Some Chinese Christians say their faith is actually a boon for the party, because it shores up the economic foundation that is central to sustaining communist rule.
“With economic development, morality and ethics in China are degenerating quickly,” prayer leader Zhang Wei told the crowd at Jin’s church as worshipers bowed their heads. “Holy Father, please save the Chinese people’s soul.”
At the same time, Christianity is driving citizens to be more politically assertive, emboldening them to push for more freedoms and testing the party’s willingness to adapt. For decades, most of China’s Christians worshiped in secret churches, known as “house churches,” that shunned attention for fear of arrest on charges such as “disturbing public order.”
But in a sign of Christianity’s growing prominence, in scores of interviews for a joint project of the Tribune and PBS’ “Frontline/World,” clerical leaders and worshipers from coastal boomtowns to inland villages publicly detailed their religious lives for the first time.