A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China

Joann Pittman | July 6, 2015

In December 2001 I had the opportunity to attend the first performance since 1949 of Handel’s Messiah (in Chinese) at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. The choir (assembled by a local Christian conductor) sang to a packed house. There wasn’t a dry eye among the thousands assembled as we stood for the “Hallelujah” chorus. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a testament to the fact that neither Marx nor Mao gets the last word in China—the Messiah does.

I thought of that evening often as I read A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China, written by Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences at Baylor University, and Xiuhua Wang, PhD student in sociology at Baylor. In many ways it tells the story of the Messiah’s triumph in China. Stark and Wang set out to shed light on both the how and the why of the spread of Christianity in China. Along the way, they challenge assumptions and shine new light on the types of people turning to Christianity.

Six things in particular stand out to me:

1. The actual numbers are hard to nail down.

A Star in the East takes a hard look at available statistics and analyzes their reliability (or lack thereof). Using…

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