Fenggang Yang on Christian Growth in China
Articles, Blog

Fenggang Yang on Christian Growth in China

August 29, 2019


– Well good afternoon everyone. Thanks for coming out. I’m Tom Landy, I’m the Director
of the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture. The McFarland Center sponsors
lectures, conferences, programs, other special events that impact questions
of meaning, morality, and mutual obligation on campus. You can find all of our programs online at holycross.edu/mcfarlandcenter,
including today’s talk. So we’ll be so good you’ll want to go back and tell your friends to watch to it and that will be online
in a couple of days. One of the McFarland
Center’s major initiatives, Catholics and Cultures, explores
Catholic life and practice around the globe. I’m happy to point out that our website, catholicsandcultures.org will cross a great threshold this week. We’re just on the cusp of
one million page views, which excites me, about half
of those in the last year. So we’ve been around for about four years and it keeps growing, so far at a mathematically
exponential rate. I don’t know how far that can keep going. I’m happy about that. And we have a scholarly
journal that we launched a year and a half ago called
the Journal of Global Catholicism and that’s about to pass
5,000 page downloads, which is pretty good
for scholarly journal. So I’m happy about both
of those of things. Among the 25 or so countries
featured on the site, so far, I’ve had the pleasure to
make a few visits to China with a good friend and
document religious life there around Shanghai and rural
areas of Hebei outside Beijing and minority villages in
southwest Hunan province. The state of Christianity
in China is often difficult for outsiders to comprehend. In terms of shear numbers
Christianity is flourishing to a degree that no
one could have imagined, 10, 15, certainly 20 years ago, despite a turbulent history of religious suppression and persecution. And even today, there
are continued stories of church closings and
persecution that go on. Despite all that, some
predict that China may have the world’s largest population of Christians by the year 2030. So how is that possible? I’m grateful today to have
America’s foremost authority on Christianity in China
explore this with us. Fenggang Yang is professor of sociology and Founding Director of
the Center for Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University. His research focuses on
the sociology of religion, religious change in China, and on immigrant religion
in the United States. Professor Yang’s newest book,
which is due out very soon, which I hoped he might bring,
he hoped he might bring, and I’d hoped we’d have it for today, but is a really interesting book. It’s Brill’s Atlas of Religion in China, Social and Geographical Context, and it really breaks down,
from what I understand, a look at China from a global perspective and I think that’s going to
be a tremendous contribution. He’s author of Religion in China, Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule and Chinese Christians in America, Conversion, Assimilation,
and Adhesive Identities. He’s co-edited more than 10 books and he’s Founding Editor
of the Review of Religion in Chinese Society. Professor Yang was elected
and served as President of the Society for the
Scientific Study of Religion and currently serves
as the first President of the East Asian Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. His media interviews have appeared on NPR, The New York Times, Washington
Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, The
Economist, CNN, and BBC. He’s here with his wife Joann. Please to have her here and introduce her. And his talk today is one of
the Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity. We’re grateful to John
Deitchman and his family who’ve made it possible for us to do that. So please join me in
welcoming Fenggang Yang. (audience applauds) – Thank you. Thank you Tom for the very
generous introduction. Thank you for the invitation
and for making this possible. And thank you all for being here to hear me talking about
the Christian growth in China. I allude this to the
New Roman Empire idea, is about four years ago when
I visited Italy in Milan, I met a professor. And when I talked with him, his studies of the ancient Roman Empire and the first thing he said to me is, I think China is the New
Roman Empire, the U.S. is not. And you know thinking
about Christianity grow out of a pagan environment, that’s more like China
today, rather than the U.S. The U.S. was started with the Puritans and immigrants from Europe
who were already Christian. So this was the idea, starting from there. And when we decided to about the topic, we didn’t
know what would happen in the coming weeks. And just four weeks ago, there’s the agreement
between Vatican and China. That’s kind of a breakthrough. Finally China and Vatican
reached certain agreement, even though nobody knows
what’s in the agreement. It’s not public. But we do know this last
week two bishops from China went to Rome for the Bishop’s
Conference, Bishop’s Synod. And two Bishops from
China, for the first time, were able to travel
formally, openly, rather than doing anything underground. And these two Bishops, it
happens to be one from Chengde, Hebei Province, that’s my Province. I’m from Hebei Province. There are many Catholics
in Hebei Province. Perhaps a quarter of all Catholics
reside in Hebei Province. And the other Bishop is from
Shaanbei, Shaanxi Province. Used to be Yan’an Diocese, now they want it to be Yulin Diocese. He happened to be someone who went to the Catholic University of
America to study sociology and I got my PhD in sociology from the Catholic University of America, so we know each other. So it’s really interesting
to see things happening between China and Vatican
and the churches in China and some of the people that
I really know in person. So it’s a very interesting thing, very interesting development. Now today, on this topic, for those who know about
Chinese Christianity, the history of it, you know
the history can trace back very long time ago, but we will not focus on that. We start with the continuous
presence for this time. That’s when Matteo
Ricci and another Jesuit who went to China in the late 16th Century and made a successful mission. And Matteo Ricci is a very
famous scholar in China, highly respected, and he
managed to get to China, go to the mainland and traveled northward, eventually walked into Beijing and met with the Ming Emperor and he was allowed to stay in the capital. And eventually he died in
Beijing, buried in Beijing. What’s interesting is, his tomb is in the cemetery, is in the Communist Party
School of Beijing City. So if you want to visit
Matteo Ricci’s tomb, you have to pass the
gate of the Party School, the Communist Party School. And actually it is a site many
people would make a visit. And now we have a Jesuit Pope. It’s meaningful, I’ll say more about that. Then the Protestant presence
starts about 200 years ago. Without talking too much
about before the PRC, the People’s Republic of China that’s established in 1949 by
the Chinese Communist Party. And quickly around that time, when then communists took
power in mainland China, not including Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan and there were about
three million Catholics, now give or take 300,000. Some scholars say there were 3.3 million. The Chinese Communist Party said oh there were only 2.7 million Catholics. There is some disagreement. And the Protestants, it’s about a million. In other words, the Christians
around 1950 in China, every three Catholics there
would be one Protestant. Now what happened in China? For the first 30 years, there were suppression and
eradication of religion. The first 15 years there
are increased suppression of all religions, not just Christianity, but also Buddhism, Taoism,
Islam, or folk religion. Then in 1966, when the
Cultural Revolution started, all religious sites were closed down. It’s eradication. There was no single
church, temple, or mosque open for religious service
for the Chinese for 13 years. From 1966 to 1979, all were closed down. But starting in 1979 when the
new regime, Deng Xiaoping, the new leader. Under the new leadership he changed the direction of the party from political struggles
to economic development. Deng says yeah we could allow religions to reopen their sites. And since 1979, the
policy overall, I call it, Toleration with Restrictions. There is greater tolerance
of religion since 1979, but there are always restrictions, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes restrictions are not enforced, but they are always there. And also some historians
who have studied China find that about a half
a million Christians really died of unnatural death, meaning it could be imprisoned, tortured, and maybe starved to
death in the 1980s, 1960s. Half a million disappeared. Even though that so many people died, but the number of Catholics from 1950 to 1980 stayed about the same. Started with three million in 1950 and by 1980, around that time, when the Chinese Communist Party released a document called the
Document Number 19 of 1982, that is a very important document that set the new tone or the
basis for the religious policy, the Toleration with Restriction policy. That has been in place
since then, since 1982. And in that document it says there were three million Catholics now. In other words, even though there was no church open for 13 years, the number of Catholics
remained about the same. And then, since then
there’s a gradual increase. By 2010, there are different counts and the Chinese government said in 2010 there were 5.3 million Catholics. That’s an increase from three million. But an institute, a Catholic
Institute of Holy Spirit in Hong Kong, they studied carefully, examining each diocese and find that there may be
about 12 million Catholics. So, more than two times more. Yeah, it’s more than two times of the government number. Then there are others who say, there’s some international
missionary organizations who watch, monitor
churches in China closely, they said well actually there could be as many as 20 million Catholics in China. Then the Pew Research Center in 2011 released a report of global Christianity. They says well let’s do
a conservative estimate, based on the information we know, based on surveys and also
some regional studies, case studies, they came out with a number of nine million Catholics
in China in 2010. The Protestant start with one million or less than one million. It reached three million, the same number as Catholics in 1980. From there the growth pick up. In 1990, there are 4.5
million Protestants. In 2000, 10 million, in 2010, 23 million. These are official numbers
from the China government. The latest from the Chinese government is that 38 million Protestant. This is in the white paper on religion that was released in April this year. So it’s somewhere, 38 million
almost 40 million Protestants, but these numbers are only
those adult Protestants attending officially approved churches. And those who are not
baptized, who are under 18, or who attend non-approved churches, that’s what we usually call
house churches are not included in the government number. And outside estimates, outside China, there are again the international
missionary organizations often say there are at least
80 million Protestants in 2010. And Catholics Protestant together, there should be more than 100
million Christians in China. And there is a Center for the
Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell that published the Atlas of Global Christianity and the last one was published in 2009 that had that number. There is a very influential
book called Operation World. It’s very popular among
Evangelical Christians that also have the number of a 100 million Christians in China. There are several other ones. Even some internal conversation or talks by high officials of China might have said there are more than 100 million Christians in China. That’s Christianity Today, the magazine, that’s popular among Protestant Christians based in the Chicago area. They had a report in 2008 that the Director of the
Religious Affairs Bureau in China Mr. Ye Xiaowen, said in
some internal conversation, internal conference meetings that there were more than
130 million Christians. That’s a big threat to them. All right, so there’s a different number. But you know scholars
tend to be conservative. We tend to say you know, you have to be able to verify. The scholars projection, not projection, their estimate, they all start in 1980 with three million. That’s perhaps pretty
close to the reality. But by time 1990, there were 20 million rather than only 3.5 million Protestant. And by the year 2000 there
should be over 50 million instead of 10 million as
the government counted. In other words most
Protestants do not belong to the official church, the so called Three-Self Churches. Most of the people attend house churches. That’s probably true, even though you may not
hear different stories, especially from those
scholars mostly aligned with the government position. Again, the Pew Research
Center’s report in 2011, that in 2010 in China, probably you know conservative estimate, there would be 58 million Protestant plus nine million Catholic. That’s a conservative estimate. And totally together that would be 5% of the Chinese population. 5%, that’s still small. That’s not a majority,
it’s a very small minority. But what’s interesting is, if 58 million is a solid estimate, if we take that number, we can see the growth
in the last 30 years, from 1980 to 2010. The annual average growth rate, and it’s accumulated,
a compound growth rate it’s more than 10%. Annual, what does that mean? It means every 100 Christians this year, you will find 10 new
believers within this year. Next year you will have 110, then you will find another
11 to add the flock. And so that’s the 10
percent annual growth. If we take the earlier years, earlier three decades into
account, the growth rate is 7%. That’s modest. Most people would say yeah, actually the churches have been growing much faster than this, but there are years that not growing. There are churches that
don’t grow that fast. On average this is the situation. And we did a big survey in 2007 and those estimates are
from mostly church sources or government censored. And then we tried to do social service to find out whether we can
get close to the numbers that we get from other sources. And with more than 7,000
cases in the survey, we estimated that there
3.2% of people openly admit that they are Christian. You know the surveys
you respond to stranger. Would you tell a stranger
what you believe? Well in the U.S. of course, everyone is, well most people are very
open about their faith. But this is not the case in China. If you were a Christian there could an act of
consequences in the public if you admit that. So not everyone openly
admit to be Christian if they are Christian. So there’s at least 3.2% openly Christian. Then there are peoples, we also asked many other questions. One of the questions is, you know are a set things. There are Guan Yu,
Buddha, Laozi, and Jesus. Do you believe in Jesus? Right that’s another way to get people. And we find there are
2.7%, additional 2.7% admit that they believe in Jesus. In China when you say
you believe in Jesus, actually I think the
wording is Jesus Christ, that’s pretty specific. Unlike in this culture, everyone knows about Jesus Christ. But in China, it’s not in the textbook, it’s not in their daily conversation. If you admit that you
know about Jesus Christ, know about, that may be a hint that you are somehow
close to Christianity. There are also those people who said oh you know I don’t
believe in Jesus Christ. I am not a Christian, but I sometimes read the
Bible, go to the church, even pray to God. Are they Christian? Together there’s three types of people, there are adding together is
about 7%, 7.1% in the survey. So when the Pew Research estimate is only 5% of Christian in China, we know it’s a conservative estimate. Probably it’s very hard to
say there are fewer than 5% of Christian in China today. There are different ways to get this. Self-identified Christians, 33.5 million, self-identified plus those
who believe in the existence of Jesus Christ is 61.8 million. Then if you add those who
have some Christian practice, the number increase to 74.5 million. Then if you just say do
you believe in Shangdi? Well for those know Chinese, you know that even
though Shangdi the word, it means God, or supreme God, this word came from
ancient Chinese classics, but nowadays if you see Shangdi, most likely you are referring to the Christian understanding of God. We did not have the world
(speaking foreign language) in the survey. That’s a big mistake, we realize. There maybe Catholic
who don’t say Shangdi, but they would say
(speaking foreign language). That’s the Catholic way of saying God. But together there are 85 million people, say yeah I believe in God. Now about the growth in the coming years. It depends on what have happened in the last almost 70 years. What are the social factors
or spiritual factors for the Christian growth in China? This is very remarkable
growth, very rapid growth. It has not happened
that often in the world or in human history. Occasionally you will hear
rapid growth here or there. For example, in the 1960s to the 1990s Christianity grow very
fast in South Korea. You know from about 5% reached totally, Catholics, Protestant together, nowadays about 30% of the population. And the growth happened in three
decade, 1960s to the 1990s. In ancient Roman Empire Christianity grow, expanded remarkably in the fourth century, third and fourth century. Before that, there are very obscure, small minorities in the empire. So people, believers would
see it’s all by God’s power, whether you grow or not. As a sociologist we look
at the social factors for the growth. What have happened in China? I think there are major social processes, large scale changes in China. The market transition
since 1978, urbanization. You know I grew up in a village. When I grew up in China,
more than 80% of the people are in the rural, were in the rural areas. Nowadays, about 60% are in
the urban areas already. The percentage does not really, may not make you realize
how large the scale is. It’s the entire U.S. population moved from rural to
urban within two decade. That’s the scale in China. There are 300 to 500 million people became urban residence in
the last 30 years or so. Huge change. Villages are torn down, become high rise apartment buildings. And we know the high speed rail built and many of the places
they go through villages, the villages disappear. Now it’s all become urban places. And so urbanization, migration. There are at least 200
million to 300 million are called the floating population. That is, they go to the
coastal provinces to find jobs, but they return home
for the spring festival, the Chinese New Year. 200 million to 300 million traveling back and forth every year. And then many also simply
settle in the urban areas. Family structure changed. You know, I have five
brothers, so six siblings. That’s my generation. I’m the fifth one, so I
have four older brothers. But the younger one, only one child or two child, two children. Family structure changed dramatically within a generation. And now we have now some
surveys of Chinese students recently in the U.S. We find more than 80% of
the student from China don’t have a sibling. It’s very different. I know what a sibling is. But no sibling, that’s the change. Community structure changed. I grew up in a commune. In the rural areas it was commune. And in the urban areas is the work unit. Like you belong to the work unit, from birth to death,
everything was taken care of, but now it’s not. It’s market economy. You find a job. It’s separate from everything else. So it’s a community structure changed. China is very well
connected with the world. There are many foreigners work in China. And another factor is the social anomie. If you visit China you will
hear people talking about all the moral issues,
moral problems, crisis. There are many incidences
often in the news or social media talk about
those terrible thing happening. Like old people walking
across the street and fell. Nobody dare to rescue, to help, because the helper can
be sued and pay fine. There are lot similar kind
of moral issues in society. All this factors, all of this, I think are in favor of Christian growth. Christianity is a response to the changes and to the problems in Chinese society. Many Chinese are open
to the Christian message because of the social, structural changes and also the facing the
moral crisis in society. Other factors for Christian growth. In the early history, the
history of early church in the Roman Empire, there were some plagues, the epidemics. And after every epidemic
the proportion of Christians become higher, because Christians
take care of each other and the death rate during those plagues is much lower than the pagans. Anyway so this, really one
of the natural disasters happened actually, it’s often
the church become stronger. And that somehow is the case in China too. In 2003 there was the SARS. How many of you remember SARS? Okay, it was very scary. But what’s interesting, you know, that’s a is an epidemic, is a contamination, how do you say that? The disease was spread very fast. It’s better not to be
interacting with people, not in contact with anyone in order to be away from
the virus or bacteria. What’s interesting is, around 2003, many so called house
churches in urban areas, they used to be small, family gatherings, and suddenly they become
large congregation. And these are the so called
house churches today in China, with like several dozens
or several hundred people, gather on Sunday for worship service, but they still call
themselves house churches. And they become public in several cities in 2003 or 2004 or 2005,
around those few years. Then in 2008 there was the
Sichuan Earthquake, huge. All right the magnitude is
more than 8.2 or something. All right, it’s devastating. What’s interesting is, in Sichuan Province
there are many Christians and of course others too,
poured in, in service to help the disaster relief. And many Christians went
there, do their work. There’s the political factors effecting the continuous growth of
Christianity in China. That is, if you have a policy that maintain the current
level of control or restriction or you increase the
suppression, more persecution, more like the Cultural Revolution before, or another thing could happen is China, the government can change. The Communist Party could
collapse, who knows. That’s another possibility
we can entertain, even though that’s very
less likely to happen. The Chinese Communist Party
is very strong in China. But you know thinking about possibilities. With these three possibilities, or more likely the more
restriction and persecution, there’s two possibilities. We can see what would happen
in the coming decades in China. Assuming the major social
processes don’t change much, you know there’s still
continuous urbanization, migration, and family
structure is not easy to change with all that we can do some projection to look at what could
happen in the coming decade. If we follow the 10% growth rate that has happened since 1980 or we use a lower rate that’s
come from 1950 to 2010, and that includes some years,
very intense suppression, even eradication, no
one can publicly gather for worship service, even include that, that would be on average, there’s
still 7% growth each year. So from 2010 to 2050, this is the growth potential. The 10% growth is simply too fast, by 2040 every Chinese
would become Christian. I think that’s simply beyond imagination. And so we can take that
off from the table. By 7%, yeah, you know this is more modest, there are intense suppression
sometimes, or some areas. With 7% increase, Protestants alone, by 2020 there would be
more than 140 million. By 2030, it could be 16% of the Chinese population
become Christian. 2040, if the growth
continues it would reach 33%. 2050, two-third of the population. I think this is simply beyond imagination. When I first did this
projection, I did not believe it. It took a very long time, and asked around, asked many people, eventually I said, you
know I cannot deny this, if the growth continue, if
people still evangelize, if the social processes still, you know that what’s are in place will continue to be in place, this would be the situation. In the U.S. there are about
150 million Protestant and China could catch that
number around 2020, or 2022. And all Christians in the
U.S., Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians
together is about 225 million in 2014 according to
the Pew Research Center. You know, Protestant alone in China could reach that number by 2030. That’s only 12 years from now. And there are also the Catholics. The Catholics of course,
they have continuous growth. Even though we start with nine million, the conservative estimate,
and with the lower rate, that’s by the government
numbers for the year 1980 or starting from 1950
and the growth is 1.9%, it still increase and up
to 18 million in 2050. Or we can say this way, in 2020 there could be 10
to 13 million Catholics. In 2030 there would be 13
to 18 million Catholics by those two growth possibilities. And so if you add Catholics
to the number of Protestant, there’s almost no doubt by 2030, there will be more Christians
in China than in the U.S. This is what happened in
the ancient Roman Empire, Rodney Stark is a sociologist of religion, he has this famous book on
the rise of Christianity. And he did calculation based
on all available materials. He find that the growth is
very much followed a rate, an annual rate of 3.4%. And you know starting with
the year 40 and up to 350. That’s the growth of the
numbers in the second column, or in proportion of the population. And also for those who know the history, the Roman Empire start, you
know had persecutions all along, but in 2003 there was
the great persecution, the Emperors had the edict, says you know all empire wide we need to get rid of Christian. But by then, it’s only, perhaps around 10% of the
population or less are Christian. It’s already too late. The Great Persecution in the Roman Empire only lasted for 10 years. By 313 the Edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine said let’s stop. There’s no way we can
get rid of Christians, so he changed the policy
and allowed freedom for Christians. And so here, I am sociologist, if something happened once,
there may be a pattern that could be repeated. So I wonder whether
five to 10% in an Empire could be the critical threshold. If it’s less you can
still get rid of them. But it’s passing 5% or 10%
it’s simply very hard to eradicate Christianity in the society. This is different from a small country. Empire means there’s
diversity, cultural diversity, regional differences. When some Christians
suffering in on province they can escape to another province, so they simply make the uniform policy imposed in the whole empire very unlikely. This is the map of the Roman Empire in the beginning of the fourth century. You know, only in Asia Minor perhaps there are majority Christian
in that local area, some part of Africa. But in the vast land or the coastlines, not many Christians. It’s not so easy to find
that many Christians. But that’s the beginning of
dramatic change happened. Constantine even had to convert to Christianity, the Emperor. China, this is the map we
made, Protestant Churches. They are scattered all around. Actually only one province
we did not have a record of a Protestant church. That’s the Tibetan autonomous region, even though there are
actually Protestant churches in there too. But based on data we don’t have that here. But otherwise you can see,
it’s scattered around. And this a map of all five religions that the Chinese government recognize. The yellow is the Buddhist temples, that they are the largest
member in the county, the predominant religion. And the pink counties
where the Catholic Church is number one, the largest number of religious sites are Catholic churches. And then there are Daoist, the blue, and Islamic mosques, the green, and then the Protestant churches the red. You can see in many counties, the Protestant church has already become the largest member of all religious sites. In some counties the Catholic
church is the largest number. Another thing, in the Roman Empire, the Roman’s build those
roads, highways at that time. It’s mostly for military purposes, and secondly it’s for commercial or trade. But Christians used those roads
to spread Christianity fast. And what’s going on in China? This is from official map. Is in 2016, the high speed rail. How many of you have
taken high speed train? Okay, that’s very good. It’s really fast. You know, in the past, from
Beijing to Shanghai takes more than 10 hours. It’s a whole night or more than that. Now it’s what, four hours? (coughs) It’s just make travel
so easy around China. There are also those highways, those drive paved ways. These are only railroads. And those are the things,
you know, technical, economic development
that makes it impossible to stop the Christian growth. Christians will use this
technology for evangelism. Now what’s the current situation overall. Well there have been great revivals in the last several decades, four decades in many areas suddenly
there are new churches and new gathering, but at the same time there
have been great persecutions. Yeah, people still can be
imprisoned because of faith. Yes it still happens, even though it’s not, you know there are many
prisoners in China. They are imprisoned for, they would say, oh they
have some economic crime. But there are, one case
for example, in 2003 there was a very famous case in Beijing, a pastor who was sentenced
for several years, I don’t remember exact how many years, but his crime was running
a non-approved business. But his business was
distributing the Bible. He print some Christian
books and distribute them. It was not for profit, but he was sentenced for economic crime. So there are similar cases. So persecutions still happens. And also some people may lose their jobs if they are known as Christian, especially if you work in the government and if you a professor,
university professor. Actually now it is there
are many professors who are Christian in China. They are known. But sometimes if you have a personal enemy or your supervisor does not like you, the Christian faith can
be the reason to get you. So like in Fujian Province, there are several cases of
university professors lost jobs because of the Christian faith. Recently there are campaign
in Zhejiang Province and all high school, middle school, elementary school teachers
have to fill out a form to declare your faith. If you are Christian,
there’s a possibility that you may lose your job. So great persecution and also in spite of those
persecutions and restrictions, Christianity has continued to grow. And not only grow in China, there are some Christians
in China are ambitious. They said, we have been the receivers of mission, evangelism. Now we need to take the bait and carry on evangelistic missions to the
other parts of the world. So there is a movement called the 2030. A few house church leaders
started this movement. They said by the year 2030, we want to send out 20,000
Chinese missionaries to do cross cultural missions. Many already in Central Asia working or in Southeast Asia, or in Africa. So this movement already started. In Zhejiang Province, a few years ago there was a big campaign. The Party Secretary of Zhejiang Province, just simply hated the cross. He did not like the cross. He saw so many crosses
in Zhejiang Province, too shiny, red, you know very big. He said is this the Communist world or the world of the cross? He started this campaign
to take down all crosses on church rooftops. And there were several thousand churches in Zhejiang Province. And after two and half years, about a third of all churches,
their crosses are taken down. And many people hurt during the process, because many Christians
tried to protect the crosses and a few were jailed for their actions. But this is, Zhejiang is
just south of Shanghai if you want to know where this are. South of Shanghai, that province, there are many churches nowadays. This is Wenzhou, that’s
a very well known area with a lot of Christian churches. And Christian churches I know in Wenzhou, in Zhejian Province, Fujian
Province, Jiangsu Province, Anhui, Hunan, you know those areas have higher number of churches. But also many in Northeastern China, some in Yunnan Province, that you visited. This is one way to show that. And this is the called
Back to Jerusalem Movement. They want to carry the
good news, the Gospel, back to Jerusalem. And once they complete that world end. (audience member speaks in the background) Yes are Uyghurs, are Muslims. The mission started in the 1940s and they began travel westward. It’s a immigrant evangelism
that the church would commission like a few families. You move westward, as western as possible,
settle there, evangelize, and then plant churches, move on. And a group of them moved
from the coastal areas to Xinjiang and settled there. That’s why there are churches there. And then in 1949 the could not move further west, they stopped. Many people settled in those area. This line is interesting. This is from Google Globe and looking there are movement
from coastal areas of China to Xinjiang to Jerusalem. What happens if Pope
Francis, going the other way and if he walks to Beijing? What will happen to the world? I think it’s hard to imagine but exciting to think
about that possibility. Washington Post had an article, report about the Chinese
ambition of building railroad. Actually this, actual
train from eastern of China and went to Madrid, the longest rail train
journey in the world. It actually happened already. And iPhones are made in China. You know that, we often, if
you order it ships from China. With this train, it saves a lot of money for the company. It can lower the price significantly, because by flight it still costs more than by taking train. And that they can distribute
in many European countries. And China had this ambition of so called One Belt One Road initiative. Want to link with Africa and Europe. Yeah, I don’t want to
get into that too much. I want to finish quickly. Interestingly, no matter if this is for military consideration,
for economic consideration, no matter Christians
consider this as opportunity of evangelism. There are already Chinese
Christian churches and organizations in
many parts of the world. Not by people from the PRC, but by the Chinese who have
been spread all around the world in the last century or so. Very much like the Jews were
scattered in the Roman Empire. And think about early churches. Where are the early churches? They often, the apostles went to those Jewish communities in the hasbara. From there they established churches. And China is really increasing the capacity physically, materially and you know China now is the country that prints the most Bible. In 1987 the first copy of the
Bible was printed in China. Only you know, ’87, that’s 30 years ago. In 1989, October, about a
million copy were printed. In ’95 in July 10 million copies. This is a celebration of 10 million copies of the Bible printed. 2007, end of 2007, 50 million printed. 2012, 100 million printed. And the latest that I could find was in July of 2016, 150
million Bibles printed in China. There’s a great need
for the Bible in China. Many people want a copy, even if they are not
Christian or Christian yet. So with all the capacity
ready for evangelism. So I’m wrapping up. Napoleon once said this,
you know let China sleep. (laughs) Don’t make it awake. “When China wakes up,
the world will shake.” You know as consumers we
know the economic impact of China’s awakening. I think nowadays it’s not so easy to totally avoid made in China stuff. But is this really the economic wakening that will shake the world? Or is that the political awakening? Now has the challenge today,
the U.S. face with China, the Chinese model or the U.S. model. The Washington Consensus
or Shanghai Consensus? That already the world has felt
the challenge China propose. But that’s from the official side, the economic and political are all from the Communist Party State. How about the people? Christianity is not something the Chinese government support. To the contrary, the Chinese government try to suppress Christianity, but if the growth
continues as I project it, it will shake the world. So it’s really, I feel we’re
lucky to live in this era. Watching what’s happening
is like a big book on voting, on opening,
and watching the changes. I have been documenting all the changes of religions in China, not only Christianity but
also watching other religion. So this is the latest
book the Atlas of Religion with all the five religions documented. In addition to the five religions, we also talk about folk religion and those forbidden
religion, the black market, and also the red market, the
official approved religion, and also many in the
gray market of religion. So exciting time to do
research on religion in China. I have been ready, feel there’s great
opportunity for scholars. Thank you. (audience applauds) Sure yeah. – [Tom] Questions? Karen. – [Karen] Thank you very much. I have several questions, but persecution is not new in China. Established religion was
persecuted in traditional China, because religion was considered
a source of rebellion. So that goes way back in time. Also, from what I know, people don’t always make a
distinction when they declare themselves part of the
religious organization. They practice Buddhism
or Taoism in their lives and so when ask people
if they believe in Jesus, does that mean they won’t
have a Buddhist Priest at their funeral or they
won’t believe in Daoism at some point in their lives? Because that’s the characteristic
of Chinese religion. It always has been and I’m wondering if that’s still the case. – So that’s two questions
about the authorities, traditional China, the Imperial China always
worry about different religions and try to suppress. So it’s not new, that’s true. But the Communist China
is somewhat different because it’s openly declared
this as atheist ideology as the official orthodox ideology. If you are a Communist Party member, you have to declare to be atheist. For some years the rule
was not enforced, so laxed, but in the last five
years since Xi Jinping, there’s a clear rule, you have to declare to be atheist otherwise
you can lose your position, lose your party membership. So this somewhat different from
previous dynasties in China. So there’s ideology struggle in there. About the Chinese religiosity, Chinese traditional way of being religion. Yeah, very few Chinese in old China would have a exclusive religious identity. I’m Buddhist, so I only go to
Buddhist temples, very rare. Only those dedicated, if you become monks or nuns,
perhaps you’re more exclusive in your religious identity or belonging. Most people they don’t care that much. They would go to different
temples for different need. But I would say, that’s
a pre-modern pattern of being religious. Increasingly, if you
ask Chinese Christians, especially Protestant, Chinese Protestant tend to
be conservative in theology. They make a strong point
that we are Christian, I don’t do all the other religious thing. Even answers to worship,
it’s a big controversy, the Chinese church face. Once you become a convert can you still kneel down in front of your parents and ancestors? That’s a big thing, the
churches keep talking about it. It’s a struggle. Some pastors trying to say you know, it’s perhaps it’s not worship, it’s a veneration of ancestors. It’s not religious, but more cultural. You know, that’s Matteo Ricci approach, is when you do rituals
at the Confucius Temples you’re not worshiping Confucius
but you’re venerating, showing your respect. But we know what happened
to that teaching, right? When the Pope said you cannot do this, then the Chinese Emperor said, oh if you do not allow
Catholics in China do this, then you should leave, right? So after many years of struggles nowadays Christians tend to emphasize
exclusive identity. They try hard to get
rid of other practices. But this is not only Christian. It has happened to Buddhists too. In Buddhism there’s called (speaking foreign language) movement. Orthodox Buddhist faith,
they try to get rid of folk religion, especially
ancestor worship part and this has been a campaign
since the 1930s, 1940s, but especially in Taiwan, especially the (speaking foreign language) tradition in Taiwan. They clearly said, if you’re Buddhist, you should be Buddhist, you should not do the folk religious
thing, ancestor worship. So I see this is not as one religion thing or Western religion thing,
it’s a modern thing. If you do not distinguish
your own religion, why would people come to you? So it’s an organizational understanding. It’s better to be
differentiated from others in order to be able to
have a market share. But when we estimate
the number of Christians we have to take this into consideration. Most people actually don’t, they may say I’m Buddhist,
but I’m not religious. I’m Buddhist, I’m atheist. You will see people say that. But you know, we have to use multiple matters to say, yeah, you know there are
even those 7% of people have some either some beliefs or practice, we say, yeah, let’s count
it as 5% instead of 7%. Okay, thank you. – When I saw the chart of the quote from the Protestant churches, I assume that most of
them are evangelical. Why do you think the Evangelical movement has grown so much quicker
than Roman Catholic? – Yes, that’s a very good question. First of all, the Chinese Evangelicals are not necessarily the same
as American Evangelical. So the common theme is that
they emphasize the evangelism. As long as you’re Christian, you have to evangelize,
that’s the great commission, if you become Christian. So that’s really the Protestant idea. It starts with Martin Luther
and everyone is a priest. Not only the priests, the priests, but every believer is a priest, so you are obligated to evangelize. In China, this broad evangelical category would include Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Reform Theology, Presbyteriantism. Actually the Reform tradition in China has become a main trend, a popular, in the urban house
churches in recent years. They are very strong
anti-Pentecostal, Charismatic type. Anyway, so overall the Protestant, I think there are several
factors for their faster growth than the Catholic. First is the suppression
of Catholic church is much severe than the Protestant. Why? Because the Catholic
hierarchy is so similar to the Communist hierarchy. It’s direct power challenge. And also the Catholics
are loyal to the Pope who resides in the Vatican. The Holy See is another state. It’s loyal to another state, and the Communist Party
wants all Chinese citizen express their loyalty to
China, to the Communist Party. The Protestants, they
don’t have a foreign state to express they’re loyalty. They can cut off their ties with all foreign bodies, but
they still can be considered good Protestants, but it’s
hard to be a Catholic that way. So there’s a greater suppression
on the Catholic church. Actually for many years, to become a Bishop in the Catholic Church, it’s not really a good thing. Because at the moment of becoming Bishop, you could be missing. You know, nobody can find you anymore. No official sentence, but
the punishment is severe. So there’s organizational
reason for the less growth. You know, when you are
suppressed more severely, it is hard to grow. And then the Catholics, not as active as
Protestants in evangelism, that’s another factor. The third factor, in the
past, the Catholic growth, especially from 1900 to 1950, that first half of the 20th Century, the growth is often by family. If the father, grandfather convert, the whole family become Catholic. And Catholic families tend
to have many children. But now that advantage disappear. All married couples could
only have one child, so Catholics or Protestant
or Atheist all the same. So loss that advantage. So that, another possible factor is, Catholic Churches have strongholds in rural area, in villages and they persist. But, the growth happens
more so in the urban areas, as far as I can tell. You know the larger house
church congregations, really since 2003, is like fire really spreading. And those are Protestant churches. And so whether the Catholic theology has already adjusted to
this new urban development, that’s issue. Finally another thing is the divide between underground and
above ground church. That’s also holding the church back. You know, because in some
regions, it’s some Diocese, there are three Diocese overlapping. So like in Jiangxi for example, there can be three
Bishop claiming authority of the same place. Why? Because the old Dioceses were decided in the 1940s by Vatican. Then since 1949, early 1950s, they cutoff the ties with the Vatican and the Chinese, China has adjusted the administrative
districts so many times, so now the official church in China obey the official administrative order. Like, I’m from Chengde, Hebei, and Chengde is the Diocese, but the old, 1940s
Diocese in Shijiazhuang. So there’s a Bishop Shijiazhuang, there’s a Bishop of Chengde. Both Bishops claim the same territory. You know, if you are ordinary Catholic, you know see them, fine,
they’re both fine people, but which way should I go. I think this internal
struggle also hurt the church. Perhaps that’s a strongest motivation for the Vatican-China agreement trying to reconcile the above
ground, underground church, reduce conflict, internal conflict. So that’s why the Vatican
has repeatedly emphasized this is for pastoral purposes, not for any political reason
to reach this agreement. (audience member talking quietly) Yeah, they are underground,
is quote by quote. You know it’s really secret. The underground churches
simply are those churches under the Bishops who refuse to join the China Catholic Patriotic Association. You know, almost everyone
knows they are Catholic and this a Catholic leader, maybe not recognized as Bishop,
but at least is the Priest. They do things in open, but
they are called underground, rather than any secret. And also many, more than there’s of the above ground official Catholic Church Bishops already have become
recognized by the Holy See. That is even though they are above ground, they have no problem with Vatican. So only there are seven, there were seven Bishops, that the Chinese government
made them Bishops, the Vatican refused to recognize them. Now the new agreement is
to accept all the seven into the legitimate Episcopal
Ecclesiastic system. But there are 30 underground Bishops that the Chinese
government has not admitted into the official church. That’s one of the things
to watch, what will happen to those 30 underground
Bishops, their fate. – [Audience Member] Well
recently I’ve been rereading a French translation of St. Augustine and when I saw your lecture, it was just a coincidence that he also draws the picture of
the planet during that time and at one point he talks about the incredible abuses
that Augustine had seen executed against the Christian minority. And that was what drove him to the church. And so with the abuses
that are happening in China and then knowing that it probably increases the Christian growth, do you see the government
changing at all on that? Even though they see the abuses
helps Christian population? – I don’t think the Communist leaders understand religious dynamics. Right now there is the new campaign to suppress the churches. Right now, it’s still
going on in Hunan Province, in Jiangxi Province, in several provinces. The government still come to take down the crosses on rooftops. Some churches totally demolished. A few resistant pastors have been jailed. They haven’t learned the lesson from the Cultural Revolution
when many people were tortured but they… You know, the martyr, what’s the saying? The martyr is the seed
of growth of the church. – Blood of martyrs.
– Yeah blood of the martyrs. – So even though religious studies has been restored in China
for about four decades, I was one of them in the
1980s, they still don’t get it, don’t get this religious dynamics. – [Audience Member] I just want to make two more points is that, at that same time, late fourth century, Empress Justina had recruited mercenaries into the Imperial Army
which enabled the barbarians and the pagans to enter
into the empire peacefully and corrode it from within. So they were everywhere. They were appointed in
very strategic posts. So do you see that kind of thing happening either in the United States through much more subtle
ways, maybe through elections and appointments of non-Christian, you know, so called maybe, you know I don’t want to be (mumbles) about the Aryans, they’re
not mercenaries, but still, do you see that kind of thing happening where it can corrode
something from the inside? – Yeah, I certainly have
seen many Christians express that concern. They are maybe already in our midst. There are the authorities already have some secret operation. Actually in the Catholic
Patriotic Association and in the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee there are always people saying, oh one of the leaders was
active Communist Party member in the disguise of a priest or a pastor. Actually, among the Protestants, at least two of them were totally exposed. During the Cultural Revolution, a pastor in Shanghai, Li Chuwen he was very well recognized pastor. His preaching was very,
pretty good, very good. Many people like his sermons. But when the Red Guards came to, called the struggle meetings, he could not take that any longer. He said wait a minute I’m
actually a Communist Party member. So his membership was exposed, so the Party had to take
him away from the church and put him aside for a couple of years, then gave him a government position. Eventually Li Chuwen became the
representative in Hong Kong, representative of China,
mainland China in Hong Kong. So his history all known in China. So he was a secret Party
member, Communist Party member. And there another one was a
CASS vice-president, Zhao Fusan. Zhao Fusan used to be
a Christian, a pastor. He was a leader in the
Three-Self Patriotic Committee of Beijing Municipality. But in the 1960s he was
recruited to be a researcher in the Institute of World Religions and eventually he became
a vice-president of CASS, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Then he… You know, you change as a scholar is fine, but then he had meetings for
(speaking foreign language) those internal party operations. He became open as a
Communist Party member. But what’s interesting is,
Zhao Fusan left China in 1989 when a student movement, the Tiananmen Square incident happened, when the tanks rolled on Tiananmen Square and Zhao Fusan, he was visiting
either in the U.S. or France he refused to go back to China. So he was (speaking foreign language), he was removed from CASS, but in his later years, at
least a close friend of him in a article said, he
reconciled with Christ. He might be a true Communist Party member, but before his death, he
became a real Christian. So even those mercenaries, those people mixed into the church, you know everyone has the
possibility of conversion. (audience member talking quietly) – [Tom] Can I just (mumbles) time for one or two more
questions from others. So I just want to, go ahead please. – [Female Audience Member]
So when you talked about the new growth of Christian in China when the social structure doesn’t change. But I from Zhejiang Province
Province and I’m Catholic and this summer when I went back home, I realized that they
set out a metal detector and you have to swipe
your ID to go into church and people who are under 18 years old cannot go to church anymore. And I think that’s not
only in Zhejiang (mumble). But that really concerns me, because a year ago it wasn’t like that. When I was little I played in church. So does that change your
vision of (mumbles)? – I know that has been happening and also if it happens
in Zhejiang Province, the technology can be easily
transported to other provinces. But in spite of those
increased restrictions, I think the growth will continue Because what happened in
the Cultural Revolution? When some priests were actually in jail or in labor camps, you cannot
openly see your priests, adults, not only children but adults. But even in that situation and after the Cultural Revolution and many people reemerged
as loyal Catholics or loyal Christians. So now, yes, there are
the increased persecution, restrictions, we know that, but the level is still quite modest. I’m sorry to say that for those who are under the persecution, but compared with the Cultural Revolution, right now the measures of persecution is still very modest, very… Yeah, there are not
that many people jailed for their faith, yet. It could happen. I think the persecution could increase, intensify in the coming years, especially under Emperor Xi. (laughs) But I think Christians will survive. – So thanks for giving us a talk and I’m just wondering (speaker drowned out by background noise) So there was people in the
rural area who maybe Christian but basically the Christian they believe is not the same as what we are. It’s like they’re believing like a very different Jesus. So do you like count them
as like Christian or not? Because they (mumbles)
believe in the Jesus, but basically they are not. – Yeah if you were a
theologian or priest or pastor you have your own
standards to say who can be considered true Christian and who can be considered not true Christian. First of all, as a sociologist, I don’t make that distinction. Second, on the theological level, you know Christianity
is a universal message, but it’s given cultures
manifest in different ways. So there’s indigenization. That happened in Christians
in many countries. You know, I spent some time in Italy, I see those Italian Catholics, they do have some things
that I don’t know there are Christian thing, but
more perhaps is really, yeah I know the pagan word
(speaking foreign language) so politically correct way to express it, but they do have
alternative spiritualties, put that way. But they have been Catholics
overall for 2,000 years and you cannot expect Chinese
Catholics do the same thing as Italian Catholics do. The Chinese speak Chinese. The Chinese language carries a message that you need to do this hermeneutics. You know you can’t deal with
certain ambiguous thing. But, I’m a Protestant Christian. And for me the Bible says clearly as long as you openly
admit you follow Christ, you’re a Christian. Nothing else. Yeah, you may have additional
beliefs or practices, but those are not as essential
as accepting Jesus Christ, the sole criteria. Ever since Pope Francis,
he became the Pope I wrote an article in Chinese and also got onto Voice
of America TV interview, I said, you know, I can imagine this Pope could visit Beijing when the China and Holy See diplomatic
relationship reestablished. I think the significance
of a visit by Pope Francis to Beijing can be more significant than the visit of Richard
Nixon to China in 1972. President Nixon’s visit to China changed world politics, but if Pope Francis visits China, that will change world politics,
economy, and spirituality. (audience member talking
in the background) I think he would love, he would do anything to do that. So clearly, he has said
this so openly, repeatedly, and made actual effort to do. The current agreement, the Vatican side made so many
compromises, it’s so clear. And the Chinese side, at least so far, look like they have the
holding ground, not giving in. But still the Pope is so positive, so optimistic about the relationship. I think it could happen. I also made bold prediction. Sociologists don’t talk about the future, we talk about the past, but I think if U.S., China
relations get worse and worse, now we are really at that tipping point, the relationship can get really bad. But the worse the relationship
between China and the U.S., perhaps the better chance for the Pope Francis to visit China, if China wants to really
stay as part of the world, rather than become isolated
from the rest of the world. So things are really, many things people may try and may plan, politically, economically, but there’s something spiritual, beyond all the political economic factors. It’s amazing to find what’s
going on in that realm. – Thank you very much.
– Thank you. (audience applauds) Thank you.

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