House Churches Going Public
and the Transformation of Chinese Society

by YU Jie
October 4, 2010


On October 4, 2010, at the invitation of our center, Mr. YU Jie, a famous writer and independent scholar in China, came to Purdue and gave a lecture titled “House Churches Going Public and Transformation of Chinese Society”.


Mr. Yu pointed out that many new urban Protestant house churches have emerged in China during the last decade. Most of their members are well-educated middle-aged middle class. These churches believe in the Calvinist Protestant theology, hold the conservative values, and proclaim the godly living.


Though the legalization still seems far away, these churches have already tried to go public. On one hand, they rejected the current unreasonable registration requirements that are in conflict with the Bible and the Constitution. On the other hand, they get themselves into the open by moving from residential buildings to business buildings, establishing websites, publishing journals, and providing public services like disaster relief. All these publicizing efforts have benefited both the churches and the society. Meanwhile, there emerged many Christian public intellectuals. Unlike the “cultural Christians” in the 1980s, they not only have solid church life, but also dare to become salt and light in the public world and advocate religious freedom.


According to Mr. Yu, the Christian faith can provide three important values in the democratization process of Chinese society. First, the values of human rights. In China, human rights always submit to politics and reduce to survival rights. But in Christian faith, since humans are created by God, humans have their natural rights that can never be deprived. Second, the values of tolerance and reconciliation. The nonviolence creed from Christianity can help resolve the acute social conflicts in China today, like the urban-rural divide. Third, the values of love and trust. Behind the illusory fast development, Chinese society has been brought to crisis by the moral degradation, hurt and distrust, and the split of families. Only when thousands of Christian churches, as “life communities”, have established the creed of covenant and the society of contract, China can become a normal country again.


Mr. Yu also talked about his own beliefs. As an independent intellectual, his responsibility is to criticize the whole political authority. However, he does not think he could not be viewed as a dissident, because his motivation is not to differ from the government, but to follow his own faith and consciousness. He is not a political activist, but a thinker in the study. And his thoughts are focused on fundamental values rather than political solutions. Mr. Yu confessed that he once got frightened by the pressures and threats from the government. And without the support of religious faith, nobody can confront such a gigantic power. Now, he feels happy and meaningful to live this life chosen by himself and take the responsibility for it.