In August, First Things published an article penned by the Chinese Christian intellectual Yu Jie titled “China’s Christian Future.” He begins by giving some historical background to the current growth of Christianity in China, rooting it in the disillusionment that took root during the Cultural Revolution:
The beginnings of this immense growth can be traced back to two moments in contemporary Chinese history: the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong in 1966 and the Tiananmen Square massacre instigated by Deng Xiaoping in 1989. Countless innocent lives were lost as a result of these two cataclysms, and the people’s belief in Marxism-Leninism and Maoism was destroyed. These events opened up a great spiritual void, and the Chinese began searching for a new faith.
Speaking of his own conversion to Christianity, he writes about the influence of Calvin and Bonhoeffer in his thinking about culture and faith:
Reading Calvin, the theologian of total depravity and predestination, I have come to see him as a more important Founding Father of the United States than Washington himself. General election, habeas corpus, freedom of contract, equality before the law, jury trial, common law, open market, freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion—these are all reinforced by Calvin’s legacy and the legacy of the Bible. Thus I became a classical liberal or, in American parlance today, a conservative—a rarity among my Chinese peers. Calvin, Locke, Burke, Tocqueville, von Mises, and Hayek are all formative for me, though some are not Christian in the traditional sense.
No one’s influence, though, has been greater on me than Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s. His warning that, “A state that threatens the proclamation of the Christian message negates itself,” has become a motto for China’s Christians, on whom he exerts a great influence. His focus on gemeinsames Leben or “life together” (meaning that Christians form a tight-bonded community as if a single living organism) has resonated across China. Of course, God has a personal relationship with each of us, but it is the fact that we love one another, help one another, and pray for one another that makes it possible for us to complete our pilgrimage. Since becoming Christian, I have not left the church, in China or America. A Christian is to a church like a branch is to a tree. A branch will not wither as long as it is part of a tree.
Finally, he talks about his ministry at a Chinese church in the DC area:
In 2013 my wife answered the Lord’s call and became a full-time preacher at the Harvest Chinese Christian Church just outside Washington, DC. As part of the ministry, I help teach Sunday school and lead Bible study. I even cook for my beloved brothers and sisters. God lets me wield a pen in one hand and a spatula in the other. Not everyone in my congregation has read my books, but everyone has tasted my food—with rave reviews!
God let me live to witness and testify for him through writing. And for the 1.4 billion souls in my homeland, I shall continue. I do so in great hope. A growing faith in Christ, strengthened by the bonds of fellowship in church life, is breathing new life into my country. Neither the dead hand of Communism, nor the cynical imitation of Confucianism, nor capitalism, nor democracy, nor any earthly thing will determine the fate of my land. Christianity is China’s future.
You can read the entire article here.
Image credit: by Patrick Giblin, via Flickr
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