Monday, June 20, 2005


Communists Promote Bible Study in the People's Republic?

In a recent article at TechCentralStation, Lee Harris argues that in a world where non-Christian parents did not fear their children might be converted to Christianity the Holy Bible would be required reading in schools because it is such a historically important and influential book. After all, classic ancient Greek literature dealing with the Pantheon of Greek gods is now studied in school and technically it has religious themes. He writes:

“Indeed, the day may come when the current attempt to suppress the reading of the Bible in public school is looked upon as being no less hysterical than the efforts of the good town of Artichoke to repress the reading of Homer in their public schools.”

The town of Artichoke he refers to is a fictional creation for the purposes of his article. Mr. Harris seems to think that the day when the Bible is dispassionately studied as an important work of literature will be far in the future, but it may already be upon us. The question isn’t when will this happen, but where.

There was an article last October in the Shanghai Daily News reporting that the Bible had been added to the recommended reading lists for local schoolchildren. This makes perfect sense, when considered in light of Mr. Harris’s article. Shanghai is a major center of trade with the West, and given the incredible influence the Bible has had on Western culture, politics, and language it would seem to be an obvious book to have Shanghai schoolchildren study to help them understand the Occidentals they will do business with when they grow up. There would seem to be no ‘risk’ to having their children study the Bible if, as good Communists should, they believe that the rejection of Christianity (and other religions) by society is historically inevitable. So if there is no chance of the Bible altering the course of their society and it would improve their understanding of the West, it would be hard to argue with the Shanghai Education Commission decision to encourage Bible reading among Shanghai youth.

I wonder if there is another possible explanation, however…

Christianity is on the rise in mainland China. Perhaps, like pre-Constantine Rome, there are more Christians in the upper class of Chinese society than many now believe. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps some of those Christians are on the Shanghai Education Commission, and the promotion of Bible reading is result of their secret influence. If so, it is a very clever political maneuver. As I mentioned above, it is easy to justify on the basis of practical education. Despite the fact that most Chinese probably realize that this will help the spread of Christianity, it is hard to argue that without also saying that Christianity can compete and win ideologically against Communism. In fact, some of the parents interviewed in the article did voice concerns about their teenagers being exposed to religious influence. While the ideological weakness of Communism may be obvious to most mainland Chinese, it is still something that few people are comfortable saying officially. Thus the spread of Christian influence can occur right under everyone’s nose and yet few will even comment on it for fear of being impolitic.

Certainly Bible studies in Shanghai schools, could be a product of rational atheists, as proposed by Lee Harris. But I still suspect that at least some of those involved with the decision have ulterior, evangelical motives. Combining this with my earlier observations in the post Uprising in Mainland China, I am getting more optimistic about the near future of the PRC. If there are any old China hands that have insight into this, I'd appreciate the input.

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