jeudi 18 avril 2013

The emergence of a new type of Christians in China

Ashley-Marie Maxwell

CUNFU, Chen, TIANHAI, Huang, “The emergence of a new type of Christians in China”, 2004.

This article, divided into two parts, discusses the resurgence of Catholicism and Protestantism in China after the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949. The authors argue that Catholics had gone underground during the Cultural Revolution in order to safeguard their Church and their beliefs. After the crisis had passed, they resurfaced just as strong as before. While this remains unverified (due to the lack of research in this area), the authors believe that this contributed greatly to the strong presence of Christians in China today. Christian traditions are especially strong in the southeastern province of China such as Wenzhou, and the coastal provinces which border Shanghai on the East coast of the country. Demographically speaking, the churchgoing population of Wenzhou is made up of businessmen/businesswomen and professionals. The interesting part of the study however, deals with the demographics of the coastal city of Longgang, where the churchgoers are formerly peasants now turned successful businessmen, making Longgang the “first peasant city” of China (185). Beyond the rapid economic growth seen in Longgang, there is a staggering amount of Christians. The authors of the article expect that close to 4700 churchgoers practice their religion in this region however, the exact number is unknown because of the large turnover of faithfuls shuffling in and out on a regular basis, notwithstanding the underground population of ‘secret’ worshippers and unbaptized faithfuls.
According to a questionnaire passed around among the congregants of Longgang, the Christian Chinese had a major transformation in the workforce. Most Christians had previously been illiterate peasants, impoverished from generation to generation. However, this new wage of faithfuls consisted of successful farmers, businessmen and students. Amongst these people were born “Boss Christians” (189) or in other words, private business owners who were educated and rich. Generally speaking, these Bosses are close to the Church and contribute in one way or another to its growth. The second part of the article deals with the statuses of these new Christians, as well as their characteristics comparatively to traditional Chinese Christians. Most of these new Christians are born after 1949 and are highly educated in comparison to their predecessors. These same people are considerably wealthy and contribute greatly to the development of their Church. Boss Christians are open-minded and worldly, much used to connecting with foreign cultures and working abroad. They bring this mentality to the Church and take charge of congregational activities like Bible classes and social gatherings (192). The Boss Christians have also been acting as mediators between the government and the Church, where important frictions still remain. By organizing lush parties with government officials, the authors conclude that Boss Christians are excellent at dealing with problems between both parties. They also have their hand in the development of democracy by pushing for a voting system within the Church. According to the authors, this has greatly influenced the communities surrounding the churches and the Boss Christians. Conclusively, it is still too early to determine their exact role in society as well as their progression however; it is clear that so far the new wave of Christians has greatly changed since 1949 and continues to evolve as time progresses.

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