China To Create Its Own 'Christianity'
Irked by a growing Christian influence, China announced it will create a hybridized version of the faith that will conform to Beijing's wishes.
Speaking to the China Daily newspaper, Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said, "Over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have developed very quickly with the implementation of the country's religious policy. The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China's national condition and integrate with Chinese culture."
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Exactly what the new, syncretic faith will be has not been explained. Christianity is China's fastest growing religion, but non-native beliefs have a contentious relationship with Chinese leaders. After the 1949 Revolution, communist China became atheist. While native religions such as Taoism and sinicized imports including Buddhism continued in limited capacities, Christianity is viewed as an outside invader.
China has historically expelled Christians from the country; the faith in its Nestorian form (aka the Church of the East) was wiped out in the early days of the Ming Dynasty. Despite this, an official 2010 tally by the Chinese goverment estimated that of China's 1.35 billion population, 23.5 million now belong to a Christian denomination.
Relgious experts suggest the creation of a state-approved Sino-Christian faith is in response to the growing underground influence of Christianity, particularly evangelical Protestantism. In May, an article in the New York Times describes a provincial policy mandating local leaders to monitor and regulate "excessive religious sites" and religious activities seen as "overly popular." While China has experienced serious discontent amoung Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong followers, the policy mentions only Christianity by name.
"The priority is to remove crosses at religious activity sites on both sides of expressways, national highways and provincial highways," the document reads. "Over time and in batches, bring down the crosses from the rooftops to the facade of the buildings."
Some officials have gone further. The Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou was demolished, setting off protests across China. Other Protestant churches were notified to remove their crosses. Reports of Christians guarding their local churches are appearing on Christian news sites.
The move follows the announcement that Pope Francis I, spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholic Christians, will be in contact with Chinese leaders en route to South Korea for a Christian youth festival and mass. It is estimated 8 to 12 million Chinese citizens are Catholic.