Gospel and Culture Series
In a mere thirty years, China has become a world economic power with the world's most dynamic economy, now second only to the United States in scale. At the same time, Chinese society has experienced fundamental changes, notably the rise of a well-educated and assertive urban middle class. The conventional wisdom is that the Chinese are very this-worldly and pragmatic people, and not generally interested in religion. But new social surveys in China show that more than 30 percent of Chinese people aged 16 and older have some religious convictions. Given the fairly recent political history of China, which saw the official promotion of atheism and the active suppression of religion, this is very surprising news. Even so, the Chinese government still attempts to manage the nation's religious affairs. In an interview last year in the China Daily, Prof. Liu Peng proposed legislation that would allow religious groups to register easily, be guaranteed freedom of belief, and be allowed to "compete freely—in a way similar to the market economy."
Can China achieve legal reform for the sake of religious freedom? As the Chinese government seems poised to consider reforming how it addresses religious belief and practice, how might Westerners understand this situation and play a more constructive role? And what might Chinese scholars of religion learn from an extended dialogue with their North American colleagues on religion and the rule of law?
The Nagel Institute, on behalf of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, will be coordinating an international faculty development seminar in China, June 2-16, 2011 to address these questions.