When I wrote China’s Urban Christians: A Light that Cannot be Hidden, it was with the conviction that massive urbanization in China had significant implications for China’s church. The emergence of a new kind of church in the city was not merely an extension of the experience of China’s primarily rural house church movements or of churches affiliated with the TSPM. Rather, a fresh set of dynamics was impacting the development of China’s newly forming urban Christian communities.
The latest issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, with its theme of urban church theology, delves into these dynamics. Guest editors Mary Ma and LI Jin have pulled together an impressively well-rounded look at the increasingly complex urban church environment.
A Film Review
The film, Stonehead, is set in a small village in China where children, the "left-behind children," are raised by their grandparents because their parents have all moved to urban cities for better jobs. The story centers around three main characters who, even though it’s never clearly stated, each represent a different way left-behind children cope with their family situations. But the film also speaks more widely about the coping mechanisms used by people thoughout Chinese society today.
While living in Beijing, I came to know well a migrant family. They had arrived in Beijing in the mid-1990s and had managed to find good jobs and earn enough money to buy an apartment and start a family. Even though they did not have a Beijing hukou, they managed to get their children into a decent school. It was interesting to watch the children grow up, because clearly they saw themselves more as urbanites, even though they technically weren’t.
Much has been written about China’s urbanization over the past three decades, as the rural/urban ratio has shifted from 80/20 to roughly 50/50. Most of this urbanization has taken place as a result of millions of people picking up and moving from the countryside into the cities, leaving behind, in many cases empty villages or villages with only old people left.