編者按: 比較有諷刺意味的是，當《外交家》，英國《電訊報》等鼓噪中國將超越美國成為 "第一基督徒人口大國" 之時﹐中國浙江省的基督徒們卻正在提心吊膽，徹夜守護在自己的教堂，準備面對當地政府的大力度強拆行動！http://t.cn/8s8ZCp3
展望：中國 2030 年可望成為基督教第一大國
美國皮尤研究所的數字說，2010 年中國有基督徒約六千八百萬，佔中國人口約百分之五，名列全球第七大基督教國家。報道援引普渡大學社會學系教授楊鳳崗（音）的話說，到 2025 年，中國基督教人口可望達到一億六千萬，2030 年達到兩億四千七百萬，而美國的基督教人口則將可能萎縮。美國有報紙近日以此為題，稱 2025 年中國有望取代美國，成為全球最大的基督教國家。
China on Course to Become "'World's Most Christian Nation" within 15 Years
By Jeremy Reynalds/ Assist News On April 30, 2014
It is said to be China's biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshipers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance - not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.
According to a story by Tom Phillips of Britain's Telegraph newspaper, the 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a 206 ft crucifix that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a "miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church."
The £8 million building is also one of the most visible symbols of Communist China's breakneck conversion as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth.
"It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence," said Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi's altar in the lead up to Holy Week.
"If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime," The Telegraph said she added.
Officially, the People's Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.
Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao's death in 1976 signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world's number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.
"By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon," said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.
The Telegraph said he added, "It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change."
China's Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom.
In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre's Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.
By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.
"Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this," The Telegraph reported Yang said. "It's ironic - they didn't. They actually failed completely."
Like many Chinese churches, the church in the town of Liushi, 200 miles south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province, has had a turbulent history.
It was founded in 1886 after William Edward Soothill, a Yorkshire-born missionary and future Oxford University professor, began evangelizing local communities.
But by the late 1950s, as the region was engulfed by Mao's violent anti-Christian campaigns, it was forced to close.
According to The Telegraph, Liushi remained shut throughout the decade of the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, as places of worship were destroyed across the country.
Since it reopened in 1978 its congregation has increased dramatically s part of China's officially sanctioned Christian church - along with thousands of others that have accepted Communist Party oversight in return for being allowed to worship.
Today it has 2,600 regular churchgoers and holds up to 70 baptisms each year, according to Shi Xiaoli, its 27-year-old preacher. The church's revival reached a crescendo last year with the opening of its new 1,500ft mega-church, reportedly the biggest in mainland China.
"Our old church was small and hard to find," said Shi. "There wasn't room in the old building for all the followers, especially at Christmas and at Easter. The new one is big and eye-catching."
The Liushi church is not alone. From Yunnan province in China's southwest to Liaoning in its industrial northeast, congregations are booming and more Chinese are thought to attend Sunday services each week than do Christians across the whole of Europe.
A recent study found that online searches for the words "Christian Congregation" and "Jesus" far outnumbered those for "The Communist Party" and "Xi Jinping," China's president.
The Telegraph said that also among China's Protestants are also many millions who worship at illegal underground "house churches," which hold unsupervised services - often in people's homes - in an attempt to evade the "prying eyes" of the Communist Party.
Such churches are mostly behind China's embryonic missionary movement - a reversal of roles after the country was for centuries the target of foreign missionaries. Now it is starting to send its own missionaries abroad, notably into North Korea, in search of souls.
"We want to help and it is easier for us than for British, South Korean or American missionaries," said one underground church leader in north China speaking on condition of anonymity.
The new spread of Christianity has the Communist Party perplexed.
"The child suddenly grew up and the parents don't know how to deal with the adult," said the underground church leader, who is from China's illegal house-church movement.
Some officials argue that religious groups can provide social services the government cannot, while simultaneously helping reverse a growing moral crisis in a land where cash, not Communism, has now become king.
They appear to agree with David Cameron, the British prime minister, who said last week that Christianity could help boost Britain's "spiritual, physical and moral" state.
Shi, Liushi's preacher, who is careful to describe her church as "patriotic," said "We have two motivations: one is our gospel mission and the other is serving society. Christianity can also play a role in maintaining peace and stability in society. Without God, people can do as they please."
Yet others within China's leadership worry about how the religious landscape might shape its political future, and its possible impact on the Communist Party's grip on power, despite the clause in the country's 1982 constitution that guarantees citizens the right to engage in "normal religious activities."
As a result, The Telegraph said, a close watch is still kept on churchgoers, and preachers are routinely monitored to ensure their sermons do not diverge from what the Party considers acceptable.
In Liushi church a closed circuit television camera hangs from the ceiling, directly in front of the lectern.
"They want the pastor to preach in a Communist way. They want to train people to practice in a Communist way," said the house-church preacher, who said state sanctioned churches often shun parts of the Bible considered potentially subversive.
The Old Testament book in which the exiled Daniel refuses to obey orders to worship the king rather than his own god is seen as "very dangerous," the preacher added.
The Telegraph said there may some grounds for the concern. Christians' growing power was on show earlier this month when thousands flocked to defend a church in Wenzhou, a city known as the "Jerusalem of the East," after government threats to demolish it.
Faced with the congregation's very public show of resistance, officials appear to have backed away from their plans, negotiating a compromise with church leaders.
"They do not trust the church, but they have to tolerate or accept it because the growth is there," The Telegraph reported the church leader said. "The number of Christians is growing - they cannot fight it. They do not want the 70 million Christians to be their enemy."
The underground leader church leader said many government officials view religion as "a sickness" that needs curing, and Yang agrees there is a potential threat.
The Communist Party is "still not sure if Christianity would become an opposition political force" and fears it could be used by "Western forces to overthrow the Communist political system," he said.
Churches are likely to face an increasingly "intense" struggle over coming decade as the Communist Party tries to muzzle Christianity's rise, he predicted.
"There are people in the government who are trying to control the church. I think they are making the last attempt to do that."
Is Communist China Christianity's Future?
New estimates predict China will soon be home to the world's largest Christian community.
By Zachary Keck
April 26, 2014
China will soon be home to the largest Christian population of any country on earth, according to a leading expert on religion in China.
The London Telegraph reports that Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and expert on religion in China, predicts that China's Christian population will become the largest of any country by 2030.
Already, China is home to some 58 million Protestants — more than leading Protestant nations like Brazil and South Africa — and 67 million total Christians, according to Pew Research. To put this in perspective, in 1949 China's Protestants numbered just 1 million persons and its entire Christian community was believed to be about 3 million strong.
Yang, however, believes that China's Protestant population will swell over the next 11 years to reach 160 million in 2025. Furthermore, Yang forecasts that China's overall Christian population could reach 247 million people by 2030.
If these forecasts are correct, this would almost certainly put China above the United States in terms of the size of their respective Christian communities. In 2010, the U.S. boasted roughly 159 million Protestants and just under 247 million Christians overall, making it home to the largest Christian population in the world.
However, religion has been on a gradual but consistent long-term decline in the United States and thus by 2030 America is likely to have a smaller Christian community than it did in 2010.
The Chinese government and academics in state-run institutions are disputing Yang's figures. For example, an unnamed government official was quoted by the Global Times as saying: "The estimate is unscientific and obviously an exaggeration. China advocates religious freedom and we are not against people's right to believe in any religion. In this respect, an estimate of the number of Christians makes little sense."
However, official estimates from the Chinese government on the size of the country's Christian population are universally considered to greatly underestimate the number. Part of the discrepancy comes from the accounting method. Some believe the Chinese government's figures only include citizens who worship at one of the state-sanctioned Christian organizations, and thus miss the substantial underground church community that has swelled in China in recent decades.
Yang, on the other hand, explained the logic behind his forecasts in an email to Chinese state-owned media outlets. "Based on the Pew Research Center's Report of Global Christianity, the Christian population in China took up some 5 percent of total population in 2010 [67 million], while it is widely recognized that there were 3 million Catholics and 3 million Protestants around 1980, which would make an annual growth rate of around 10 percent," he wrote.
There would be a good deal of irony in China becoming the largest Christian nation in the world. To begin with, China is officially an atheist nation, and Mao Zedong was often harshly critical of religion during his time in power. More importantly, the Chinese Communist Party has traditionally been hostile to religion in general, and Christianity in particular. This was especially true during the Cultural Revolution, when believers were often persecuted, imprisoned and tortured.
Even in the post-Mao era, the CCP has periodically targeted Chinese Christians, particularly those who belong to the underground churches rather than the officially sanctioned (and heavily regulated) official Christian organizations in China. The CCP also tries to limit the influence of the Catholic Church and the Pope in various ways, such as appointing China's bishops in the government-sanctioned Catholic organization.
The degree of tolerance of Christianity is also generally believed to differ greatly across different regions in China. According to the BBC, however, the official line in China is that the government pledges "to protect and respect religion until such time as religion itself will disappear." It doesn't seem like this time will come anytime soon. Indeed, as Bethany Allen notes over at Tea Leaf Nation, Jesus is more popular (and tolerated) than Mao Zedong or Xi Jinping on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.