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China: Where Does the Church Stand under Communism?

By Andrew Kerr


11/11/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Imagine you are going to your church on Sunday morning. It is a warm sunny day and you are looking forward to joining the Christians in your community. However, you pull up to the church and see that someone has torn off the steeple or the cross from the building.

Frustration and fear ripples through the congregation that is all standing outside the church. They are righteously indignant when they find out that the government has done this. The desire for justice and the importance of defending the Church wells up inside of you, so you push the crowd to protest by holding a public prayer vigil at the base of the destroyed steeple.

As a result of your decision, you are arrested by the local police for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order." The sentence is one year in prison and you are now considered a danger to national security. This storyline is in fact a true story experienced by a Chinese Christian in 2014 in Wenzhou, China.

Her story is one of countless similar events occurring in China, but one that follows a pattern of oppression and religious persecution from the province's Communist Party. ICC broke this story and released numerous press releases on the government's campaign (here, here, and here).

According to Karl Marx, the father of communism, religion is "the opiate of the masses," a manmade dangerous obsession object that keeps the people from doing what is necessary, clouding their judgement.

Mao Tse Tung, an ardent Marxist, called religion a "poison' in need of eradication. The present Chinese government would never publicly say they have the same attitude in regards to religion as they constantly say they desire to create an "open and free society."

However, their recent actions would suggest quite the opposite. The city of Wenzhou has experienced a massive anti-Christian campaign the likes of which have not been seen for many years. Over 1,500 crosses have been removed from church property and nearly 400 churches have been completely demolished.

Churches in China have always had to tread lightly knowing that any wrong step could lead to closure or worse, imprisonment. Some have been able to register with the state, but recognition by the party comes with a price. They must follow strict guidelines determined by communist principles, similar to those followed by media outlets and other forms of journalism.

On August 25, local officials in Zhejiang province informed churches of new sweeping regulations further restricting their ability to worship freely. While most of the new guidelines are financial in nature, party officials are requiring all to post a ten point policy on how to interact with the government which typically goes against Christian beliefs.

Defiance of these new guidelines has led to countless arrests, including a journalist who wrote in opposition to the cross removals, and 20 Christian families who have been placed in what are called "black jails," a more severe punishment than they typical jail or prison.  

What does all this mean for the future of Christianity in the world's most populous nation? China's actions to eliminate public symbols of Christianity are typical of communist regimes attempting to stamp out any perceived threat to their power.

Without symbols and alternative ideas, the party has the power to manipulate the masses without repudiation.

Arrests, imprisonment, and torture of Christians are tactical and designed to keep the populace cowed and submissive. In quelling a rebellion, Lenin issued his famous "hanging order." He ordered that 100 landowners be publicly hanged, their possessions seized, and their names publicized.  The effectiveness of heavy handedness and instilling terror have not been lost on history's communist leaders.

The West's response to the current crackdown has been less than impressive. The phrase "lip service" comes to mind.

As a result, the dragon has become even more emboldened and freely attacks churches throughout the country with impunity.