So my friend Jillian Kay Melchior has a fine article in the latest issue of FIRST THINGS: “China’s New Christians.” (You will have to subscribe to either the print or online edition to read it. So cough up the geetis, you pikers.)
Jillian spent a year or so in China as a Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation. In Beijing she met and interviewed Christians and learned of their struggles. She begins her FT story with a terse retelling of the Boxer Rebellion, a nationalist uprising that saw the slaughter of Christian missionaries from Europe as well as many Chinese believers. The Maoist revolution decades later would not only see tens of millions more murdered in aid of getting on history’s good side, but many “dissidents,” especially Christians, would spend the remainder of their lives in prison, including the very popular Darbyite Christian writer and preacher Watchman Nee.
A brief excerpt from Jillian’s piece:
Persecution was most intense during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), years when Christian faith could become a death warrant, as it was for Chinese pastor Wang Zhiming, executed in 1973. In Liao Yiwu’s God is Red, which recounts the struggles of the Chinese Christians in the Maoist and post-Maoist years, the pastor’s son recalls how, because of their faith, his family was beaten, bound, and spit upon during public condemnation meetings. The communists then cut out the pastor’s tongue so he couldn’t preach, paraded him around the village, and shot him.
Christianity was forced underground. Most believers from this era are dead or elderly, so I rely on the second-hand stories of those who inherited their faith. A church worker in Beijing repeated to me the tale of a church that had worshipped in a cave during the Cultural Revolution. These Christians had somehow saved a single Bible from destruction, but they lived in terror that it, too, would be lost. So the believers each memorized a book—as long as they lived, so did the Word.
Ironically, persecution strengthened Chinese believers’ faith and determination, and religion eventually proved stronger than its opposition….
If you’re a professional whiner like me, who has to lay down with a cold towel over his head every time his laptop freezes or there’s a fundraising special on PBS preempting the 847th repeat of AS TIME GOES BY, you would do well to read the whole thing.
And remember the Christians in predominantly Muslim countries, who are fighting for their lives and traditions and freedom to worship. There every day can’t be a Friday. Unless by that we mean a Good Friday.