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God and Caesar in China

Books

Issue: "Death blow," June 17, 2006

CONTENT Scholarly essays lay out the Chinese government's attempt to control religion, the interaction of Catholics and Protestants with state regulators, and the impact of religious concerns on U.S.-China relations.

GIST If current growth rates continue, China will become the global center of evangelical Christianity. These readable analyses provide useful background on Christian resilience amid government's increasingly feeble efforts to handcuff God.

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Jesus in Beijing

By David Aikman

CONTENT In this optimistic view of how Christianity is filling the hole in China's heart that Maoism widened, Mr. Aikman suggests that China's house-church leaders have pushed along a process through which the Christian Lamb will tame the Chinese dragon.

GIST Good reporting of individual stories turns what could be an abstract conflict into something up close and personal.

God's Chinese Son

By Jonathan D. Spence

CONTENT A powerful account of the mid-19th-century religious war triggered by supposed revelations given to a charismatic leader who mixed elements of Christian doctrine with ego-feeding power-seeking. In the end, 20 million died.

GIST Historians of China need to know Chinese, of course, but they also tend to communicate in another language, Boring. Mr. Spence is a major exception to that generalization, and this gripping book is a terrific read.

Safely Home

By Randy Alcorn

CONTENT A novel showing how an atheistic American businessman, visiting his Chinese roommate from college, encounters hearts of light amid Communist attempts to mandate a heart of darkness.

GIST Mr. Alcorn grips the heart with a tale of persecution that honors Chinese Christians who suffered enormously in past decades. This work of fiction should not be taken as definitive regarding current China, but the capacity for renewed persecution is still present.

In the Spotlight

If you're heading to Beijing, the Lonely Planet, Insight, and CultureShock! guides are useful, and Rachel DeWoskin's Foreign Babes in Beijing is amusing. Scott D. Seligman's Chinese Business Etiquette: A Guide to Protocol, Manners, and Culture in the People's Republic of China will instruct you about avoiding unnecessary offense by (among other things) giving and receiving business cards with both hands.

For a quick historical look, Ralph Covell's Confucius, the Buddha, and Christ: A History of the Gospel in Chinese describes past periods of Christian or semi-Christian advance in China: Nestorians during the first millennium, Jesuits midway through the second, and evangelicals over the past two centuries. Stressing the importance of indigenous efforts, Mr. Covell argues that the Chinese have often seen Christianity as "foreign," so the Maoist breaking of ties between Western churches and China was providential.

The idea that monotheistic worship goes way back in China underlies Nelson and Broadberry's Genesis and the Mystery Confucius Couldn't Solve, which argues that ancient Chinese pictograms suggest knowledge of early human history as described in the Bible. Watch this fall for a superior book on this subject by Chan Kei Thong. He shows that the early Chinese venerated a Supreme Being with characteristics similar to those of the God of the Bible, and that the 4,000-year-old Chinese sacrificial system had startling and meaningful parallels to the biblical system.

Jason Kindopp and Carol Lee Hamrin
Jason Kindopp and Carol Lee Hamrin

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