Kings Shall Come to Your Rising
When the (Chinese) Communists took power in 1949 there were perhaps 2 million Christians in China. At the time, not only Marxists but even American liberal church leaders dismissed these as mainly “rice” Christians–people who put up with missionary efforts only in exchange for handouts. Fifty years later we have discovered that these Chinese rice Christians were so “insincere” that they endured decades of draconian repression, during which their numbers doubled again and again–there might be as many as 100 million Christians in China today! Moreover, conversion to Christianity is concentrated not among the peasants and the poor but among the best-education, most modern Chinese.
There are many reasons people embrace Christianity, including its capacity to sustain a deeply emotional and existentially satisfying faith. But another significant factor is its appeal to reason and the fact that it is so inseparably linked to the rise of Western civilization. For many non-Europeans, becoming a Christian is intrinsic to becoming modern Thus it is quite plausible that Christianity remains an essential element in the globalization of modernity. Consider this recent statement by one of China’s leading scholars:
“One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this”
Neither do I.
Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason, p.234f.