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China's exploding church


DURING the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, the Chinese Communist regime seized Christian churches. In the more open society of today, it dynamites them.

The remarkable growth of Christian church-building in Fujian province, across the strait from Taiwan and a center of economic growth and emigration, was reported Sunday by The Sun's Beijing correspondent, Frank Langfitt.

Equally remarkable is the campaign to destroy Christian churches. The local authority of Changle has blown up some 20 of them. Or tried to.

The gaunt towers of one new Catholic church that dynamite didn't bring down stand out against the sky in a Langfitt photograph, like some Gothic relic in Europe, perfect symbol of a faith that refuses to die out on Chinese soil.

The Communist regime is notably paranoid, even more so when it indulges in selective liberalization. It wants to let in Western capital, materialism and commerce, but fears the ideas and loyalties that come along and cannot weed them out.

Christianity, like communism, is a non-Chinese, Western import. It is small in adherence compared with Confucian philosophy, the Taoist and Buddhist religions. But in a great civilization, it has its place, and has had for centuries.

Fujianese go abroad, many to the United States, toiling long hours for low pay at carry-out restaurants and other businesses, sending remittances not only to families back home but to church construction funds.

China tolerates some churches but runs an official Catholic church in rivalry with a larger underground organization in touch with the Vatican. China's efforts to suppress Tibetan Buddhism and western Islam and the seemingly harmless Falun Gong movement are well-known. And in vain.

In the long run, the Communist regime can no more suppress spiritual and religious conscience than it could stamp out mushrooms or the Internet. The valiant Christians of Fujian will keep their faith.

It will be there when the last remnants of Maoist organization are history. Chinese Christianity is a part of globalization that is not going to be undone.

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