Aikman on impact of Christianity in China


By China Aid Association

David Aikman

China Aid Association and the Institute for Faith and Public Policy co-sponsored a seminar on “Christianity, Culture and the Future of China” at Midwest University on June 22 at which speakers from government and academia introduced and analyzed various aspects of the growth of Christianity in China.

Attendees included Midwest students, church leaders with Chinese backgrounds, human rights lawyers and academics. The main organizers of the event were ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu and Midwest professor Dr. Peter Ko, a Korean-American.

David Aikman (photo right), author of “Jesus in Beijing” and former Beijing-based Time Magazine correspondent was one of the keynote speakers.

In his speech on “The Impact of Christianity on China’s Future,” Aikman said that, based on its swift economic development, China was poised to become a superpower in the 21st century. But extremely serious social problems, most notably government corruption and a serious lack of social morality are leading to a cultural crisis.

The Chinese government’s attempts to address the crisis in ethics and morality by promoting a revival of Confucianism and a harmonious society have been unsuccessful. He said that as early as in 2002, Chinese elites and intellectuals were already pointing out that the West’s capitalist and democratic systems were the products of Christianity.

Aikman said that with the current swift expansion in the numbers of Christians in China, by the time China achieves superpower status, Christians in China could make up more than 25% of the population. That is to say, China would be Christianized country. That would not just be God’s blessing on China, but on the entire world. He added that although he might not live to long enough to see a Christianized China, some of those attending the seminar would live to see that day.

Scott Flipse, deputy director of policy and research for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,  said U.S. foreign policy on human rights toward China and North Korea was “broken.”

He singled out for criticism what he called “the Clinton problem,” that is, the lack of consistency in U.S. policy and attitude toward China’s human rights record under President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For instance, in 1991, President Clinton called the Chinese Communist leadership “butchers,” but in 2000, he called them “strategic partners.”

Secretary of State Clinton said in 2009 on her fist trip to China that human rights “should not interfere” with other strategic issues such as security, environment and economic issues, but a year later, she said that the Chinese Communist Party was on “the wrong path of history and doomed.”

Because of this inconsistent rhetoric, the Chinese Communist leadership views religious freedom and the rule of law as being of passing political importance and only important during U.S. election campaigns. The Bush administration’s overall human rights policy was much the same, he said.

Flipse advocated establishing a long-term, transparent and consistent human rights policy. He said that as China undergoes this important process of social transformation, the United States ought to be the voice of conscience, to boldly criticize the Chinese Communist leadership for its human rights abuses and stand clearly on the side of brave Chinese who are defending human rights and civil rights and are advancing human rights in China.

Mark Chuanhang Shan, an academic with a background in China’s house churches, spoke about how “Christianity is Transforming Citizenship and Civil Society in China.” He said that sociological analysis of civil rights and the development of a civil society shows that churches and Christian believers are promoting the development of China’s civil society.

Based on the 19th and 20th century model of British industrial workers and the role they played in promoting citizenship rights through parish regions and in light of the current actual situation in China, these are the four major civil rights that Chinese citizens need: civil rights, political rights, social rights, and rights to religious freedom. These can be achieved in a real sense through crosspollination of law, community, politics and culture, and ethics, which would then promote progress in the development of a civil society that ultimately will result in a democratic society.

Christianity is already playing this role. Through the self-initiated rights defense efforts of the church and Christian lawyers and by relying on swiftly developing church communities and Christian ethics—two critical supporting factors that no other religion, political party, intellectual arena or civic group can offer—Christianity is currently and will ultimately lead to a fully formed citizenship society in China.

The next speakers were two educators with Chinese house church background whose topic was “House Churches and Education in China.” They said that if China is to realize the vision of a Christianized China articulated by the late Jonathon Chao, then the development and establishment of Christian education must be emphasized. They cited the example of the Miao minority group in Guizhou province, who were lifted out of backwardness into being a developed minority group by the evangelism and Christian education of missionaries in pre-1949 China, but who have now sunk back into cultural backwardness.

They explained the importance of providing Christian education for the next generation in China, and shared their experiences over the past decade in setting up Christian nursery schools and other schools. They believe that to change China, the current appalling educational system must be changed, and that requires more churches, more Christian schools and organizations to participate in Christian education in China. Christian education in China faces many challenges; for example, a serious shortage of teachers. This is one area where the support of overseas Christian organizations is needed.

Missouri state representative Lindell Shumake spoke next, on “Christian Perspectives on Legislating.” He explained the relationship between Christian faith and lawmaking, and reiterated the foundational principle enunciated in the Declaration of Independence that man enjoys God-given rights and how this is the guiding principle of law-making in the United States.

He talked about a law that he had just helped to get passed that gave every Missouri citizen the right to pray publicly in any setting, including schools and government buildings and that gave students the right to refuse to take elective classes that conflicted with their religious beliefs and gave schools the right to use religious material in the classrooms. He also explained the great impact Christian faith has on families, and how a strong and healthy nation is the result of healthy families. Finally he emphasized that, as Christians, obeying God will sometimes mean being unable to obey the government; this is as it should be.

In “American Churches and Mission to China,” Rev. Lewis reviewed the history of foreign churches and missionaries in offering evangelistic support in China and the important role they played. Anglo-Scottish evangelist Robert Morrison initiated the modern evangelistic work in China, and along with many other missionaries from many other countries, they helped China in many ways, including in education, and through medical missions and humanitarian assistance.

Then Lewis’s organization partnered with Chinese church leaders to help them, not to lead them, in setting up Bible training centers, training church leaders in a low key way. These centers have been operating for 17 years and have trained a large number of mainland church leaders, proving that this kind of partnership is successful.

He said that his organization has only one aim: to serve God in what he is doing in China. Christianity is growing rapidly in China, but lacks sufficient training to support this revival and protect orthodox doctrine and theology. The Macedonian Call has already sounded, and leaders from all over the world have responded and are serving. The training has given to many church leaders a strong foundation in the faith, spiritual development, a better understanding of the Bible and apologetics, as well as physical and spiritual correction.

Chinese church leaders approve of this type of cooperative relationship and hope that through even more training they can undertake the responsibility of the Great Commission. The vision of “Back to Jerusalem” will be realized one day.

A Chinese Christian human rights lawyer who has spent many years in prison spoke on “Christian Faith and the Human Rights Defense Movement in China.” Through a review and summarization of the history and reality of China, he gave an introduction of the spread of Christianity in China and the rise of the rights defense movement, and summarized the role played by Christian intellectuals and Christian lawyers in the rights defense movement.

He stressed that democratization is the only future for China, but currently there is no traditional culture that can take up this responsibility; only through the motivation of the Christian sense of justice can Christians and the church change China. There is no other way.

Finally, Pastor Bob Fu spoke briefly, summarizing the speakers’ messages into three main points:

1. China has already undergone a transformation, especially an economic transformation

2. China needs to continue to change, to make improvements in human rights and other areas, in order to become a super-power

3. Two factors are vital to this new transformation: the efforts of citizens in China and international support.

In the afternoon, seminar participants attended Midwest University’s commencement ceremony, during which Pastor Bob Fu was given an honorary doctorate.