Christianity is enduring a rough period in the West. But, as many commentators have pointed out, the religion is booming in Africa and Asia. And, in Asia, China provides an excellent example of the growth of Christianity. According to some estimates, by the middle of this century, China will have the world’s largest Christian community. The rise of Chinese Christianity will no doubt affect the course of the religion in ways none of us can now imagine.
A new book from Wipf and Stock, Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China, by Li Ma and Jin Li, both of Calvin College, documents some of the changes. Here is the publisher’s description:
This sociological portrait presents how Chinese Christians have coped with life under a hostile regime over a span of different historical periods, and how Christian churches as collective entities have been reshaped by ripples of social change. China’s change from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, or from an agrarian society to an urbanizing society, are admittedly significant phenomena worthy of scholarly attention, but real changes are about values and beliefs that give rise to social structures over time. The growth of Christianity has become interwoven with the disintegration or emergence of Chinese cultural beliefs, political ideologies, and commercial values.
Relying mainly on an oral history method for data collection, the authors allow the narratives of Chinese Christians to speak for themselves. Identifying the formative cultural elements, a sociohistorical analysis also helps to lay out a coherent understanding of the complexity of religious experiences for Christians in the Chinese world. This book also serves to bring back scholarly discussions on the habits of the heart as the condition that helps form identities and nurture social morality, whether individuals engage in private or public affairs.
In June, the Harvard University Press will release “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan: Cases from the Yuan dianzhang,” by Bettine Birge (University of Southern California). The publisher’s description follows:
The Mongol conquest of China in the thirteenth century and Khubilai Khan’s founding of the Yuan dynasty brought together under one government people of different languages, religions, and social customs. Chinese law evolved rapidly to accommodate these changes, as reflected in the great compendium Yuan dianzhang (Statutes and Precedents of the Yuan Dynasty). The records of legal cases contained in this seminal text, Bettine Birge shows, paint a portrait of medieval Chinese family life—and the conflicts that arose from it—that is unmatched by any other historical source.
Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan reveals the complex, sometimes contradictory inner workings of the Mongol-Yuan legal system, seen through the prism of marriage disputes in chapter eighteen of the Yuan dianzhang, which has never before been translated into another language. The text includes court testimony—recorded in the vivid vernacular of people from all social classes—in lawsuits over adultery, divorce, rape, wife-selling, marriages of runaway slaves, and other conflicts. It brings us closer than any other source to the actual Mongolian speech of Khubilai and the great khans who succeeded him as they struggled to reconcile very different Mongol, Muslim, and Chinese legal traditions and confront the challenges of ruling a diverse polyethnic empire.
This month, Pantheon Publishing releases “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao,” by Ian Johnson. The publisher’s description follows:
This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “Muslim Students, Education and Neoliberalism: Schooling a ‘Suspect Community,'” edited by Máirtín Mac an Ghaill (Newman University) and Chris Haywood (Newcastle University). The publisher’s description follows:
This edited collection brings together international leading scholars to explore why the education of Muslim students is globally associated with radicalisation, extremism and securitisation. The chapters address a wide range of topics, including neoliberal education policy and globalization; faith-based communities and Islamophobia; social mobility and inequality; securitisation and counter terrorism; and shifting youth representations. Educational sectors from a wide range of national settings are discussed, including the US, China, Turkey, Canada, Germany and the UK; this international focus enables comparative insights into emerging identities and subjectivities among young Muslim men and women across different educational institutions, and introduces the reader to the global diversity of a new generation of Muslim students who are creatively engaging with a rapidly changing twenty-first century education system. The book will appeal to those with an interest in race/ethnicity, Islamophobia, faith and multiculturalism, identity, and broader questions of education and social and global change.
In February, Brill Publishers will release Sinicising Christianity edited by Zheng Yangwen (University of Manchester). The publisher’s description follows:
Chinese people have been instrumental in indigenizing Christianity. Sinicising Christianity examines Christianity’s transplantation to and transformation in China by focusing on three key elements: Chinese agents of introduction; Chinese redefinition of Christianity for the local context; and Chinese institutions and practices that emerged and enabled indigenisation. As a matter of fact, Christianity is not an exception, but just one of many foreign ideas and religions, which China has absorbed since the formation of the Middle Kingdom, Buddhism and Islam are great examples. Few scholars of China have analysed and synthesised the process to determine whether there is a pattern to the ways in which Chinese people have redefined foreign imports for local use and what insight Christianity has to offer.
In December, Brill Publishers will release Mandarins and Heretics: The Construction of “Heresy” in Chinese State Discourse by Wu Junqing (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:
In Mandarins and Heretics, Wu Junqing explores the denunciation and persecution of lay religious groups in late imperial (14th to 20th century) China. These groups varied greatly in their organisation and teaching, yet in official state records they are routinely portrayed as belonging to the same esoteric tradition, stigmatised under generic labels such as “White Lotus” and “evil teaching”, and accused of black magic, sedition and messianic agitation.
Wu Junqing convincingly demonstrates that this “heresy construct” was not a reflection of historical reality but a product of the Chinese historiographical tradition, with its uncritical reliance on official sources. The imperial heresy construct remains influential in modern China, where it contributes to shaping policy towards unlicensed religious groups.
In October, Oxford University Press will release The Buddha Party: How the People’s Republic of China Works to Define and Control Tibetan Buddhism by John Powers (Australian National University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Buddha Party tells the story of how the People’s Republic of China employs propaganda to define Tibetan Buddhist belief and sway opinion within the country and abroad. The narrative they create is at odds with historical facts and deliberately misleading but, John Powers argues, it is widely believed by Han Chinese. Most of China’s leaders appear to deeply believe the official line regarding Tibet, which resonates with Han notions of themselves as China’s most advanced nationality and as a benevolent race that liberates and culturally uplifts minority peoples. This in turn profoundly affects how the leadership interacts with their counterparts in other countries. Powers’s study focuses in particular on the government’s “patriotic education” campaign-an initiative that forces monks and nuns to participate in propaganda sessions and repeat official dogma. Powers contextualizes this within a larger campaign to transform China’s religions into “patriotic” systems that endorse Communist Party policies. This book offers a powerful, comprehensive examination of this ongoing phenomenon, how it works and how Tibetans resist it.
This AP story reports that proponents of religious freedom are fearful of an increase in religious persecution in China following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s comments at a Beijing conference where he warned against “overseas infiltrations via religious means.” Followers of various religions have already suffered numerous forms of persecution, including Muslims being banned from wearing veils and beards, imprisonment of Catholic clergy members, and the removal and destruction of Christian symbols.
Despite China’s history of religious persecution since the Communist takeover in 1949, the number of Christians in the country has continued to increase. The story reports that according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, China’s 111 million Christians make it the world’s third largest Christian country behind only the United States and Brazil.