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Jewish Journal

The Chinese Christian comeback

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 23, 2008 | 12:47 pm

From banned book to big business, the Bible makes a comeback in China:

NANJING, CHINA—The factory looks like it could be any plant in this export-driven nation. Hundreds of Chinese workers huddle over loud machines churning out large orders for customers at home and abroad.

But what they’re making might surprise you: Bibles.

As Tibetan monks grab headlines protesting the lack of religious freedom under Chinese rule, a booming Bible industry is on its way to turning the world’s biggest atheist nation into the world’s largest producer of the Good Book.

Chairman Mao might have said, “Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people,” but here at Nanjing Amity Printing Co., China’s only state-sanctioned Bible printer, little time is wasted pondering the contradictions of a metaphysical mismatch.

“We are printers,” said Li Chunnong, the general manager of the plant, which has about 500 employees. “As long as somebody legitimate sends us an order, we will print them.”

This pragmatic mind-set has contributed to the company’s staggering growth. Since its first Bible rolled off the presses two decades ago, Amity has printed more than 50 million copies in 75 languages and exported to more than 60 countries. With the help of a new hangar-sized facility, the company could well be the biggest Bible factory in the world, cranking out 12 million copies a year.

This is the beginning of an LA Times story about religious revival in China. Officially atheist, China has seen a massive rise in Christianity. Frontline teamed up with the Chicago Tribune to discuss this at length in this article and the above video:

By some estimates Christian churches, most of them underground, now have roughly 70 million members, as many as the party itself. A growing number of those Christians are in fact party members.

Christianity is thriving in part because it offers a moral framework to citizens adrift in an age of Wild West capitalism that has not only exacted a heavy toll in corruption and pollution but also harmed the global image of products “Made in China.”

Some Chinese Christians argue that their faith is an unexpected boon for the Communist Party, because it shores up the economic foundation that is central to sustaining party rule.

“With economic development, morality and ethics in China are degenerating quickly,” prayer leader Zhang Wei told the crowd at Jin’s church as worshipers bowed their heads. “Holy Father, please save the Chinese people’s soul.”

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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