpirosK photography via Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, 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 US director of... View Full Bio