Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: July 2010

The Changing face of global Christianity: China

China’s youth once trundled across the countryside spreading communism. Now, they’re spreading God’s word.

[ Read it all, via NPR.]

Last year I was invited by another priest in the Diocese of Tennessee to give a series of reflections on “changing Christianity” during their parish retreat.  I enjoyed it a lot.  Part of what I spoke about was the changing demographics of Christianity around the world.  Technically speaking it has been incorrect to talk of Christianity as a “western” faith for quite a while, but we are finally beginning to catch onto what that means.

Nestorian Cross & Lotus

Not the first: Cross & Lotus from the ancient Church of the East in China

One big barometer of change are the increasing numbers of Christians in China, now thought to outnumber the official membership of the communist party.  When I was doing the research for my presentation, I found estimates claiming that, should current trends continue, there will be approximately 175,095,000 Christians in China by 2025 and that they will make up around 12% of the population, making China the country with the third largest population of Christians in the world, behind the US and Brazil (because of the sheer size of China, the same number is obviously a much smaller percentage of the population).  Some analysts predict that China will have the worlds largest population of Christians by 2050.

The question is, what will an economically powerful China with a large Christian minority look like?  What will be the ramifications for Christianity itself?  To put things in perspective, most historians I’ve read place the percentage of Christians in the Roman Empire at the time of legalization under Constantine, to have been between 10-15%.  We know the major influence Roman culture had on the development of Christianity… what will the Chinese influence be?

There are obviously many positives (from my perspective) in this news, but there is also the troubling matter of nationalism wrapped in theological garb which seems to be hinted at in at least some of the comments in the interview.  Is it any worse than “God bless America?”  I don’t know, but given the propensity of Christians to claim chosen status for their nations at various points in history (Rome, the Byzantines, English, Germans, Russians to name a few–all have claimed divine sanction for their policies and wars) it is something we need to be aware of.

So, what do you think, what might be some of the contributions of a surging Chinese Christianity?

Repurposed hymn board

Anna and I saved an old hymn board from the trash heap a while ago and I took some time to clean it up.  After some thinking about different ways of using it (is there a way to fit cork board on it, maybe we could use it to leave notes, lists etc…) I came up with the idea of finding some magnetic stainless steel (some of it’s not magnetic you know) and cutting it into strips the same size as the original letters and numbers that would’ve slid into the slots.  [Credit where credit is due: I *did* get the idea for a stainless steel magnetic board from a project Anna did with the youth at Trinity Winchester several years ago].

After hanging and leveling the board (which I did with one of these things), finding the right gauge of metal, getting some upright metal snips (like these, only with the red handle) that were sharp enough to cut it while being angled enough to keep the metal from cutting me, I measured out the sizes we’d need and went to work.   A little over an hour including regular talk and water breaks, and viola, we had a great place for the magnetic poetry that had been displaced by our new non-magnetic stainless-steel fridge when we moved into the house.

I’ve also found it’s a good way to get over writer’s block and it adds some fun to the office/library.  Take a closer look:

magnetic poetry on the hymn board

To add to the effect, here’s one of the songs I listened to as I worked.  David Olney’s Jerusalem Tomorrow.

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