Preaching what you practise.
When I got to school this morning, Row informed me that they were checking up on us to see whether we were preaching. I wondered where this had come from, but Linda had no details. “The school,” she said. I can’t imagine that any of the foreign teachers here are likely to be rocking the boat. Besides, the guy from Sri Lanka is a Buddhist. Thus I don’t know if this ordinance affects the city, the province, or the whole country.
I can only guess that some foreign teachers somewhere went a little beyond their remit, whereupon it was discovered that evangelicals had been coming to China disguised as cynical, hard-bitten EFL teachers. Nah, that can hardly be news. I worked alongside one for my first two years in China, and I’ve seen one or two blogs, written by Americans, where pious platitudes are mentioned in a fashion so casual that an uninitiated reader would think such utterances are perfectly normal.
Ironically, for a country which is nominally secular, the temples and churches in China see a lot more traffic than they would in Europe. The only people praying at the Catholic cathedral in Tianjin were the Chinese themselves. On more than a few occasions, kids in my classes have mentioned “the God” [sic] in their writing, though I’m never really certain quite which god they mean. Also, I note that Chinese people are far more superstitious than you might expect from a nation with such an obsession about science. But it would be wrong to assume that science leads to rationality: just look at Michael Faraday or, more recently, Michael Reiss (Times article).
In many respects, China resembles the Roman Empire before the darkness of Christianity extinguished the light of toleration for a range of religious beliefs. Like the Roman Empire, the imperium sericum is only tolerant within reason, although the Chinese should be grateful that there was never a Constantine.