Foreigner pretending to be Christian?

I heard this story the other day. My wife’s church has ties with an organization that helps match international college students with local sponsor families to help with lodging and transportation when they first arrive in the country. Mostly the students are Chinese, and the organization’s goal is to minister to them, but their rules are very strict about how pushy they’re allowed to be.

One of these sponsor families asked their student if she was a Christian, and she said yes. Follow up questions revealed that she had no idea what Christianity was, and when pressed, she said her mom had told her that if she met any Christians, she should go ahead and say she’s also a Christian, because Christian’s are such nice and awesome people. Basically, this was told in the context of a feel-good, let’s all pat ourselves on the back sort of way. I :dubious:

I pointed out that Christians don’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to treating non-Christians with respect, so maybe the mom didn’t want her to get persecuted. I also pointed out that it seemed strange that the mom would instruct her daughter to lie, when her lie was exposed by a simple question like, “Do you know who Jesus is?” You’d think if you were training someone to fake it, you might at least cover the basics.

This is assuming that the story wasn’t made up altogether, or simply a combination of a language barrier and a healthy dollop of delusion.

Anyway, is there any way this story was legit and I was being too harsh?

I think it’s very likely you are being too harsh. My guess is that the mother didn’t tell her child what Christianity was or who Jesus was because any Christians she has encountered were not in a position to proselytize/witness/share the Gospel.

And the Christians she met were nice/awesome people who were always happy to meet other Christians.

This is really about Obama right?

Ok, seriously, it could all be ignorance. Neither she nor her mother may have known what it meant to be a Christian. Maybe mom just heard from a friend of a friend that Americans don’t like people who aren’t Christian, so never tell them you’re not a Christian. Seems to me the Christian thing to do would be to explain it to the girl.

I’m not an expert on Chinese culture by any means, and naturally there’s a wide spectrum of people and attitudes in China, but…

From my experience, it’s considered polite to tell someone what they want to hear, even if that’s a white lie. So by saying “yes, I’m a Christian”, I suspect she was just trying to be agreeable to her host, and then when she was put on the spot about fibbing, she came up with an explanation (real or imagined, I couldn’t say).

I don’t doubt she has the idea that Christians are nice people, although it might be in a very vague sense. For instance, I imagine that Danish people are nice, even though I don’t really know anything specific about Denmark or the Danish people that would prove or disprove that notion.

Possible analogy: It’s similar to an American sewing a Canadian flag on their backpack when traveling in Europe (if that even happens any more). The traveler may not know the first thing about Canada, but Canadians have a better rep than Americans.

But if you answer correctly to “Do you know who Jesus is?” then they’ll know you aren’t Canadian.

I would think almost the opposite. Maybe Chinese mom met Americans – missionary Americans – and told her daughter to tell them she was Christian to keep them from pestering her and proselytizing her half to death. Mom just didn’t expect an Inquisition to actually pry into her daughter’s knowledge of Christian lore.

I have to wonder about this particular exchange program, especially as to just how clear it is to the Chinese families that the Americans are going to “minister to” their children. I’m find it difficult to think of this in any other terms than “convert them”, and I also imagine no matter what the written rules are, a lot of Americans who would volunteer to do this are gonna be willing to push very hard at boundaries.

Well, dash it all, nobody expects the American (evangelical Protestant) Inquisition!!

Hmmmmm … I think this speculation really is more about your own feelings then any Chinese foreign exchange students out there. Which is cool and all, you know, feelings are cool. And going on the internet for most people is an exercise in declaring, “Listen up, people, I’ve got some feelings, and boy oh boy are you gonna hear about them.”

Except I think the OP actually was interested in what might have been going on with this Chinese exchange student and no so much about “what feelings does this story remind you of.”

That would make no sense since the Chinese folk are already supposed to be Christians. “To minister” originally means “to give aid” - Church Ministries aren’t the missionaries, they’re the aid organizations.

I lived in a rural-industrial city in inland China, and while i was there I came to understand a bit (but far from everything) about Christianity in China.

To start out with, Chinese people are very practical and don’t have a lot of room for dogma. Even during the cultural revolution, there was a lot of “nudge nudge wink wink” going on. Traditionally, people happily practiced a mishmash of religions, moving fluidly to whichever one suited their needs at the time. Communism largely disarmed these religions, and these days they are more along the lines of “throw a penny into the wishing well,” than a coherent belief system.

So in this mindset, a lot of the niggling details about Jesus and the precise mechanisms of salvation are often not at the forefront for most people. Christianity is usually sort of a fuzzily interconnected set of ideas around a higher power, generally being nice to people, and other pleasant things. It occupies a lot of the same space that Buddhism occupies in the West. It’s a feel-good, exotically interesting, not really thoroughly understood thing that manages to be both wholesome and edgy at the same time. It’s practiced by the same general demographic- students, artists, bohemians, activists, earth mother types and intellectuals.

Added into that is that a lot of Christianity is underground, as the Party isn’t too happy with any competitors. As it went underground with all these students and artists, it became tied up in a lot of activist movements. Christian movements have been involved in a lot of human rights, free press and democracy movements. So among progressive people, there is some goodwill built up in that.

So it’s just a totally different set of connotations.

I was born and raised in the southern US and I’ve been lying and claiming Christian affiliation when asked since first grade or so. I occasionally still do in work situations. It keeps the peace, and helps me avoid shunning or proselytizing, and since my religious beliefs are no one’s business anyway, it seems the most harmless way to address an invasive question.

That’s what I assumed! I mean, perhaps it’s a combination of (a) cultural differences meaning she didn’t think it was a big deal, like a white lie about political affiliation or something, and (b) it seems it probably is true that being Christian is the “safe” choice. Obviously there’s many places where no-one is going to have a problem, but I’ve heard about people saying things like “Oh, I’m not <i>atheist</i>. Maybe I don’t believe in God, but…”, and it seems in many places there can still be quite a stigma to not being Christian (or at least, religious), but that if you are, people probably won’t quiz you about the details of your denomination.

Am I the only one who read the Thread title Foreigner pretending to be Christian and thought the band was newly taking on a faux-religious identity in an attempt to be relevant with a new audience?

Perhaps a rock musical Jesus Christ Juke Box Hero
. . . with the show-stopping ballad “I Want To Know What Christ’s Love Is”?
“Heals Like the First Time”?
“Waiting for a God Like You”?
“Blessed are the Hot Blooded for they shall receive Double Vision”?

Ditto. People’s relationship with their religion is different in many asian counties; to them, fibbing about your religion to make someone else more comfortable is not altogether different from saying “Oh, yeah, I love that band, too.”

China’s got an official state version of Christianity. I hear they even tried to elect their own pope, and clashed with the Vatican about cardinals and some such. I’m surprised, but not too shocked that the kid’s version of Christianity doesn’t include a lot of things like Jesus.


I’ve always wondered what happens when a pope and an antipope meet.

All Christians explode?

Immaculate annihilation.