Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Keating: China will be the world’s biggest Christian country

Jesus gets more love than Mao.

First Published Apr 23 2014 06:27 am • Last Updated Apr 23 2014 04:35 pm

China likely already has more Protestants — an estimated 58 million — than South Africa or Brazil, major centers of evangelical revival, and 67 million Christians in all — larger than the total population of France. More people go to church on Sunday in China than in all of Europe. But Tom Philips of the Telegraph suggests this growth is just in its early stages:

"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 in Indiana and author of "Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule." "It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change. ...

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. as the largest Christian congregation in the world, Yang predicted.

(There are about 247 million Christians in the United States today.)

To a certain extent, this is just a "China is really big" story. But Christianity’s rise is nonetheless a fascinating development given the constraints it has faced in an authoritarian, officially atheist country. Christianity in the country — both Protestant and Catholic — is divided between officially sanctioned "patriotic" churches and unsanctioned underground churches, often operating out of private homes, which are frequently subject to crackdowns by the authorities. (The official number of Christians in China is only about 25 million, but that’s generally agreed to be extremely low.)

This has, not surprisingly, led to ongoing tension between the church and the Vatican, which doesn’t recognize the authority of the Beijing-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Church and has excommunicated its bishops. "Underground" Catholic churches, meanwhile, have been fiercely suppressed by the state.

Pope Francis has said he wants "friendly relations with China" and plans to visit this summer, though it’s hard to see how this fundamental dispute could be overcome unless one of these institutions radically changes its way of doing business.

For what it’s worth, the church seems to be winning the battle for hearts and minds on the Chinese Internet. Jesus is getting more love than Mao on Weibo these days.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international news, social science and related topics. He was previously an editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.