Christians in China

Haidian Church, Beijing

Tim Gardam’s excellent God in China BBC Radio 4 series concludes tonight (8pm) with Christianity and Catholicism. Gardam is a heavyweight: a double first in English from Cambridge; then creator of Timewatch, editor of Newsnight, and director of programmes at Channel 4 before being appointed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to lead a review of digital television in Britain. He is currently Principal of St. Anne’s College, Oxford

In the BBC online magazine he has an insightful article “Christians in China: Is the country in spiritual crisis?” that looks at Christianity and indeed religious faith in China more widely, noting that  “There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.”

I was struck more by the similarities to Europe than the differences. Catholics and Protestants are treated as belonging to separate religions. The official state-recognised Protestant Church is wary of the larger house-churches and fears they may rock the boat. In some areas the state has sought to enlist Christianity into its "big idea" of a "harmonious society" – the slogan that dominates Chinese public life. … Fascinating!

I’ll be in conclave this evening at the College of Bishops, but hope to catch up on i-Player. And I wish my Chinese was better than non-existent: Jean and I sat in for part of the Mandarin service at St Martin’s in the Fields recently and while the shape was familiar the words passed us by, except when the preacher broke into English to say that “there is no salvation outside the church” – to agree or disagree I know not. Our daughter Caitlin has picked up some phrases though and hopes to spend next year in Hong Kong.