We Christians, with whatever theological backgrounds, have our own views on ourselves and the world before us. We are so used to evaluating things and the people we meet through our faith.
What if we look at things in another way? What is Christianity and what are Christians like in a non-Christian's view?
A couple of post-80s and -90s, that is, people born in 1980s and 1990s, who are not Christians, talked with us about their impressions on Christians with whom they got to speak and mingle with. Some of them have a long story to tell.
L, born in the 1980s: Christians are mysterious... the influence of Christianity on China is limited
L said he knew about Christianity as a child because some of his relatives were Christians. When he was a little boy, he thought Christians, most were women in his view, were mysterious, and Christianity in his hometown was similar to Taoism.
He read the Bible before, he said, but wasn't quite inspired. One of his classmates is a Christian, who he thinks is just like everyone else.
After he went to college, he began to learn more about the history of Christianity. "I think it is quite the same as Buddhism and Islam. I like reading religious books. Most of which are on Buddhism with Islam the least. Buddhism has been assimilated into Chinese cultures, there are many books about it. Christianity has a tremendous impact on the west, but the influence of Christianity on China is limited."
All in all, L thought that these major religions in China are similar in their purpose of making people virtuous, but, they are different in their theories because they were created by different people in different lands.
W, born in the 1980s, Christians believe because they want something to rely on... some are lying.
When he was in elementary school, W got in touch with Christians, whose kindness impressed him quite well. However, he began to think that they were hypocritical. Many senior people in his village, he recalled, went to churches when they felt hopeless in recovering from their diseases.
W said that Christians, for him, were ignorant, and churches were places for old and middle age people to gather and sing, just like squares and parks in China for middle age women to dance. "Now, small groups of people believe in it in the villages. When I was a boy, Christians are plenty. They liked to gather and worship in one's house. My mother still goes to the church every week. My general impression is that women are looking for a god to rely on for the sake of their families. Of course, they become more temperate and kinder once they convert.
Y, born during the 1980s: Christianity for me is love and peace
Y met Christianity in 2003. Her aunt is a Christian. Her classmate in high school has converted to Christianity and gave her a Bible. She was then able to know something about Christianity. "Every time when I see my aunt prays and preaches, I think Christianity is love. No matter how busy she is, when it is time, she and her fellows pray together."
Her high school classmate, with whom she is keeping in touch, converted to Christianity when she was in college. One day, she received a Bible sent by this classmate. She would read it during a difficult time. "I felt peace after I read it," she said.
Y1, born during the 1980s: Christians are modest and peaceful, but I don't get in touch with the church for my Buddhist family
Y1 is from a Buddhist family. She got in touch with the church, but no longer take part in any activity of the church because of her Buddhist mindset.
She said that she heard about Christianity early, but it was when she was in college that she got in touch with it by taking apart in worship in a church introduced by a friend of her classmate. It was simple. Some people sit together and read the Bible. "Christians are modest and peaceful." When someone tried to convert her, she refused because of her family's religious background.
Y2, born from the 1980s: I feel good about Christians, but I worry that belief trumps reason
When he was a boy, missionaries came to Y2's home village to share the gospel. However, it was when he was in college that he began to learn something about Christianity. "I feel good about Christians, but I worry that belief trumps reason," he said.
During his postgraduate period when he learned more about western philosophies, he had a deeper understanding of Christianity and medieval philosophies that containing arguments about the relationship between rationality and belief. "After I read Brothers Karamazov, I realized that belief is really important," he said, "I am basically a nihilist who needs something to believe in, but doesn't believe in any religion."
L, born in the 1990s: Christians, generally, are optimistic, while also obstinate and principled
Born in the 1990s, L was impressed by sunniness, integrity, and optimism, as well as obstinacy of Christians. Compared with those who have no religious beliefs, Christians, he thought, are more obstinate and principled. For him, Christians are emotionally stable, though they can be rather furious when they get mad.
He found that most religious people are pragmatists, who wish for any god or Buddhist to give them peace. "I think praying and reciting scriptures are for self-consoling and calming themselves down so they can handle things reasonably and to get rid of the pressure and bad mood. I don't believe in any kind of traditional Chinese religions either, but I tend to support the protection given by traditional cultures," he said.
L1, born in the 1990s: I feel mysterious about western films about Christianity and become averse to hearing preaching
L1 knew about Christianity when she was in college. It gave her extremely different impressions. Western television and film programs gave her a beautiful and mysterious picture on Christianity. However, she had an unpleasant experience when someone tried to share the gospel to her, making her so averse to Christianity.
She got in touch with Christians. She thought many of them are ostensible Christians, only a very small group of them really believe in the religion.
L1 has a Christian friend who she thought is stubborn. She thought her friend is too constrained by religious belief. "I think belief could be either salvation or constrain. Life is ordinary and down-to-earth, and belief is not," she said.
- Translated by Lin Changfeng