Chinese government officials announced Thursday that they plan to create a new state-sanctioned version of Christian theology, the latest in an uptick of attempts by the government to curtail the growing influence of religion in Chinese culture.
Speaking to the state-run China Daily newspaper, Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, told reporters that the new effort would seek to marry Christian theology with established Chinese norms.
“Over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have developed very quickly with the implementation of the country’s religious policy,” he said. “The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.”
The exact details of how and where this new theology will be developed were not immediately clear, but the move appears to be part of a long history of complex — and increasingly conflict-ridden — interactions between religion and politics in China. Religion was recast as a superstition and a foreign intrusion during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when many houses of worship were forcibly closed and congregations disbanded by Red Guards. The government has since loosened its grip on spiritual affairs, but the U.S. State Department’s “International Religious Freedom Report for 2013“, released in July, still lists China as a “Country of Particular Concern,” and cited several major hurdles faced by many Chinese seeking to freely express their religious beliefs.