Ian Johnson

Religion is on the rise in China, despite worries from the government. China’s diaspora’s are a source of Christianians, as a growing number of Chinese return home with their newly found religious feelings, says journalist Ian Johnson, author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, at CNN in a story on Kenya.


It is not only the Chinese in Kenya who are embracing Christianity. Many Chinese students in America, Australia and the UK are returning home Christian, says Ian Johnson, author of “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao.” Their conversion chimes with a broader trend at home: China itself is on track to be the world’s biggest Christian nation by 2030, by some estimates.
For much of the 20th century, Chinese citizens were taught to worship the founding father of the Communist Party, Mao Zedong, the revolutionary leader who destroyed much of the nation’s Buddhist and Taoist religious infrastructure during the Cultural Revolution. “There used to be 900 temples in Beijing alone,” says Johnson. “Now there are 20.”…
Mao’s death in 1976 left the Chinese searching for a new value system. Christianity seemed fresh and modern to the country’s newly urban residents, Johnson says, although more people in China are still Buddhist.
By 2017, there were between 93 million and 115 million Christians in China — around 5% of the country’s population — but fewer than 30 million practice in official churches, according to Purdue University scholar Yang Fenggang. If those estimates pan out, there would now be almost as many Christians in China as there are members of the Communist Party, which had an estimated 90 million members in 2016.
That has riled the government. Under President Xi Jinping rhetoric has grown on the need to “Sinicize” religions perceived to be Western, despite the fact many Christians in China do not feel “un-Chinese or foreign,” says Johnson.
Today, only state-sanctioned Christian organizations are legal in China. Overcrowded state churches run as many as 5 services a day and their pastors’ wages are paid by the government, says Johnson. The alternatives are so-called house churches which operate illegally but can offer a more personal ministry, with pastors on first-name terms with their congregation…
In Chinese state media, the clampdown on faith goes largely unreported and Christianity is “virtually invisible,” says Johnson — the government doesn’t want to “encourage anyone to think about religion.”

More at CNN.

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