12 Views of Chinese Society on Christianity

By CCD contributor: Paul Wu , May 09, 2018 03:05 AM

A Chinese church located in Hunan.

Since reform and opening up, Protestantism in China has grown to a relatively large size. In a world with growing diversity, there is no religion fully endorsed or accepted. People hold pros and cons of any religion. Similarly, many Chinese non-Christians have favorable, negative, and neutral views of  Protestantism.

Negative comments: 

Due to historical and realistic factors, a great many Chinese people make negative judgments about Christianity. Here are four main impressions:

Radical evangelism. Many Christians are zealous about their faith, but some of them are unclear of the motivation behind evangelism. A large percentage of believers preach the gospel in a cramming, rude, dogmatic, and judgmental way. They don't show respect for others' beliefs and attack other religions at will. Some applaud disasters that occurred among pagans, call them devils and beasts, and say things like they are doomed to go to hell. As a result, their utterances turn a number of people off. To many, Christians are considered crazy persons who make an all-out effort to drag people into their religion like a pyramid scheme. Radical evangelism is the most common negative impression and acts the main tension between the church and society. 

Stupid and ignorant. At some point, there is prevalent sarcasm talking about the stupidity and ignorance of Christians in anti-Christian circles. Owing to anti-intellectualism prevails in the Chinese church who object to all knowledge except the Bible for a long time and the effect of extremist ideology, a great number of Protestants are odd about commonsense problems. For example, some sick Christians insist on praying for the healing of their diseases rather than see the doctor and take medicine; seeing natural and man-made calamities, some propagate doomsday rumors; some spread false testimonies against common sense, like a random celebrity who is a Christian or media outlets that share the gospel. The Chinese people receive atheistic education, thinking that religions oppose science. 

What's worse, the anti-intellectual deeds performed by Christians deepen their well-established impression that Christianity belongs to feudal superstition. Therefore, Christians are stupid and ignorant.

A foreign religion. There is always a view of Christianity as a "foreign religion" in China. A portion of people see Christianity as a western religion out of a one-sided understanding of church history, modern Chinese history, and the current situation of the Chinese church. One who believes in Jesus Christ forgets his own origins. In real life, a few believers blindly criticize Chinese culture, making western countries like the United States equal to Heaven.

Despite accounting for just a fraction of Chinese Christians, their words impress non-Christians who see the Christian faith as foreign. In recent years, boycotts of Christmas highlights the impression. The "foreign religion" impression is just spread among rightists, nationalists, and ultra-left cynics, not a contributor to the tension between the church and society. 

Cultists. A large number of Chinese people see Christianity as a cult because of extreme statements and actions from some Christians and the reject to monotheism stemming from the opposition to Islamist terrorism. Moreover, a lot of cult and heresy organizations have been founded during the development of the Chinese church. Like Eastern Lightning and Three Grades of Servants, they reach people claiming to be Christians, disseminate absurd deception, and even entice people to join their religions. It produces a bad impact on society.

Besides, non-Christians frown upon some believers with bad personalities. Though the negative comments are aimed at individuals, they more or less ruin the image of general Christians. 

Positive evaluation: There are still many non-Christians who favor Christianity. To them, Christians are loving, united, self-denial, and dedicated.

Benevolent. Since love is the greatest commandment in Christianity, many churches and Christians often carry out social service work that meets the needs of marginalized groups and win social praise. A lot of non-Christians praise Christians as loving people who are willing to make a sacrifice. Even they defend the Christian faith when it is attacked. 

The carrier of civilization. As the Chinese society becomes more open and diversified, more and more people begin an in-depth exploration of the western culture. They realize that Christianity is a foundation of shaping Western civilization through the comprehension of western history, literature, art, and science. After reading modern Chinese history, some find that many revolutions in modern China were relevant to missionaries, Chinese believers, and intellectuals influenced by Christianity. They conclude that Christianity was a vital driving force of China's modernization.

Intellectuals including Buddhists, Confucian scholars, and atheists positively affirm Christian contributions to civilization and even publicize and commemorate the achievements of missionaries. This group may know Christianity the most and their positive reviews are important to people's understanding of the church. 

United and fraternal. The majority of the Christian community has a heart of loving one another. Despite contradictions inside the church and conflicts among believers, most Christians bury the hatchet and give a hand to others with difficulties.

The unity and fraternity among Christians also touch non-believers. A woman is really against Christianity, but she doesn't hinder one of her relatives from converting to Christianity. One key factor is that her aged relative may get support from the congregation to spend the remaining days if he is a member of the church. A devout Buddhist said, "I don't believe in Christ, but I have to say that you are really united. We really need to learn that from you."

Self-denial and dedicated. Some Christians are dedicated in their daily life and workplaces. They regard their jobs as a vocation, doing everything well and recognized by their colleagues and bosses. Some also freely give good things to their neighbors in difficulties.

Apart these above positive and negative evaluations, some people who lack an understanding of Christianity and little contact with Christians hold interesting attitudes toward the religion.

Fashionable and romantic. Young men and women like youth idol drams and want to have a romantic experience like leading heroes and heroines. For them, the Christian church is a romantic place where love becomes a marriage. Lots of non-Christians choose to shoot wedding photos in the church. In addition, they wear crosses as fashion accessories. 

A mysterious witchcraft. Like musical instruments used in Buddhist or Taoist mass, a cross is a weapon to defeat the devil in religious premises of Taiwanese and Hong Kong ghost movies. Plots show that ghosts and monsters are scared away when seeing a cross. There are also exorcism rituals in western horror movies. Then watchers see the cross as a tool to expel the evil spirit and even some wear crosses to explore in haunted houses. On the other hand, some misunderstand Christianity as a "western witchcraft" after attending Extreme Pentecostal services.

A kind religion. The comment may be the most popular among non-Christians. They don't believe in any religion or folk religion but have one thing in common that all religions call people to do good. They hold that believing in a religion is a good thing and religious people are useful to society and families. 

Never heard. Although the number of Christians increases and the church develops rapidly, there is still a group who have never heard of Christianity. They cannot be quantified and take a proportion.  

- Translated by Karen Luo

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