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China's Christianity Conundrum

China has all but caught up with the United States in terms of economic and geo-political power. All but.

For China to take full advantage of its enormous resources and labor force, China has to take a step that does not come naturally to communist dictatorships. China must begin to embrace human rights and freedom -- especially religious freedom. And that has placed the Chinese leadership on the horns of a dilemma; one that the United States ought to exploit not only for our own national interests, but especially for the cause of freedom.

As I explain today in my Two-Minute Warning, which I urge you to go watch at ColsonCenter.org, the Chinese leaders, both governmental and academic, are beginning to understand that the secret to the West’s success is nothing other than Christianity. The industriousness and creativity of the West was born out of the Christian worldview, which sees every individual created in the image of God, desiring freedom, creative in nature, motivated by civic duty and love of neighbor.

Yet, what would happen if the Chinese government truly opened its doors to Christianity and unleashed the creative and spiritual potential of its people? Free markets and prosperity, growing gobal and economic clout, yes. But only at great cost to the power of the communist dictatorship.

Which will the Chinese government embrace: prosperity, or power? If you know of any totalitarian regime that has voluntarily decided to let go of the reins of power, please let me hear from you.

Now, China’s government and its supporters will insist that China respects freedom of religion, pointing out that Christianity is not illegal there.  State-sanctioned churches can meet in the open without fear and have been able to do so for years.  And as of 2003, Christian books have been authorized for publication in China.

But the legal churches in China are part of what’s called the “Three Self Patriotic Movement” or “Three self Church.”  The term “three self” stands for self-governing, self-supporting, and self propagating.  In other words, the church leadership, financial resources and missionary activity all must come only from within China.  This severely restricts what Christians on the outside can legally do to support Chinese believers.

Worse yet is the treatment of those Christians who don’t accept the government’s regulations. Unregistered church meetings are illegal, and those who participate can be subject to raids, beatings, imprisonment and torture.

In other words, there is no freedom of religion in China. So why am I hearing nothing from Washington about human rights in China? In a singularly obvious way, the administration has ducked the issue. We ought to be shaming the Chinese government before the world, not just because human rights are communist China’s biggest vulnerability, but because doing so is our biggest opportunity to support freedom, not just for the oppressed house churches, but for the Chinese people as a whole.

The Chinese government has got to understand, it cannot have things both ways. The benefits of freedom and the Christian worldview only accrue by allowing both to thrive.

Publication date March 23, 2011

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

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