American Religious Schools Are Brainwashing Chinese Exchange Students

December 22, 2011

Warning: if you are not a fan of my periodic anti-religion screeds, please change the channel now.

Strange, he seems so non-threatening.

Not only do I really dislike religion, organized and otherwise, but I find proselytization in particular to be despicable. I understand why religious people do it, of course. If I thought I knew the secret to everlasting salvation, it would be criminal of me to keep it to myself. Many of these folks are therefore just trying to spread the word and “save” their fellow human beings. I get that.

I’m also a strong supporter of religious freedom, although I do admit to a slight thrill now and then when I hear, for example, the CCP admonishing its membership to remain atheists. Heh.

But free speech and religious freedom have limits, and when it comes to kids, we as a society really need to be careful. I would definitely draw the line at allowing American religious schools to prey on desperate Chinese students in hopes of converting these impressionable youth and turning them into fellow members of the God Squad, ready to spread the message to heathen China.

If you think I’m over-stating the problem, please do go and read this Bloomberg article in its entirety. (I assume that the author of the piece, Daniel Golden, is a Jew. He must have received some very interesting email!)

My head almost exploded as I was reading Golden’s article, beginning with this passage:

As evangelical schools capitalize on the desire of affluent Chinese families for the prestige of an American education, many Chinese students are learning first-hand how the Bible Belt got its name.

While proselytizing is banned in China, Protestant — and, to a lesser extent, Catholic — high schools are doing their missionary work on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Through placement agents and religious networking, they’re recruiting growing numbers of students from China, most of them atheists, and encouraging them to convert, in the hope that some of them will spread the faith back home.

This would be disgusting in any form, but when you learn more about how this racket works, trust me, the gorge will rise in your throat.

Here’s the problem: these are kids. In most countries, there are limits on what kids are allowed to do. Things like drinking alcohol, or voting, or signing contracts. Why do we have those limits? Because we feel that children lack the mental capacity to do certain things, like understand the substance of a legal agreement.

And yet it’s somehow OK for these children, whom we admit are not yet fully developed mentally, to be brainwashed by Big Jesus. It’s bad enough when parents, churches and mass media get in on the action; it’s even worse when kids are assaulted 24/7 at these “educational” institutions. (The word does belong in quotes. Some of these places teach creationism, bigotry and other lessons that ill-prepare their young charges for the real world.)

Here’s what happened to one kid after being assaulted by propaganda at one school for months, including mandatory chapel, religious instruction, bible study, and being sent to a “Christian counselor.” This should not be allowed to happen:

The more she read the Bible, the more truth she discovered there. After praying for a month, she felt the Holy Spirit one night in March 2009.

“Before, what I believed, what Chinese people believe, is that people are innately good,” she said. “I realized that I was sinful. I was lying, not loving. Those are as bad as killing someone. There’s no difference between me and a murderer.”

She was baptized in April, 2009. Now a sophomore at Davidson College in North Carolina, Su proselytized vacationers this past summer on Myrtle Beach.

This young girl was a junior in high school when they told her she was no better than a murderer.

Here’s another one, a boy who hasn’t converted but has certainly been influenced by the propaganda:

After watching a creationist video in Bible class, he developed doubts about evolution. Now a senior, he prays with teammates before games, he said. He lives in a teammate’s home, and prays with the family for success on exams.

OK, many of you might be wondering why these kids, and their parents, decide to go to these schools in the first place. None of them should be surprised at the religious environment as these institutions are upfront about their affiliations.

Two answers to that. First, these kids and their parents are desperate:

Chang Su was unusually blunt. A Shenzhen native, whose father is a computer engineer and whose mother teaches kindergarten, she “didn’t want anything to do with a Christian school,” she said.

She opted for Ben Lippen after missing the application deadline for secular private schools. Meeting Edgren, she informed him that she was not Christian, she said.

She was “so antagonistic,” said Edgren. He thanked her for her honesty and told her she would have to go to church.

Reminds me of the necrophilic Christian sects in the U.S. who prey on the ill and elderly in hospitals. Both my parents were subject to their propaganda in their final days, despite their deteriorating mental conditions. When I went to visit my mother in the hospital earlier this year before she died, I had to remove from her room the various books, leaflets and cards that these ghouls left there for her to read in her final hours. The people responsible are lucky that they didn’t show up while I was present. (Yeah, you betcha I’m biased on this issue.)

In addition to desperation, a lot of these kids and their parents are misinformed. Just because a school’s English-only website has lots of Jesus information does not mean that the parents will be properly informed. Some of these people go through agents, who of course do not disclose the downside of these schools. Here’s what one education consultant had to say:

“Relying on recruiters who do not emphasize their schools’ religious focus, Chinese parents perceive these schools as ’safe’ and ‘family-oriented’ places where their children will get a typical American experience,” she said in an e-mail. “They have no idea how religion permeates the day to day environment. I would no more place a Chinese student in an evangelical Christian school than in an orthodox Jewish school.”

Even when parents are informed that these are religious schools, their wrong-headed expectations and prejudices often propel them to make poor decisions:

Zhang Shaoxuan, the father of another girl at the fair, would gladly send her to a Christian school, he said.

“Both religious school and private schools are fine, the public schools are what you don’t want to be in,” he said. “Because there will be all kinds of odd students there.”

I might be off-base here, but I’m assuming that “odd students” is code for black kids. (That’s a topic for another day. Suffice it to say that among folks in the PRC, there is a lot of casual, uninformed racism against Africans and African Americans.)

And don’t think the schools are innocent educators here. They know what they’re doing:

While some trustees were leery of bringing so many non- Catholics to St. Mary’s, they couldn’t pass up the chance to evangelize. One trustee said, according to Glowacki [headmaster], “We have blank slates coming that we have an opportunity to write upon.”

Or the head of another school:

“Some people sacrifice so much to spread the gospel,” said Park, a Presbyterian. “Now we have people at our doorstep, offering money. I always tell the schools, ‘God has a bigger plan than we see.’”

Charming. Sinclair Lewis couldn’t have written it any better.

The question remains what to do about all this. First, and this will never happen, the government here could simply bar minors from going to these schools and being subject to religious indoctrination. Richard Dawkins has gotten into some trouble talking about how religious education of minors is tantamount to child abuse. I won’t go that far, but putting a child into such an environment is morally reprehensible.

It will never happen because China encourages students to go abroad, and many of these schools have generous financial aid. Many of the students, I’m sure, take the free education and just pretend to listen to the Jesus talk for a year. Good for them. If the PRC restricted students from going to these schools, the U.S. government (which regularly fawns on Big Jesus) would have the foreign policy equivalent of an aneurysm.

Second, the Chinese government, perhaps through the Ministry of Education, should try to educate parents more about their options. That’s assuming, of course, that they have options. If a religious school is the only way for these kids to get their one year in the U.S., a lot of them will go anyway, even if it means putting up with Big Jesus for 12 months.

Third, there should be a lot more scrutiny of education agents, including tougher licensing requirements. I don’t know enough about this industry to get into detail, but the agencies that outright lie to their clients should at least be sanctioned. Guidelines on dealing with the subject of religious schools might not be such a bad idea either.

Fourth, it would be nice if the U.S. or state governments cared enough to get involved. No wait, my mistake, this involves religion, so if anything, the U.S. government will somehow make it easier for the charlatans and hucksters to get in on the action. As long as religion is involved, then the failings of the institution are almost always overlooked. As the late Christopher Hitchens eloquently put it, religion poisons everything.

I wonder what’s going to happen to that poor kid who now doubts evolution and, I would guess, believes creationism has merit? Forget about that engineering degree; you need to believe in science to do that kind of work. Perhaps he can devote his life to smuggling Bibles into China — the school would love it.

It’s hard to believe that in 2011, we still allow young, impressionable kids to be brainwashed like this.

46 thoughts on “American Religious Schools Are Brainwashing Chinese Exchange Students

  1. David Levy

    Stan,

    Great post. But I suggest you take the disclaimer off the top– if what you say offends the religious, so be it! If they go around spouting nonsense and magical thinking, especially to impressionable kids, then they deserve to feel offended.

    I came to China 26 years ago to teach in Shandong. There were only about 8 foreign teachers, and of those 3 were from secretive group holding underground fire & brimstone prayer meetings with their students. I felt sickened by it then, and feel sick about this kind of thing today.

  2. Keith

    The Buddy Christ – Amen. Where are Loki and Bartleby to strike fear into the hearts of these wicked a-holes? This cannot be real life… poor Chinese. First making them fat w/ KFC, now this?! If this is real – then welp…its official – the catholic Church has officially run out of Western suckers. Sexually abused themselves into a PR tornado they just cannot escape from. This makes me lose faith in humanity (wait, aren’t Christians all about humanity?). So backwards – why do Catholics always feel the need to get people to join their team? Save yourself – I’m good! Did JC keep score of the amount of followers you could gather – it’s like they are collecting trophies to present at the pearly gates. Vomit. And please – why the hell do so many Chinese people celebrate Christmas? Just in it for the presents? (*footnote-raised Catholic)

    1. Stan Post author

      As for Christmas, it’s all about the party and the consumerism. Same with Halloween and Valentine’s Day. The West does seem to be exporting all its bad habits and crap over here. But it’s not all bad. China is learning how to love wine, chocolate, and pizza, among other things.

  3. Tom O'Brien

    Stan: Regarding your comments re “evolution” versus “creationism”, there’s a whole different point of view these days. You really ought to read “Darwin’s Black Box” by Michael Behe, for example (ISBN 0-684-82754-9). (If it’s pertinent, I’m an atheist). As far as the students go, isn’t this just another example of survival of the fittest?

    1. Stan Post author

      I think Dawkins, among others, have addressed Behe quite satisfactorily already. Irreducible complexity has been trotted out for a very long time (e.g. Paley). I don’t buy it.

      Regardless, intelligent design is a sham, a way for religious folks to get God in the science class through the back door. Strange how other scientific theories, many of which have even less direct evidence to support them than does natural selection, do not get the same sort of treatment from “impartial” scientists. There is an agenda here obviously.

      I don’t think we want to leave it up to kids to figure this stuff out on their own in high school. They have neither the scientific background nor the patience to make an informed choice about whether natural selection has fundamental flaws. Seems reasonable in a classroom with limited time to teach the theory that is overwhelmingly supported by the scientific community.

  4. ESOPO

    Just think about the good point of all this secular process: Try to convert at that young age is definitely wrong, but, the spread of natural moral values based on the Christian Religion can be seen as positive. In China there is not such a thing after the Cultural Revolution and with the arrival of disfunctional families that becomes even worse. There is no other original school subject where you can learn about Solidarity, Respect, Responsibility, True, Love to Others, etc. than in the Religion class that creates artificial, but good boundaries that limit our human instinctive behaviour that sometimes can be considered cruel (Columbine for example) Is even better to try to create such artificial human bounderies at a young age, where we, humans, are not supossed to cross those limits and that creates societies with harmony and respect. Later, As adults we can decide to believe or not in Gods, that will be our personal option.
    Think also about faith, because faith becomes in hope. Hope is an engine for a society that believes in a better future. A society without hope is a dead society, with no feeling for a better future. U_U

    1. pug_ster

      “There is no other original school subject where you can learn about Solidarity, Respect, Responsibility, True, Love to Others, etc. than in the Religion class that creates artificial,”

      That’s a moronic statement. Does that mean that you have to be a Jesus Freak to to learn about Soidarity, Respect, Responsibility, True, Love to Others whereas atheists don’t have any?

      1. ESOPO

        No, you do not need to be a Jesus freak to act accordingly to what the Christan Religion teach us about how to behave in front of others. The problem you can face as an atheist is that you could start thinking that you have unlimited freedom to act accordingly your own interest without limits. So, that can be even worse if you come from a disfuntional family and nobody really takes the time to teach you about natural moral principles. Then, you can be an Enron employee an act accordingly to what you consider is wise or you can be a member of the Maddock family an cheat on thousands of customers without regrets or even the feeling that you are doing something wrong.
        From the beginning of human history, people saw the need to put bounderies in order to keep order in front of caos. But, if you mention that those bounderies come from another human (lets say Obama, Putin, Mao, Hugo Chavez) then, there will be the ones who naturally can refuse that and become the disidents. Then, religion appears as a way to mention that rules came from a supreme being. Now, those rules, specially the ones from the Christian Catholic Church seem to be the best ones, the ones that suit better to modern times.
        Believeme, I am trying to find a scientific source that can teach about natural moral principles that I can follow without the need of any religion reference. So far, I did not find any. In the meantime I will continue to follow what I learnt from Christianity. Unless you can show me another path that I will really appreciate. U_U

        1. S.K. Cheung

          But Kenny Lay was a Methodist Christian, and Bernie Madoff was a Jew. Their actions would seem to typify the “thinking that you have unlimited freedom to act accordingly your own interest without limits”, which you would ascribe to an atheist. So are Methodist Christians and Jews no better than atheists? Actually, you will find morons and pond-scum that transcend denominational categorization. It’s living a “moral life” that matters, not whether you do so under the guise of religion or not. In fact, it’s no better than suggesting that Osama Bin Laden besmirches the entire Islamic faith (which of course is a ridiculous assertion propagated by some).

          I have no problem with people co-opting certain moral principles taught by various religions. But one can certainly do so without buying into all of the other nefarious and nauseating stuff brought on by organized religion.

        2. Stan Post author

          @ESOPO

          This argument always amuses me. Without the fear/love/whatever of God, and the rules we choose to follow in his name, atheists will be misguided and go off on a amoral streak of depravity. Heh heh.

          Kinda makes you wonder why it doesn’t happen very often, huh? It also doesn’t explain all those terrible things done in the name of God, or done by religious people. But then again, there’s always an excuse for that too. For good deeds, it was the love of God that guided us in the wrong direction; if bad, it was the absence of God. Works as an explanation no matter who the actor is, doesn’t it? Logically consistent, yet utterly without foundation.

          We don’t need God to do good things, nor do we need the absence of God to explain bad choices. It’s all an excuse to not take responsibility for our own actions within the context of the particular society we live in. It’s nice to explain away evil on Satan instead of admit that some men do bad things. But we need to grow up and live with all of our choices.

          I think there is more than a little projection going on here amongst the faithful. Some of them feel certain urges (e.g. coveting their neighbor’s wife, or worse yet, his son) and feel that the only reason they can fight those urges is to fall back on religion. They assume that we all have these urges to do bad things, and therefore believe that without God, the rest of us will give in to those urges.

          Sorry, doesn’t work that way. We all have bad thoughts now and again, but we don’t need God to hold us back. Or to put it another way, there is indeed a way to be moral without having arbitrary rules imposed on us (collectively) from outside like we’re all children. We do sometimes need rules imposed on us as individuals. That’s what society is, and society’s rules stop us from giving in to our animal natures. A lot of us covet our neighbor’s wife on occasion – we’re genetically predisposed to do that sort of thing. And yet, we’ve decided as a group that we don’t want to live that way and constantly have to deal with the downside, so we impose rules against certain actions, like rape.

          Go read some Rawls and re-examine your thinking.

          1. S.K. Cheung

            Agreed. I’ve always found Christianity to be a crutch, so that (a) people can make themselves feel better when shit happens, and (b) they can feel better about themselves when they do something shitty, cuz as long as they “believe”, their sins will be forgiven and they’re good to go. THe snake-oil sales team can certainly learn a thing or two from that: buy our product, and you get a get-out-of-jail-free card, which is infinitely redeemable and has a lifetime warranty. And the purgatory bit is also brilliant…not only are you well looked-after if you buy our product, but you are screwed forever if you don’t buy it. I mean jeepers, if you put it that way, how can I not buy what you’re selling…unless and until someone thinks it through, of course.

          2. ESOPO

            @S.K. Cheung

            I just mentioned about the potential risk that a person without a solid moral reference (i.e. atheist among others) COULD face. But, I am glad to know that you do not match with that statement, I mean you do not face that risk of living without limits because you already imposse to yourself your own limits. Great!. Unfortunately, people like Mr. Lay or Mr. Madoff did not live embedded in the lessons of their own religions, their acts clearly reflect this issue.
            You are right, “it`s living a moral life that matters”, you understood well. But, happens that my “moral life” match PERFECTLY with the lessons I learnt from the Christian Catholic Church on HOW TO BEHAVE IN FRONT OF OTHERS and I bet yours too. U_U

            @Stan

            Similarly to what I mention to S.K. Cheung, my answer to you COULD be the same. Nevertheless, in your particular case, you mentioned that you are bias on this issue, so, I am not sure how receptive you can be, and your answers reflects that :(

            Yes, I agree that “We don’t need God to do good things, nor do we need the absence of God to explain bad choices.” I never talked about Gods, but the original lessons we learnt from religions, that still cannot be replicated for any other source, not from Rawls and its “influence” for sure. Who knows Rawls in China? Who is going to spread his message? Ultimately, who is Rawls?

            Sure, you are not a child, so you do not need imposed arbitrary rules, right? …Ermm, but when you mention something like “We do SOMETIMES need rules imposed on us as individuals” then, that scares me a little. I am not sure about that statement. Remember, we ALWAYS need rules imposed on us as individuals inside a society!!…….. And you are a LAWYER!!?… and a PROFESSOR!!!¿ ….. Oh my God!, Oh my God! U_U

          3. Stan Post author

            I think you might have missed several points I was trying to make. By the way, the fact that you used “spread his message” in the same sentence as Rawls tells me a lot. You really ought to read up on some other viewpoints (I, for example, have read the Bible and quite a few Christian philosophers), such as academics that have written a great deal about the foundations of moral philosophy.

          4. S.K. Cheung

            To Esopo,
            Lay and Madoff precisely demonstrate that it is not having religion which matters, but practicing the lessons that it preaches (well, at least some of the lessons which are worth practicing; there are certain lessons of religion which are just ridiculous). My point is simply that you can put those lessons into practice without the whole organized religion machinery, just as a person invoking the organized religion mantle does not necessarily correlate with them practicing its lessons. And if that is the case, why not take the good (and admittedly there is some good) and eschew the bad (and there is certainly plenty of bad)? I’d much rather an atheist who lives a moral life than a Methodist Christian who runs Enron.

          5. S.K. Cheung

            BTW, you might then ask whether I would prefer an atheist who leads a moral life or a Christian who does so. And my answer is I would have no preference. The Christianity label, in and of itself, is of no importance to me whatsoever. I value a good person. If that person happens to be Christian, well, that’s ok too.

  5. S.K. Cheung

    It’s caveat emptor. As long as there is added prestige to sending your kids overseas, Chinese parents will continue to flock towards those opportunities. Anything short of religious human sacrifice wlll likely not be an adequate deterrent, and even then, the parents will likely agree to look the other way if they can be convinced that it won’t be their kid being sacrificed.

    You’ve got evangelical schools with a product to sell (albeit slimy), and you’ve got parents willing to buy (albeit desperate and perhaps misinformed). It’s a match made in…ahem…heaven.

  6. Bob Walsh

    One of the youngsters I know in Nanjing just came back from 4 years at Oral Roberts U. He didn’t exactly acquire saintliness, but he did acquire religion.

    His current business plan involves trying to build a Mega-Church in China, and he’s studied the Bible Belt models, as well as those from Korea next door.

    He’s put a lot of thought into it, and has some pretty impressive profit projections based on what he’s seen in Oklahoma and Texas. He will approach district government in Baixia and Xuanwu to see if they are willing to let him execute the business plan, for a cut of the weekly take. It is likely that he’ll be instructed to follow the tame model of the Catholic Patriotic Association, but he’ll overcome any objections once he shows how much dosh can be raked in. District governments in Nanjing have arrived at the conclusion that selling land to developers isn’t going to work to fill municipal coffers anymore.

    He’s still working on the overall dogma, path to salvation, ritual, and has assigned his girlfriend (a music major) to work on upbeat new age hymns. The boy thinks that the Chinese 99% would be overwhelmingly in favor of something like Joel Osteen’s brand of “prosperity theology”, in other words, don’t say too much about God except that he really wants everybody to be rich.

    I’ve advised him to set criteria for redemption that can be met by just about anybody, as long as they keep tithing that 10%, of course. One idea is to co-opt certain Judaic dietary rules and include them as dogma; we think that a proscription against eating bats would be a good first step, except perhaps in Guangdong.

    I’ve also advised him to get strong protection for his IP covering the business model, and make sure it covers every religion and sect he can think of. Still, copycat Mega-Church operations will probably sprout like mushrooms, especially once the party realizes just how much money can be made.

  7. Rob

    Stan,

    Have you ever thought to draw a parallel between officially ‘atheist’ societies and levels of corruption?

    China, Russia, with its godless communist systems, really stand for nothing these days, except people control and self-enrichment at the expense of many.

    Like it or not, Western Civilization has Christianity at the base of its foundation, and the development of this civilizations has exceeded the development of the Eastern and Middle Eastern and African and Eastern European civilizations many times over.

    The concept of God and Christianity underlies the concept of freedom. Without God, there is no freedom. Sounds ironic doesn’t it? I’m sure you’ll argue this one. Yet, over the LONG-TERM (decades), this has proven to be true.

    Its funny how you are turning a blind eye to the plight of what most average Chinese people go through on a daily basis. That you believe they are operating in a happy and healthy system and need no other beliefs to help them is… surprising.

    The fact that I’m posting something like this on a public blog means trouble may be awaiting me shortly. But I don’t care.

    1. Stan Post author

      Uh, it seems to me that Russia, which hasn’t been Communist for about a decade, is more corrupt now than it was during the Cold War. Some would say the same about China.

      Look, it’s pretty obvious that corruption is a complex issue that has to do with things like: level of economic development; income inequality; type of bureaucracy/economy . . . the list goes on. We could argue all day about this, about Latin America and other “Christian” areas that have high levels of corruption (on the flip side, Northern Europe) but we’d probably get nowhere.

      You’re trying to make the old argument that we need religion to be moral. That’s been addressed by philosophers on both sides of this for a very long time. Obviously I don’t think we need God to be moral. Indeed, in many cases, religion makes things worse. (Hitchens wrote a whole book on that topic.)

      1. Rob

        Stan,

        I don’t think you need religion to be moral.

        Hitler had morals. But his morals were different from yours and mine. And many of his followers agreed that it was a ‘good’ moral framework, or else they wouldn’t have followed him.

        I think morals can be a relative thing. A person’s moral framework can be supported by good intentions. I also think good intentions don’t necessarily count for squat in this world.

        You could argue Mao Ze Dong had good intentions and morals. After all, he wanted to free the peasant class / proletariat from the oppressive rich, ruling class. What’s wrong with that? As a Christian, I support that. Rich people were greedy and self-centered and did indeed churn the poor to achieve their own goals. I don’t doubt Mao had some success. But in the end, how did that turn out? Is Mao truly worthy of his canonization in retrospect, or is it relative?

        Christopher Hitchens was an excellent writer who made some very bold statements. But towards the end of his life, after his cancer diagnosis, the boldness of his writing did not reflect anywhere near that of his previous works, when he was still full of vigor, pride, and able to consume his favorite alcohol and smoke his favorite cigarettes on a daily basis.

        In his last ever article in Vanity Fair, posted December 7, 2011, his tone is dramatically different. He can feel death coming quickly, and in some ways, he is resigned to it. But he is hopeful that more time is on the horizon, and the thought of dying so soon has yet to take hold of him. It does not appear he foresaw he would pass in the next few weeks, as his ultimate fear, his inability to continue writing, would soon manifest.

        At the very height of his pride, he wrote “God is Not Great,” a book that captured the attention of many and won him many, many converts. He carried a strong, sharp, and intimidating presence back then. I wonder if he knew terminal cancer would arrive in just 2 short years, destroy his body, silence his pen, long decades before he expected, would he have still taken the bold stances that he did?

        He seemed more shocked at the prospect of dying early than even his fans.

        1. Stan Post author

          Your point about my use of “moral” is a technical, language-based argument. You’re right, but you didn’t exactly address the substance. Bringing up Mao hardly qualifies. I certainly do not feel obligated to defend a cult leader, and I wouldn’t ask you to stick up for Jim Jones. As I said before, we could each come up with a long list of people/nations that “proves” our point. Been there, done that. Morals are relative, and whether someone is religious or not doesn’t, in my opinion, suggest a particular outcome in terms of what one might characterize as “good” behavior. I agree with you on the irrelevance of good intentions. Quite right. In addition to non-believer bad actors, though, that also must be applied, of course, to all the folks who commit atrocities in the name of religion, doing unspeakable things in the name of God.

  8. 阿江

    Wow, man! You keep talking like that, and the bible-thumpers might have to send you to Jesus Camp:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kROfJ1bmbB8

    Seriously though, I think a factor that perpetuates the idea that “everything foreign is good”, is the fact that most of the top universities in China were either started, or funded by, foreign missionaries bent on teaching “western style education” in China (which to me, seems like a more suttle way of trying to pull the students into whatever religion they were affiliated with). Although wikipedia might not be the most trusted source on earth, I believe it’s true when they mention that Tsinghua University’s Science Department faculty was recruited from the Young Mens’ Christian Association (YMCA).

    To show my personal bias, this is where I stand: I hate religion. Asian Converts, just like born-agains are the worst. They’ll knock on your door, and never leave you alone. Even the Mormons aren’t anywhere near as aggressive. They knock on the door, asking if you’d like to “hear the truth about, yadda, yadda, yadda”, you tell them, “I’m not interested.”, and they say “OK!” And ride their bikes to the next place, with their foreign name tags –I lived in a neighborhood with a heavy Asian population, and they had Mormons trained in Mandarin and Vietnamese. Maybe next time, I’ll tell them “Google is my God!” and see what happens? http://congkeringpath.com/?p=556 (score 1 for selfless promotion).

  9. Stephen Cronin

    I’ve noticed a slightly separate issue here in Australia. I know of quite a few Chinese students studying at university here who have been converted to Christianity. In this case it’s obviously not the universities who are doing the converting, but the church / student organisations in question. It always make me feel sorry for the parents back in China…

  10. Josh

    Great article, one minor gripe. I think the Chinese are racist against black people in general, not just Africans and African-Americans.

    1. Stan Post author

      Probably. I figured those two references were sufficient, but yeah, I guess that wasn’t all inclusive. The prejudice, from what I can tell, is certainly all about the color of one’s skin as opposed to nationality. The overall topic is quite interesting – maybe a future post.

  11. Chris

    Strange that… I work in international education and only yesterday put a hold on an offer to work with my organisation from a Christian school that clearly required Chinese students to actively participate in religious activity. I had major concerns that the depth of evangelical activity on the campus would not be in the interests of students or represent the wishes of their parents. I also had concerns about the quality of the science curriculum.

    Most Chinese students going to the USA are being placed in private schools as there is little interest in the public school sector to accommodate and service international students. Very few public schools are even registered on SEVIS to take international students. Most of the few that do have built no capacity to manage or deal with international students.

    Religious schools in the US cover a very wide range of institutions. In general, I don’t see a major issue with sending Chinese students to most Catholic and mainstream protestant schools that do not seek to evangelize. Those schools do teach mainstream science and do not require international students to participate in religious activity. Chinese parents do frequently request religious schools on the basis they believe they have better discipline than public schools and most parents are seeking a values based education. Nonetheless, very few of those families are Christian and the rights and interests of students to be protected from attempts at conversion while they are young and vulnerable needs to be respected. At every point, the students and their parents need to understand very, very clearly what type of school the student is being sent to and its religious environment.

    I do note that the Bloomberg article indicated that only 3 or 80 or so Chinese students who had gone into one of the evangelical schools had converted showing the resilience and sense of these young people.

    Agencies such as New Orient have an obligation to inform themselves, students and parents in great detail about the type of schools Chinese students are being offered. I am highly sceptical that New Orient’s student counselling staff would have any understanding of the differences between denominations and school’s religious environments. This creates a significant risk that students and parents are not being informed about the likely religious environment and pressure on students to convert that may occur in some of these schools.

  12. Chris

    Correction: sentence should have read “I do note that the Bloomberg article indicated that only 3 of 80 or so Chinese students who had gone into one of the evangelical schools had converted showing the resilience and sense of these young people.”

  13. Vam

    Seems to be alot of blind prejudice against religion out there, bordering on open hatred. It bodes ill for the future of democracy in whatever countries most commenters here are from if these attitudes are representative of their populations back home. I mean, you cant talk like that and be a pro-engagement, pro-dialogue kind of person. In a democracy you have to reach out across sometimes profound differences, and the sort of namecalling that many of these statements include, it’s not healthy. With that said, i’d like to say two things. I agree that parents need to have explained to them the kinds of activities the kids participate in, and also the goals of the schools. Every christian school will say ‘we want to produce people of good character who will serve society’ and some will need to add ‘we want to produce christians.’ Things like that all need to be up front. My second point is, there is no such thing as a neutral education. Every education is indoctrination, every education has its biases. You simply cant wait til a kid is 18 and let them make up their own mind, it really doesnt work like that. You are acculturating them from day one. To assume that youre neutral and not a product of historical contingencies is a pretty dangerous position to take, because it’s a position of transcending other people’s histories from where you can comfortably piss on them. And that’s what i feel has been happening in these comments – i certainly feel sullied by reading them.

    1. Stan Post author

      I admit to my own biases, but I wouldn’t call them either blind or prejudicial. There’s a difference.

      You’re right about education and neutrality. So we have to make choices. In my opinion, let’s therefore not indoctrinate kids into specific tenets of a particular religion. How is that fair or open-minded? If we want teachers to bring morality into the classroom, let’s limit it to those issues where there is general agreement (e.g. murder is wrong).

      FYI, I have no problem with religious schools that do not aggressively proselytize. I attended a Jesuit school myself, although that was law school and was a completely different situation from the one I blogged about.

    2. S. K. Cheung

      I agree that if you aren’t pro-something, you are effectively anti-that something. Probably not often that one is truly neutral. So if you’re not indoctrinating kids to be religious, you can probably argue that you are indoctrinating them to not be religious. However, I still find it more respectable for someone to “find” religion as an adult, rather than simply regurgitating stuff forcibly learned as a kid. I also wonder what the ratio is of adults who disavow their childhood religions, as opposed to those who acquire a new one as an independently thinking adult. My sense is that the former outnumbers the latter.

      1. Stan Post author

        What’s so difficult with neutrality? I went to a public school until the age of 18. No one ever mentioned anything to me about religion there, in a science class or otherwise. I don’t consider that to be anti-religion, and my parents had no difficulties introducing me to Judaism (for 13 years, at least). Let’s not over-think this stuff.

        1. S.K. Cheung

          To Stan,
          “neutrality” in this context would be to have “no opinion” about religion. I’m not sure a kid can be taught to have no opinion about something, although they may simply have no opinion of their own accord ie. I don’t think a kid can be taught to be neutral about religion, although it is certainly possible that a kid could not care less about religion one way or another, and come to that position all on their own. It’s perhaps a subtle difference but I think a difference does exist there.

          My use of “anti-religion” conveys too strong a sentiment. I should have said “non-religion” instead. I was raised to be non-religious as well, but I don’t think that is a “neutral” position. In terms of raising children in relationship to religion, I’m not sure what a “neutral” position would look like.

          1. Stan Post author

            In an educational context, though, the subject is simply avoided. It’s not the same as being specifically taught neutrality, or open-mindedness, etc.

  14. Chris

    @ Stan…

    Actually a few more comments.

    The best step would be for the US public high school system to open up to full-fee paying international students. For Chinese high school students going into Australia, over 80% are going into secular government schools. Almost all the rest are going into mainstream Grammar schools which are not at all evangelical. Given that government school fees are around $14,000 a year for tuition, this would be a great revenue source for strapped public schools in the US if they charged about the same.

    Some Californian state schools and some in the North West do accept full-fee international students on F1 visas, but the services and academic infrastructure (ESL programs etc) just aren’t there to enable it to work.

    Opening the US public school sector to Chinese students would see the demand for private religious schools plummet. Of course, Chinese students would cluster to be better performing public schools as they do everywhere else. The additional tuition would be well above the cost of delivery leaving those schools with more funding to develop new facilities for all students; ie they would pay above cost tuition with no taxpayer subsidy.

    @ Stan: “It will never happen because China encourages students to go abroad, and many of these schools have generous financial aid.”

    The irony is that almost none of these high schools are offering any financial aid at all and Chinese students are paying fees well above their American counterparts. In general, many US universities are offering financial aid / scholarships to Chinese students which are just discounts off their excessive “rack rate” and still leave the university with a very healthy margin. Schools almost never discount, including evangelical schools.

    @ Stan. ” the agencies that outright lie to their clients should at least be sanctioned. Guidelines on dealing with the subject of religious schools might not be such a bad idea either.”

    I think agency staff just don’t get it… they have no grasp of the differences between Christian denominations, types of schools or the real environment these students are going into. I have no doubt this article is going to get a lot of airplay in China and that it may act as a wake up call to the agency sector. This differences between schools are simply enormous but little understood in China. There are Catholic and mainstream protestant schoolssome of which I see as offering students a healthy environment without ramming religion down their throats and others that are extreme both in their evangelical views, their proselytization and in the divergence between their curriculum and that of the public sector.

    There are already quite a few guidelines affecting agents limiting activity in the schools sector, including a ban on Chinese agencies servicing students who have not completed Year 9 (the final year of compulsory schooling in China) and prohibiting recruitment for overseas study on the campuses of public schools.

    Anyone working in the education sector, and in particular, the schools sector has an enormous duty of care to students.With minors that duty of care should extend to protecting them from a predatory religious environment.

    1. Stan Post author

      Thanks for the additional information. Yes, I wouldn’t expect much from California (or any U.S.) public schools. No money, no infrastructure, no hopes of additional funding in the future. As a proud graduate of the California public school system (until age 18), the current state of Cal’s schools saddens me.

      As to agents, I would guess that on this side of things, there is probably an enforcement problem as well. I would imagine that parents would have a very tough time pursuing a dispute with these agencies.

  15. Marius Schutz

    While this is all properly called hearsay here is an other side.

    Clearly all religions fill a need, whatever it is, like drugs for that matter (sorry Marx). And Chinese are no strangers to escapist needs that on the surface might be properly filled by religion or any other drug –

    However, only those who have some experience as to how poorly religion and other drugs fill this need, take the time to think about religion as a good – or bad if you will but most economists would still call it a good – so I make the bald conclusion that you guys all had religion and smoked some as well at some point in time.

    So rather than curse religion – I do it too and I curse those who wear religion the most whether they are jews, moslims, christians or buddhists – let’s try to figure out what that need is. I am serious, I have no clue but since I stopped taking my spirituality in liquid form I have been thinking about it a lot and so far have come no closer that Tolstoy. Explaining the origin of the universe does not get me anywhere either!

    1. Stan Post author

      Don’t forgot biology. Neuropsychological research suggests that some brains are predisposed to religion. All that being said, we all have our urges, but we strive to overcome some of them. Perhaps we can outgrow the need for religion at some point.

  16. King Tubby

    Tremendous post. This Chinese student – US evangelical college is a marriage made somewhere.

    I would opt for the mega -church organised around prosperity theology. Thanks Bob.
    Wish I could write the service. You could have the blessing of the LV bags etc.

  17. Charles Christopher

    The faith has gotten away from its roots. The truly intelligent individuals associated with the Christian tradition won’t deny it. Read ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ by our current Pope. I think you’ll find the logic and reason compelling. Keep in mind, to those who know, the message is as clear as Plato’s Republic( and Nichomachean Ethics for that matter). The translations are often far off kilter, we know that!

    1. S.K. Cheung

      Great link, Stan.

      I totally agree with the author. The prospect of forgiveness can make people lazy in their efforts to do the right thing. Better to retain the spectre of having to face the consequences as a continuing motivator to keep doing the right things.

  18. Charles Christopher

    @ Stan, Great article. I don’t want to give the impression that I support any Christian church as a loyal defender. If you want to understand some reality you’re best bet is to go out and read thirty different opinions and allow the clearest picture to develop from that mix of ideas. None of you would argue that a priest/minister ought to be well versed in the arguments against the faith that many of you hold. If that’s true, then the opposite is also true.