Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Asia projected to become one of the largest Christian populations in the world

By Aussiegirl

Here's some "good news" for a change. Ultimately this war on terror will be won by changing people's hearts.

Asia Times Online :: Southeast Asia news and business from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam

Asia is projected to become one of the largest Christian populations in the world, on pace to eclipse Europe in the next 30 years. The US State Department estimates there could already be as many as 100 million Christians in China, even though the official tally of believers is below 50 million.

The US-led "war on terror" has focused worldwide concern on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a precursor to violent militancy. Moderate or secular behavior among Asia's Muslims is considered the long-term antidote to religious fervor. But in the wider context encompassing Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, the trend in Asia is anything but moderate or secular. Across the region, charismatic sects are springing up and drawing young people to religious faith. And new Asian converts to Christianity are arguably outpacing the spread of Islam.

The new believers are often Asia's upwardly mobile, although the dirt-poor and desperate still flock to Christianity's promise of eternal salvation. Far from embracing materialist and consumer values and completely abandoning religion, middle-class Chinese residents of Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong all regularly flock to Pentecostal or charismatic churches.

The houses of worship offer relief from the stress of modern existence to the accompaniment of pop music - and some throw in fresh coffee and broadband Internet for good measure. They are active in social welfare, and sometimes in politics - the Pentecostal Church of Taiwan has advocated independence from China for the island, which Beijing still claims is a renegade province. In Hong Kong, the church backs the movement for democracy.

The trend toward religiosity in Asian societies is plain, if not predictable. As Asia's economies have grown, many at a breakneck pace, so too have social inequalities and uncertainties. In urban areas, the resulting hardships are felt even more because migration deprives people of family or community support and breeds alienation. The church, the temple or the mosque is often the only place people facing hardship can turn to.


At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow I don't feel comforted by the above statement: "Far from embracing materialist and consumer values and completely abandoning religion, middle-class Chinese residents of Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong all regularly flock to Pentecostal or charismatic churches."

If these churches are like the churches here (most Asian churches are on the American model), this is a very materialistic and consumerist style of Christianity. Very little solid teaching in them.

Rice Christians?

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

I don't know, Scribe -- give me a materialistic and consumerist Christian over a fanatical Islamist any day. I have always believed that it is fundamentally Christianity which led to the flowering of the West, even if there were a few detours along the way. The differences between Islam and Christianity is the emphasis that Christianity (and Judaism) places on the individual and his conscience. Humans have a need for belief in something higher than themselves, and a hunger for community and higher purpose. I think these churches are appealing to new converts in ways that the old line churches are not, and that needs to be evaluated and understood. There is an immediacy and emotional connection offered by these fundamentalist churches that is lacking in mainline churches. Whatever rocks their boat -- Christianity liberates and makes people loving and productive citizens while Islam, as we well know, creates hatred, xenophobia and intolerance. In the long run it is only a spiritual revival that will save Western Civilization from its self-administered implosion. Offering the world the secular gifts of democracy and capitalism with the fruits of American popular culture does nothing to nourish the human need for a connection to the Divine. And while I agree that these particular churches are not my spiritual cup of tea, they are obviously reaching out and touching populations that we desperately need to touch. Thanks as always for stopping in and reading and commenting on UT. Your contributions are highly appreciated.

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have seen this materialistic and consumerist Christianity in action and it does more harm than good. It raises false expectations, plays on their fears, and requires nothing from the believer except gullibility.

Because there are some Christian concepts expounded within it, one can say it may be better marginally better than Islam, but overall, it does a great deal to weaken real Christianity. It makes for rice Christians--"the name it and claim it" crowd as they are known. If it came to a real battle between these Christians and muslims, the number of Christians would drop precipitously as they would race to join muslim ranks. They would be the worst of the Christian persecutors.

Pentecostal-like groups flooded into Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, but they only led to the further decline of the people there. Read the book "Killing Fields, Living Fields" by Peter Fields who compared the Christian missions before the Khmer Rouge and afterward their fall.


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