The most important development for the future of the world has been one of the least reported.
By the end of this century China is likely to be the world's leading economic and military power, a perilous situation for the United States if China is hostile to us. But if the enormous but little-reported surge of Christianity in China continues -- one Beijing official recently estimated the number of Chinese Christians is now 125 million -- then the two superpowers will probably have friendly relations.
So what's happening on the other side of the world?
First, Chinese communists are trying to stop a charging water buffalo with a peashooter. Government officials arrested 600 Christians last year, according to the U.S.-based China Aid Society. They'd have to arrest 6 million to slow down Christianity's wildfire spread.
Second, it's hard to generalize about overall Chinese government policy, since it varies enormously from region to region and from city to city. Chinese Christians say "China is a waffle, not a pancake," and a swimming pool of syrup in one square does not keep officials in the next from throwing Christians into prison.
Third, the availability of Bibles continues to be a crucial issue. Some Chinese church leaders report that they are able to get plenty of Bibles from the one legal publisher within China, Amity Press, but a month ago officials imprisoned Pastor Wang Zaiqing on a charge of printing and distributing Bibles. China is a waffle.
Here are some of the nuances, according to Bible distributors and Chinese Christians:
-- The only churches with firm legal status are those of the government-established Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Those churches have long been compromised, and yet in some situations TSPM pastors have made bulk purchases of Bibles from Amity and quietly supplied them to unregistered churches.
-- Amity Press has printed 40 million copies of the Bible since the organization's founding in 1987, but Amity's current production is based on the number of believers in TSPM churches, and that number is much lower than the number of believers in unregistered churches. Publishing more Bibles would be an admission that the governmental attempt to limit the number of Christians through its process of monitoring and control has failed.
-- Amity apparently does not always actually print as many Bibles as it reports, and it might not distribute all that it prints. One of my Chinese sources reports seeing a warehouse with thousands of copies of legal but confiscated Amity Bibles. Translations for minorities are also needed, and whether they can have any Bibles depends, once again, on local enforcement.
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