Source: CNA Daily News, August 17, 2015
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.
100 million Christians in China
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.
Christianity, a better worldview
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.”
Spread through personal networks
According to Stark, religious conversion occurs primarily through social networks, and so is “invisible” to government officials. He holds that Chinese living in rural areas are more likely than city dwellers to be Christian, because their social ties are stronger, and thus Christianity can be transmitted there more easily.... “People join things in a much more intimate, a much quieter way.”
Christianity in the cities
“In the cities it's more discreet,” Stark said. “But still, in all there are enormous numbers of sons and daughters of communist officials who are now Christians, and you go to their elite university campuses, and it's shocking, the Christian feel of the place, in a way that you don't get in American, Christian colleges. You don't get this feeling at Notre Dame, or at Texas Christian, that you get walking around the University of Peking.”
He noted that there are many Christian professors, and that Christianity is strongest at the universities – where the future members of the country's Communist Party are studying.
“This may be part of what's going on behind the scenes,” Stark supposed: “that it's becoming uncomfortable to push Christianity around.”
In light of this new openness to Christianity across China as a whole, Stark supposed a continued 7 percent annual rate of growth of the religion. At that rate, there will be 150 million Christians in China in 2020; 295 million in 2030; and 579 million in 2040.
“The growth might stop: you never know what's going to happen in the future,” Stark said. “But at the current rate, there'll be a whole heck of a lot of Christians in China awfully soon.”
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