Amid the usual news stories this Easter Sunday – accounts of the president’s family attending church and the pope addressing multitudes – there is this startling and vastly hopeful headline:
China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years
According to Tom Phillips, writing in the Telegraph:
Christian congregations ... have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao's death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution. Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world's number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.
China is, of course, still a one-party state following the transition from Madman Mao to the more technocrat totalitarians of today. While they may be less ferocious than the Dear Leader, they still recognize a threat when they see one:
China's leadership worry about how the religious landscape might shape its political future, and its possible impact on the Communist Party's grip on power, despite the clause in the country's 1982 constitution that guarantees citizens the right to engage in "normal religious activities".
As a result, a close watch is still kept on churchgoers, and preachers are routinely monitored to ensure their sermons do not diverge from what the Party considers acceptable.
They may also be wise enough to realize that they are on the losing side of something even larger than history.