There officially recognized branch of the Catholic church in China has to acknowledge the authority of the Party above the Pope. Chinese Catholics have a long history, but have faced some real pressures in recent years. Religion has a long history of being a means of organizing rebellions against the Chinese state (think back to the Boxers), and so the Party regards religious hierarchies as a potential threat to power. This is why, for example, they get so over the top with Falun Gong. The Party doesn’t want any organization with power that they cannot control.
The way Christianity is practiced in China is not a “kid’s version.” It’s a reflection on the fact that China has basically no history of hierarchal, universalist, all-or-nothing religions. The concept of religion in China is not exclusive and organized as it is here. It’s inclusive, pluralistic, and diffuse. A “religion” is nothing more or less than how people practice it, and that is how it is practiced there.
Just guessing, but is it not possible that the Chinese family saw an opportunity to have their child go outside the country and experience a foreign culture firsthand - and for free, pretty much - and they took advantage of it with no sinister intent, but simply to give the kid a leg up when the kid returns to the pretty competitive modern Chinese culture. If all it took to do this was to say “Yes” to the Christianity question and there was no other “litmus test” involved, why not? They may well have had no idea that the purpose of the student exchange was to try to inculcate the child further in foreign religious beliefs.
So to use the organization, the person doesn’t have to be Christian, but since it is a Christian group helping out, then the mother probably told the daughter to say she was Christian.
I can see a Chinese person doing that out of naivety, and much more likely than because she was afraid of persecution. Or, you can get Chinese who are all out for themselves and maybe she thought she could get something for free.
Kimmy, I’m going to have to apologize to you then, because the thread title reminds me of a story, and by golly, I’m going to share it.
There is a branch of my husband’s family that is quite fervent, fundamentalist, and evangelical in their Christian beliefs. The rest of the family has been hit up several times over the years for funds (via mass-produced form letters, but that’s a complaint for another thread) to pay for our niece to travel abroad, as a high school student, on various short-term proselytizing trips.
Although I suspect that these kids mostly just get in the way of serious aid workers, at least there is arguably a rationale for some of the trips, such as when they helped at a dental hygiene clinic (and oh by the way Jesus loves you, hold still while I’ve got this sharp object in your mouth!) in Haiti.
But my favorite request by far was when she went to Amsterdam. Her letter asked us all for money to send her to Holland so she could, actual quote here, “bring Jesus to the Europeans.”
Yep. Because those Europeans - they’ve never heard of Jesus! Probably if they said they were Christian, it was just because their mothers told them to.
To a Western Christian (Catholic) like myself, “Are you a Christian” is a simple yes-or-no question.
However, I have found that, among many Asians (especially Indians), it’s not uncommon for people to mix and match bits and pieces of several different religions.
In Japan, there’s often a weird mix of Shintoism and Buddhism. In India, Hindus regularly incorporate bits of Buddhism and even Christianity. Hence, a prominent Hindu like Gandhi sometimes called himelf a Christian… though very few Christians would consider him one.
A girl from a not-particularly-religious Chinese family may mix Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and a bit of Christianity. She may even call herself a Christian sincerely, even if she doesn’t really believe in (or even know about) doctrines that most Western Christians would consider essential, and even if she rarely or never sets foot in any kind of church.