It pretty much hit in a single moment. We were in the lecture hall at HKSKH Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong, when the quake occurred. Dr. Philip Wickeri, our guest presenter stated, “If I were to generalize the state of Christianity across China, I would have to conclude it is pretty good. And if you were to ask me how I felt about Christianity’s future across China, I would have to say I am quite optimistic.” In that moment I registered a seismic shift in my global perspective of Christianity. What shook me most about his statement and Dr. Wickeri’s generalization about Christianity across China, was how diametrically opposed his assessment was to my global view upon arriving in China.Before our Leadership and Global Perspective Advance experience in Hong Kong, I assumed stereotypically, largely because of its communist government and the North American church’s created collective memory of global missions to China, that China was still oppressing Christianity and persecuting those who were attempting to sustain and propagate its message. From bible “smuggling” to “underground” churches being militarily thwarted in their efforts to organize and assemble, I assumed from my Western, American, Protestant, Evangelicalism that the state and future of Christianity in China was bleak and in peril.
To increase the intensity of the seismic shake that occurred to my global perspective while hearing Dr. Wickeri’s assessment, I thought, “If I were to assess and conjure up a generalization about Christianity across North America, I would have to say that its state isn’t good and that I do not believe its future has an optimistic bend to it.” If I were honest and took a step back, most technically I would have to say Christianity across North America, in-spite of my Western, American, Protestant, Evangelicalism view, is waining and its influence is a muffled whisper at best.
In recent work for my academic essay I read an article about the latest Pew research data on the state of Christianity in United States. The summary reads, “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.”(1) Additionally, David Kinnaman in another article entitled “Nones and Cities” makes a strong statement by posing the question, “As people seek to define themselves outside of the boundaries of religion, what does this mean for American society?” The reality of my general view of Christianity in America is actually that it’s state is bleak and its future is in peril. I would say that I have definitely been in a season of realizing this but it truly was in that seismic moment that everything shifted and my global perspective was rocked.
In concluding I would have to say that the clean-up and recovery of the aftermath from this quake has been strong and actually has things looking better than their post-quake condition. While I have reversed by presuppositions about Christianity in China and have had my global perspective reconstructed with greater clarity, I am grateful for the heightened transformation taking place in me and my leadership as I think more deeply about the condition of the world and God’s activity in it in our day and age.
(1) “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” Pew Research Center, May 12, 2015, accessed November 20, 2015, http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
(2) David Kinnaman, “Nones and Cities,” Qideas (November 15, 2015): 1, accessed November 20, 2015, http://qideas.org/Questions/is-faith-still-valuable-to-public-life/.