The Chinese government is planning to introduce its own brand of Christian theology, the state-backed China Daily website reported last week. “The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture,” Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
The comments were made at a seminar on the sinicization of Christianity in Shanghai, part of an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), China’s state-run protestant church.
The article announcing the move included information about a five-year campaign to promote Christian theology in China that began in 2013. The campaign “will provide theological guidance for church rostrums in China and will promote the positive and correct theological thinking with a range of publications, exchanges, discussions and evangelism,” the China Daily article said.
“This will encourage more believers to make contributions to the country’s harmonious social progress, cultural prosperity and economic development,” said Gu Mengfei, deputy secretary-general of the National Committee of the TSPM in the same article. A spokesman from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: “The emphasis on believers’ contribution to ‘harmonious social progress’ and the need for Christianity to ‘adapt to China’s national condition’ echo past remarks on the role of religion in promoting social harmony and national unity.
“Although Wang did talk in more specific terms about the construction of Chinese Christian theology, it is difficult to predict what this will look like in practice. The main purpose, however, may be to remind Christians that their allegiance is to the country, and the Party, first.”Now, before you get all up in arms about this, I ask a simple question. Is this substantially different from the entrepreneurial Christianity practiced among American Evangelicals in which the church is operated like a business, the "gospel" or theology marketed like a product, and the chief evaluator the sales volume or customer base of the church?
Of course, I am NOT suggesting that China's move is good or that it will render a faithful Christianity but I am admitting that this is the path (albeit non-governmental in our case) that a significant segment of American Christianity has chosen. Even those not included under the category of market driven evangelicalism are not immune from the pressure to look, act, and sound like this force. Perhaps China has seen that the best way to derail Christianity is to co-opt Christian theology, doctrine, faith, and practice. Liberal mainline Protestantism and the mega church movement among evangelicals have done a pretty effective job of this so far (apart from governmental interference). I will not go further that the American penchant to define religious freedom purely as the freedom of worship is not far off from an attempt to do in a democracy what China is doing in a communist oligarchy. Just something for you to think about. . .