Reading Cao Nanlai’s classic Constructing China’s Jerusalem in light of the highly publicized attacks on Wenzhou churches, the obvious question is whether the “Wenzhou model,” as Cao describes it, is still intact, or whether government intervention has significantly altered the formula of church growth and cultural transformation.
Due to the so-called “Church and Cross Demolition” campaign, the churches of Zhejiang Province have been in the news a lot over the past year. Whether on TV, online, or in our local newspapers, we have probably all seen heart-breaking pictures of demolished churches and crosses.
It was just about one year ago that, while scrolling through my Twitter feed late one night, I spotted something about Christians in Zhejiang trying to prevent the demolition of their church building.
Earlier this month I got to spend two weeks back in Beijing, my former “home town.”
If a Christian from the West were asked what the biggest Christian news story out of China was in 2014, no doubt the answer would be the campaign to demolish church crosses in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. In fact, for many in the West, that might be the only Christian-related news story out of China they are aware of.
Wealth, Stewardship and the Wenzhou Church
The forced removal of crosses from literally hundreds of churches in the Wenzhou area during the past year has called attention not only to the local government’s heavy-handed approach toward the church, but also to the phenomenon of the church buildings themselves.
How China’s Christians Respond to Persecution
In Mobilized Merchants - Patriotic Martyrs, Dr. Timothy Conkling sheds much-needed light on the relationship between China's unregistered church and the Chinese Party-State. The dissertation research that forms the basis for the book set out to answer the question of why Chinese Christians are persecuted and how they respond to this persecution.
On November 1, 2014, The Economist published an excellent article about the church in China, titled "Cracks in the Atheist Edifice." Written by veteran correspondent Rob Gifford (author of China Road), the article gives an overview of how the church (and individual Christians) in China are stepping out of the shadows, and the various ways in which the government is being forced to deal with this growing and more visible church.
With literally hundreds of crosses falling prey to overzealous local officials in Wenzhou and neighboring cities, the region once seen as a bastion of extraordinary religious freedom is now the subject of worldwide attention due to an equally extraordinary crackdown on its churches.