I asked a question at the Athenaeum Thursday evening of Roderick MacFarquhar about whether he thinks that the Chinese Communist party will be brought down by the rising Chinese Christian community which is now said to outnumber the Chinese Communist Party.
Few know that the Taiping Rebellion was brought about, in part, by a man Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be Jesus's brother. With an estimated twenty to thirty million dead, this ranks as one of the world's most violent conflicts. Hard to believe that Christianity doesn't have some affect.
As a friendly nonbeliever/wannabe Christian, I'd like to think that Christians could have a powerful influence in overthrowing the Chinese regime in much the same way that other Christian movements have brought down governments. But Professor MacFarquhar wasn't having any of it. He said that there is nowhere near the numbers of people in the Communist Party and that he doubted the likelihood that a Chinese Christian could bring about change within the regime.
But earlier that day The Economist released an article in its print edition about the role of Chinese Christians in challenging the regime. Unfortunately, it is gated but here's what I was able to extract. (It is no doubt based upon the research that went into the magnificent -- and utterly secular -- book by Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait, God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World. You may borrow it if you email me...)
ZHAO XIAO, a former Communist Party official and convert to Christianity, smiles over a cup of tea and says he thinks there are up to 130m Christians in China. This is far larger than previous estimates. The government says there are 21m (16m Protestants, 5m Catholics). Unofficial figures, such as one given by the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in Massachusetts, put the number at about 70m. But Mr Zhao is not alone in his reckoning. A study of China by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, an American think-tank, says indirect survey evidence suggests many unaffiliated Christians are not in the official figures. And according to China Aid Association (CAA), a Texas-based lobby group, the director of the government body which supervises all religions in China said privately that the figure was indeed as much as 130m in early 2008.