Is China in a Spiritual Crisis?

An interesting article in the BBC Magazine today talks about the matter of the growing number of Chinese who are turning to faith. The story echoes many points I have made here, so it is worth quoting at length.

What must unsettle the authorities most is the reason why so many are turning to the churches.

I heard people talking again and again of a “spiritual crisis” in China – a phrase that has even been used by the Premier Wen Jiao Bao. The old have seen the old certainties of Marxism-Leninism transmute into the most visceral capitalist society on earth.

For the young, in the stampede to get rich, trust in institutions, between individuals, between the generations, is breaking down.

As one of China’s most eminent philosophers of religion – Professor He Guanghu, at Renmin University in Beijing put it to me: “The worship of Mammon… has become many people’s life purpose.

“I think it is very natural that many other people will not be satisfied… will seek some meaning for their lives so that when Christianity falls into their lives, they will seize it very tightly.”

via BBC News – Christians in China: Is the country in spiritual crisis?.

I cannot disagree. What it means, though, is that the Party is going to have to come to an accommodation with religion in the same way it did with capital.

What the story tactfully avoided was telltale stories about the slow disintegration of ethics and morality in China. While those would have been illustrative and entertaining, such apocrypha merely serve to remind us that ethical rot and moral decline are not limited to a single society, but are, indeed, pervasive.

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2 thoughts on “Is China in a Spiritual Crisis?

  1. Strangely there have actually been serious discussions at high levels about imposing a state religion in China to deal with some of the social problems that can be observed pretty much anywhere in China (and not all of them have money at the heart either).

    • I hadn’t heard that. It would be shocking, wouldn’t it, for China to impose a state religion as long as it remained even nominally communist. On the other hand, this is the most capitalist communist country in the world. The problem, of course, is that a state religion wouldn’t solve the problem: it would merely compel a new level of public hypocrisy. The answer is to position religion as non-competitive with the party, then allow for association with a host of state-recognized faiths.

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