The Truth About Christianity in China
CHINESE CHRISTIANS AND THEIR BATTLE When you think of “religious-friendly” countries, China is certainly not one that readily comes to mind. In fact, the China we know in today’s world, under the leading of President Xi
CHINESE CHRISTIANS AND THEIR BATTLE
When you think of “religious-friendly” countries, China is certainly not one that readily comes to mind. In fact, the China we know in today’s world, under the leading of President Xi JinPing, is systematically suppressing Christianity more severely than anything we’ve seen since 1982. It was in that year that the country wrote religious freedom right into their very Constitution.
Replacing Jesus with Jinping
Thousands of villagers in China who are devoted to Jesus have been told recently to take down any display they have that is representative of crosses, Jesus or messages from the Gospel. The government is pushing an effort to turn believers of the Gospel into people who are devoted instead to the communist party itself.
In Jiangxi province’s Yugan county, the homes of many believers were visited by officials of the CPC (Communist Party of China). Those officials asked these people to take down their religious artifacts, pictures and crossed and replace them with President Xi Jinping posters. Over six hundred believers did, in fact, remove their Christian pieces and more than four hundred replaced them with pictures of Jinping.
The reason for this particular campaign: CPC says that faith in Christianity is the primary cause for the financial distress of many of these families, if not all of them. They have told the villagers that they should look to CPC leaders, and to Jinping himself, for the relief that they need, and not place their faith in some Savior. Officials have actually announced that many families have gone into dire poverty due to illnesses of family members and that some had even went so far as to believe that Jesus could cure those illnesses. Those officials went on to assure the people that the only ones who can really offer any form of viable assistance are the CPC and Jinping.
Some Yugan county villagers report being told they would no longer be able to receive assistance from the government at all if they kept their religious relics in their home. Only replacing those items with the Jinping posters would assure them of continued benefits. Of course, the party has denied having done such a thing, but the villagers remain loyal to their statements.
One leader, named Mao Zedong, had become so powerful that he accrued a cult like following by requiring his portraits be placed in homes throughout China. Now, people are referring to Jinping as the most powerful man in China since Zedong himself was in power.
As the crackdown on Christians continues across China, especially after tighter restrictions were passed, there have been many changes. Churches have removed crosses and other insignia. There was even the detention of some house church leaders, which included a three year old child, as they were found singing in a park, which was public property and not allowed.
Bulldozing Christians and More
In the Henan province, a pastor and his wife attempted to stop developers from bulldozing their church when they were dozed over and the wife, Ding Cuimei, suffocated to death. Pastor Cuimei miraculously crawled his way to safety. This case has devastated Christians around the world, but there continues to be no form of legal protection for any of the Christians in China.
However, on April 22nd and 23rd, in Beijing, an event of even greater significance took place, in the midst of the national conference on religion. It was during that time that Jinping asked leaders to take a greater role in allowing the Communist Party of China to reassert control in the face of religion. In his first religious-focused speech since 2012, Jinping stated clearly that religion was in no way to be ranked higher than the interests of the state. He went on to say that if religion were allowed to go on, internal harmony would be diminished and it would be likely for the regime to become destabilized at the hands of foreign forces who used religion in a hostile manner.
It has always fallen on the Chinese state, and the communist rule of China, to assert the fact that state power is the ultimate rule. The state goes on to define both beliefs and boundaries for any type of group that holds a religious affiliation, especially if their doctrines do not align with limits of official designation.
Atheist Ideology of Xi Jinping
Since the ordeal concerning the large Beijing church, there has been great concern about the level of persecution brought on by Jinping and his party. As of February, local authorities have power over religious registration, deciding if action needs to be taken against activity that is considered unsanctioned. Since that time, things have only continued to get worse for Christians.
An expert from the United States said that this ongoing crackdown is simply a part of rising nationalism and Jinping’s own atheist ideology. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom spoke out about this behavior recently, with condemnation for the way Christians are being treated. They cite the violation of personal religious freedom, the closing of the Beijing church and mass detentions of Christians who were interred into re-education camps as brutal treatment from a government that is systematically targeting Christians.
Tolerated Chinese Christianity
The only types of Christian groups that are tolerated in China are the Three Self Patriotic Movement, a Protestant church, and Catholic Churches that are authorized by the Communist Party. In order to be recognized by the party, the Catholic church as to deny recognition of the Vatican as a leadership figure. Still, the Vatican claims that many of those underground Catholics are actually loyal to the Pope in their heart, and in secret.
A great deal of the Protestants in China are not affiliated with the Three Self Patriotic Movement, but have membership in what are known as Jiating, or “house” churches. Attendance of such churches range from only a few up to hundreds of Christians who find rented buildings in which to worship.
Research shows that over ninety million Chinese people call themselves Protestants, but just less than thirty million of those belong to the state mandated TSPM churches. In fact, those churches that are in no way sanctioned by the state have gained much more growth and numbers than any of the TSPM churches. Up until new regulations came out recently, those unsanctioned groups were able to worship on a much freer level of operation.
A pastor from the Henan province recently told reporters that government officials had been found carrying out such activities as setting furniture and crosses on fire, burning Bibles, raiding Church services, confiscating church and personal property, sealing churches so no believers could enter and even assaulting church members who they considered uncooperative.
Some of the churches in the Henan province have actually been given orders by the government to place portraits of Jinping and Mao Zedong, as well as national flags, where they can be prominently displayed. Pastors of the recently closed Zion Church have proclaimed that they will continue to meet and worship in any available outdoor are they can find.
Historical Chinese Christians
While there have been many Chinese missionaries sent into China over the years, there are also a great many men and women who called China home that made great moves forward in establishing the Gospel there. Their memory continues to serve the newer Chinese generations with Christians to look up to, giving them strength to continue serving God, wherever He might choose to lead them.
One very determined evangelist was Ding Limei who lived from 1871 until 1936, having been born in a home that was probably one of the first to be deemed “Christian” in the province known as Shandong (now known as Penglai). He later attended school at Tengchow College, officially founded by an American Mission. He graduated, went on to work for a number of years, but came back to Tengchow again to study another two years in theology.
Ding received his ordination in 1898, when he became a pastor. He faced great persecution in 1900, in the Boxer Uprising, when he was imprisoned and beaten horribly with a rod, taking on more than two hundred rod-blows which left horrible marks on his body. When he was released, he took a ministerial role in the Presbyterian Church and vowed that he would preach to everyone in China and establish a Chinese church, hoping to save millions of Chinese souls in the process.
He spent the next twenty years preaching, leading revivals and seeing many Chinese souls brought into the Kingdom. As his life drew to an end, Ding focused on teaching theology at a Theological Seminary in North China as well as sitting as pastor of a handful of congregations. Once illness restricted his activities in preaching, he became relentless in prayer for the salvation of the Chinese people.
Yu Cidu, also known as Dora Yu, was the daughter of a pastor and technically trained in the field of medicine. Born in 1873, she went on a mission to Korea in 1897. In 1904, she decided to forego her life in the medical field to pursue ministry full time and started preaching revivals all across China. She was one of the first preachers to accept no Western form of financial support. It was her vision to raise up a Chinese church that strictly “lived by faith”.
Cidu eventually founded the Bible Study and Prayer House, which later came to be the Jiangwan Bible School, located in Shanghai. She also taught Bible study classes and trained many more preachers to equip the new Chinese churches.
Sung Shangjie, born John Sung in 1901, was known as the “John the Baptist of China”. His father was the pastor of a Methodist church and Sung wanted nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his father. When he graduated the local school, he went on to the United States where he studied chemistry instead of his intended theology major. He graduated Ohio State University after attaining his PhD in 1926.
Shortly after his graduation from Ohio State University, Sung felt a great deal of guilt for being so selfish and repentantly enrolled in New York’s Union Theological Seminary. Just one short year after his enrollment he had what he considered an experience of dramatic conversation after which he condemned his professors’ liberal theological leanings.These troubles went on to see him suffer a breakdown and he found himself in an insane asylum in the year 1927.
After the intervention of an American pastor, Song managed to return to his homeland where he took up a rigorous schedule. During the week, he taught both Bible and chemistry and on the weekends, he evangelized. In 1931, he left everything behind in order to be a part of the Bethel Worldwide Evangelical Band. He quickly became well known for his fiery preaching, dramatic stage presence and songs that seemed to speak right to the hearts of the people.
For eight more years, he preached healing, judgment and repentance through which many Chinese people came to a great faith in Jesus. He suffered, however, from ongoing health issues that eventually wound up taking his life in the year 1944.
No one knows for sure when Shu Shan was born, but she lived just outside Beijing with her family as the Boxer Uprising came into full swing in 1900. The uprising was a grassroots effort in which mythical heroes were called upon to rid the land of foreign influences while at the same time, bringing security to North China’s commoners.
Shu’s husband was an evangelist in their hometown and ran his own mission near their home. As it became apparent that the Boxers were closing in with violence leading their charge, he escaped into the mountains in hopes of a safe haven. He sent Shu, along with their three young children, to the home of relatives who lived close by. However, no one would offer a safe place for Shu or her children. Both family and friends turned them away until they were forced to return to their own homes to face a sure death.
Upon arriving at their location, Boxers captured Shu, along with her children. They refused to deny their faith in Jesus and because of this, they were tortured and killed. A shallow grave became their final resting place as theirs joined the blood of other martyrs who had given their lives during the uprising of the 1900’s.
It’s hard to believe that, all these many years later, Chinese Christians are still being relentlessly persecuted. Yet they are. And Chinese Christians are still just as vehemently devoted to Jesus as they have ever been. For those of us in America, we must not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters abroad, who continue to give their lives for this mission of the preaching of the Gospel. Just as their devotion never falters, neither should our prayers for their safety.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!