Nobody really knows how many Christians there are in China, just that there are an awful lot of them. Despite decades of persecution, the government has not been able to stomp out the church nor retstrict its growth.
This report from Catholic News Agency:
Why is Christianity growing so quickly in mainland China?
Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 17, 2015 / 05:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christianity is spreading rapidly in China, and it could be because of how well the faith fits in with modern scientific technology.
According to the renowned sociologist Rodney Stark, the number of Christians in China is growing at an impressive annual rate of seven percent.
Stark coauthored, with Xiuhua Wang, the 2015 work A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China. Stark views himself as a social historian and is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.
Stark and Wang estimate that in 1980 there were 10 million Christians in the People’s Republic of China, and that in 2007 the figure was 60 million. These numbers yield an annual growth rate of 7 percent – which means that last year, there were nearly 100 million Christians in China.
They hold that this large increase in the number of Christians in China is driven by the conversion of the better educated, who are experiencing “cultural incongruity” between traditional Asian culture and industrial-technological modernity, which results in a spiritual deprivation, which Christianity is able to answer.
China’s intellectuals, Stark told CNA Aug. 14, “are very convinced they’ve got to turn West to understand the world they live in … and they’re convinced by my argument that eastern religions don’t fit the modern world they’re engaged in, and that they need to look to the West to find philosophies and religions. It’s quite amazing.”
Eastern religions, like Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, Stark maintained, “are all anti-progress; they all proclaim the world is going downhill from a glorious past, and that we should look backwards, not forwards. None of them admit that we’re able to understand anything about the universe – it’s something we have to meditate on, not something to try and theorize about, as the physicists and chemists do. And that doesn’t fit with the world that modern Chinese are experiencing having happened around them.”
“Industrial society, and all the science it’s based on, doesn’t fit well with those kind of religious views,” Stark reflected.
“But the question of what does the world mean, and how do we live in it, persists – and so that’s a major motor in the Christianization of China, and it explains why it’s the most educated Chinese who are the most apt to join.”
The spread of Christianity in China, he said, has been possible even “during the worst time of Chinese persecution” under Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s because “this process of conversion is invisible; the government can’t see it.”