Saturday, December 15, 2007

an irony of biblical proportions

From, excerpting a longer story from the London Times (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

Chinese Factory Set to Become World's Largest Bible Producer

The only authorized Christian publisher in China is celebrating a milestone on Saturday as the 50 millionth Bible rolls off the presses, according to a report in the Times of London.

Demand for the Bible is soaring in officially-atheist China, at a time when meteoric economic growth is testing the country's allegiance to Communist doctrine, the Times of London reports. Now, the demand in China for Bibles is such that Amity Printing, a joint venture between Chinese Christian charity and the United Bible Societies, a Protestant organization, can barely keep pace.

Early next year it will move into a new, much larger factory on the edge of the eastern city of Nanjing to become the world's single-biggest producer of Bibles.

"This platform has been built as a blessing to the nation. It will print Bibles for China for as long as it takes to do it," said New Zealander Peter Dean, of the United Bible Societies.

In careful adherence to China's laws that prohibit evangelizing, the Bible is not on sale in mainstream Chinese bookshops but through a distribution system managed by the official church, such as stalls set up for people attending morning service, according to the Times of London report.

Additional details in the article from the Times-- on the numbers, the rampant growth of Christianity presumably among younger people in China (and the implications for one's eschatological views), and the religious baggage of the "Cultural Revolution"...

Of the 50 million Bibles Amity has printed, 41 million were for the faithful in Chinese and eight minority languages. The rest have been for export to Russia and Africa. Sales surged from 505,000 in 1988 to a high of 6.5 million in 2005. Output last year was 3.5 million and is expected to rise in 2007.

One of Mr Dean’s bestsellers is a pocket Bible, a version not suitable for the older generation to read and which may indicate a rapid expansion in the number of new, younger believers. He cited a surge in demand during the Sars crisis in 2003, but refrained from commenting. The enterprise has clearly flourished through its discretion and careful adherence to China’s laws that prohibit evangelising...

A country where the Communist ideology has lost much credibility is seeing an upsurge in conversions to Christianity. Li Baiguang, a prominent lawyer and Christian activist who was received by President Bush at the White House last year, said: “Rising wealth means that more and more people have been able to meet their material needs, the need for food and clothing.

“Then they are finding that they need to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul. In addition, they are seeing a breakdown in the moral order as money takes over. Thus, more and more people are turning to Christianity.”

In the ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Bibles were burnt as tomes of superstition. Much has altered since the 1980s when government policy required tourists and visitors not to bring in Bibles “in excess of personal use”. Many faithful took to smuggling the book into China to meet demand....

It is such a sensitive issue that Chinese officials denied rumours recently that China would ban international athletes from bringing in Bibles to the Olympics in Beijing next August. However, the official Olympic website states: “Each traveller is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.”


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