Religious liberty good for religion & the state

In President Obama’s meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week, should discussion of human rights and religious freedom be … Continued

In President Obama’s meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week, should discussion of human rights and religious freedom be on par with economic and environmental issues, or should human rights and religious freedom be secondary matters?

The issue of human rights and religious liberty must be discussed along with economic and environmental issues.

Certainly, the tradition in the United States is that, to quote the father of our Constitution, James Madison, the right of conscience “is precedent, both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.” In discussions with the Chinese, tactically it may have to be merely on par with economic and environmental issues, but no way should it be secondary. This is an opportunity that President Obama must not pass up when he meets with Hu Jintao.

I have traveled to China twice as part of delegations to speak with Chinese religious and governmental leaders on religion and religious freedom issues and have seen first-hand that religion in China is thriving. We have seen dramatic growth in numbers and vibrancy of religion generally and Christian churches specifically– both registered and house churches. Today it is said that Christians in China outnumber members of the Chinese Communist Party. The Gospel has burgeoned in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and the re-opening of churches in 1979.

However, religious liberty falls behind the growth of religion, qua religion.

The Chinese constitution protects only “freedom of religious belief” and “normal religious activity.” This generally means state-regulated “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant) have the right to worship unmolested and to proselytize within the four walls of their house of worship — but not on the street corner outside of it. The extent to which various folk religions, other denominational traditions and unregistered religious organizations are free to worship varies from region to region. Religion is permitted to exist and is sometimes actually promoted (the state often pays for the purchase of land for churches and seminaries) when the state judges it will spawn what the Chinese call the “harmonious society.”

Beyond this, groups the state considers “evil religions,” such as the Falun Gong or ones that are deemed to be splitist, like the Tibetan Buddhists, or supporting terrorism, like Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, are often persecuted.

China has been working on religious liberty for only about 30 years; in this country, we have been at it for nearly 300 years and still do not always get the church-state equation right. Chinese culture has always been hierarchical, authoritarian and communal. As a result, the Chinese are not used to thinking about individual rights. They will always be more interested in promoting the “harmonious society” over the sometimes cacophonous clash of individualism, but progress is being made.

China does not turn on a dime. It never has in 4,000 years and will not now. Nor will China respond to dire threats and embarrassing diatribes about its shortcomings on the religious freedom front. But, President Obama and U.S. foreign policy generally must continue to press diplomatically for more religious liberty. The message that I would suggest the president articulate is that, in the final analysis, full fledged religious liberty will actually promote a “harmonious society” more than divisive governmental intervention into the religious demography –favoring some, disfavoring (even persecuting) others. Religious liberty is good for both religion and the state — and that goes for China, too.

  • rush_n_crush

    “The message that I would suggest the president articulate is that, in the final analysis, full fledged religious liberty will actually promote a “harmonious society” more than divisive governmental intervention into the religious demography –favoring some, disfavoring (even persecuting) others.”What a crock! Walker needs to open a history book! Every Chinese knows that much of China’s humiliation from Western Armies was due to Christians and their philosophical/religous support of said armies. Christian cults have spread untold sorrow on Chinese soil, ever since the white man first anchored his war ships in Chinese harbors. The Chinese government is 100% correct in protecting the people and allowing only lawful assembly of state recognized religions. In fact, the West should be extremely grateful that their Christian religion is even tolerated in China, in light of all the misery which you brought to our shores!

  • rush_n_crush

    “The message that I would suggest the president articulate is that, in the final analysis, full fledged religious liberty will actually promote a “harmonious society” more than divisive governmental intervention into the religious demography –favoring some, disfavoring (even persecuting) others.”What a crock! Walker needs to open a history book! Every Chinese knows that much of China’s humiliation from Western Armies was due to Christians and their philosophical/religous support of said armies. Christian cults have spread untold sorrow on Chinese soil, ever since the white man first anchored his war ships in Chinese harbors. The Chinese government is 100% correct in protecting the people and allowing only lawful assembly of state recognized religions. In fact, the West should be extremely grateful that their Christian religion is even tolerated in China, in light of all the misery which you brought to our shores!

  • rush_n_crush

    “The message that I would suggest the president articulate is that, in the final analysis, full fledged religious liberty will actually promote a “harmonious society” more than divisive governmental intervention into the religious demography –favoring some, disfavoring (even persecuting) others.”What a crock! Walker needs to open a history book! Every Chinese knows that much of China’s humiliation from Western Armies was due to Christians and their philosophical/religous support of said armies. Christian cults have spread untold sorrow on Chinese soil, ever since the white man first anchored his war ships in Chinese harbors. The Chinese government is 100% correct in protecting the people and allowing only lawful assembly of state recognized religions. In fact, the West should be extremely grateful that their Christian religion is even tolerated in China, in light of all the misery which you brought to our shores!

  • patig2

    Why is Rush_N_Crush’s crushing comment posted three times?

  • VisionFromAfar

    Why is Rush_N_Crush’s crushing comment posted three times?Because the moron posted three times, in addition to completely missing the point of both the opinion and issue at hand. *Applaud* Kudos to you sir, ignorance of that level is often on display, but rarely with such flair.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.