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Jesus Fever in China

By Editorial Staff
Published June 1, 1988

BEIJING, China (FR) – Chinese youth are becoming disillusioned with empty Marxist slogans and corruption in the Communist party and are turning to Christianity in record numbers, according to a recent report in Newsweek. “So many Communist Party members don’t practice what Marxism preaches,” said Chen Yinghui, a Protestant student at Beijing’s teachers’ college. “They give us nothing to believe in.”

Another student agreed with Yinghui: “Party members are not the ones helping others. They just do things to get ahead. But Christians do good deeds without telling anyone about it.” Although few students attend church, Bibles which were once forbidden are now being purchased at more than double the official price.

Party officials have become concerned about “Christianity fever” and recently reviewed an internal report on the reasons for the growing popularity of Christianity, especially among intellectuals and young people. The report was prepared by the Hong Kong-based Chinese Church Research Center and compiled by two writers from the New China News Agency who visited several cities. The writers described the growth of “Christianity fever” as being due to government corruption and the Communist party.

According to the report, some Chinese have turned to Christianity to find happiness or because Christians have shown them kindness. However, the report added that most of the Christian activities are harmless to the development of the country’s socialist civilization.

Before Chairman Mao Tse Tung came to power, there were only 700,000 Chinese Christians in his country. Today there are more than 10 million, and every 36 hours Christian officials claim that a new church opens up somewhere in China. “Society has a need for Christianity,” related Kang Xuequing, a stout, silver-haired pastor at Beijing’s Protest Chongwenmen Church. “People are looking for reliable and believable things, and they find that God is dependable.” Kang spent 10 years being “re-educated” in a factory, in which he was forced to bow 100 times to a picture of Chairman Mao. But he returned to the church full-time in 1979 after Deng Xiaoping came to power.

President George Bush and his wife recently visited Kang’s church during their recent whirlwind tour of Asia. Their daughter Dorothy was baptized there as a teenager, 14 years ago, when Bush was head of the U.S. mission to China. In those days services were held in a single room at another location, and attendance was restricted to foreigners, according to church sources. Bush described the church as “our home away from home” in the 1970s, and he borrowed a theme from sermons Billy Graham preached in China last year: “Some things change, some things never change.”

The congregation laughed when he told how he rode a bicyle to services years earlier. However, on this occasion he arrived in a 20-car motorcade. Kang, 67, was Bush’s tennis partner as well as pastor when Bush was based there. He gave the Bushes hymnals and a Chinese Bible, along with a tape cassette of choir music for Dorothy. Bush in turn gave Kang a black leather pulpit-size Bible. Bush said, “Sometimes our problems can seem bigger than life itself, intractable and fearsome. But I am convinced that with each other, that with our faith in God, we can meet any challenge, and we will.”

In a culture that upholds atheistic values, church leaders are careful not to offend the government or the Communist Party. Foreign evangelists are outlawed, but underground churches are growing at the same rate as the official church, due to missionaries who pose as tourists or teachers.


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