June 24, 2008
China's Booming Church
The Chicago Tribune and PBS air a documentary on Christianity in China tonight at 9.
Tonight at 9pm Eastern, PBS's Frontline/World will air a documentary (a joint project with the Tribune) on Christianity in China.
The Chicago Tribune today published its second cover story in a row on "Jesus in China." Their articles this week hit on many of the recent issues in Chinese Christianity, including the rapid rise in attendance, the compromises of membership in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (the state church), and the fact that this wave of Christianity is not led by foreign missionaries.
Evan Osnos, the Tribune's Beijing bureau chief, draws a lot of material from Zion church in the first installation, "Jesus in China: Christianity's rapid rise":
Rev. Jin Mingri peered out from the pulpit and delivered an unusual appeal: "Please leave," the 39-year-old pastor commanded his followers, who were packed, standing-room-only on a Sunday afternoon, into a converted office space in China's capital. "We don't have enough seats for the others who want to come, so, please, only stay for one service a day."
A choir in hot-pink robes stood to his left, beside a guitarist and a drum set bristling with cymbals. Children in a playroom beside the sanctuary punctuated the service with squeals and tantrums. It was a busy day at a church that, on paper, does not exist.
The piece also gets into some of the Chinese church's cultural aspirations, such as encouraging basically ethical behavior.
"Jesus in China: Life on the edge" began by showing Christians taking the offensive in claiming religious rights in China. "Christians form a diverse lobby that is rare in a nation split by class, opportunity and geography" and are often inspired by the American Civil Rights movement, Osnos reports. (CT covered this movement - and its admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. - in 2006) One non-Christian rights advocate even called Christianity "China's largest non-governmental organization."