Christians in China: Persecution in China: Human Rights: Chinese Dissent: Religion in China.The U.S. Secretary of State found 'the opportunity to call forth once again for China to halt its long-standing persecution of Christians' and 'championed the government relaxing its restrictions on worship.' I don't support 'restriction on worship'. However, I personally think that 'restriction on worship' - and - 'the Communist government forbids organized worship outside state-backed 'patriotic' religious organizations' are two separate issues.
Once again I write an article motivated by something written by the Reverend Swank - Palm Sunday in China. This time it concerns religious freedom and persecution in China.
Throughout my Stories from China series, I made numerous references to supporting the Government of the People's Republic of China, and my wonderment that they have so quickly transformed this country in the face of the cultural norms of this society.
On the topic of religious freedom and persecution, one person, (I won't identify my sister-in-law), took umbrage at my support of the government. When I arrived in Australia, she gave me a book to read by Brother Yun (?), and then later, showed me an article in an evangelical magazine relating to the persecution of a Christian woman, that resulted in her death at the hands of some vicious policemen.
I confess to having read only some of the Chinese evangelists work, having noted the time frame of the story that was unfolding. As for the article about the Christian woman's death, I read it fully and carefully, and made no comment. It was two weeks before she pulled me up and asked why I hadn't bothered to comment. I informed her that I did not wish to upset her by my opinion. To my surprise, she informed me that it was precisely because I might have a different slant, that she had given me the article to read. So I gave her my thoughts on the matter, and today, I want to share those thoughts with you.
Firstly, let me point out, that I think it wonderful, as the Reverend Swank pointed out, that U.S. Secretary of State found 'the opportunity to call forth once again for China to halt its long-standing persecution of Christians' and 'championed the government relaxing its restrictions on worship.' I don't support 'restriction on worship'.
However, I personally think that 'restriction on worship', and, 'the Communist government forbids organized worship outside state-backed 'patriotic' religious organizations' are two separate issues. From what I know of China, there is no restriction on worship. Anyone may worship the god of their choice, either personally and privately, or publicly (corporately) and openly in a legitimate and legal church.
In China, there are three generally recognised types of 'Christian' churches; the Catholic Church (sometimes called the Jewish church), the Christian Church, and the illegal churches.
In the story of my visit to PuQi I mentioned that I had been invited to attend the Christmas day service at Chibi town at the end of 2003. I originally stumbled across the Catholic church on the banks of the Yangtze River, while looking for the Buddhist temple in the tour brochure. They were wonderfully hospitable people with whom I spoke for over an hour. A little later, the boys and I stumbled across a 'Christian' Church, and there the reception was definitely cold.
Between the two of these churches however, I discovered that Christians do worship openly in China. The Priests in PuQi (Chibi City) told me that in 20 years their church has grown from 100 to about 3000, and that in the south of China there are over 1000 priests below the age of Thirty years. This Catholic Church and these priests, were as evangelical as any 'born again' Christian that I have ever met. Their faith is real. The love of God is real. Their service to the people is real.
I know, that Chinese Christians have been through a tough time, but then again, all Chinese people have. I also know that in the last twenty years, China has changed. I also know that Bibles are freely available, for I saw plenty of them at the book fair at Wuhan University.
So what is the complaint that Christians have about religious freedom and persecution in China?
The article my sister-in-law gave me, spoke about a woman who belonged to an underground church. She was taken prisoner, and finally beaten to death. I noted that the article also spoke about similar treatment given to other criminals, murderers, thieves and prostitutes. In other words, the treatment received was not related to her Christian beliefs, but to her illegal activities.
That article also quoted the Law Society in China as stating that the police had lied about her cause of death, and suggested a cover up. The Law Society's concern was not that a Christian had been mistreated, but that a prisoner had been mistreated.
You see, despite what people may think, that the central government in Beijing controls everyone and everything, that is not the case. This is a big country with a lot of people, and a lot of governments, and a lot of departments, and a lot of corruption. The Central Government is fighting corruption all the time. (China Daily frequently runs articles on the topic.)
While I know of several cases of people breaching the one child policy in Hong Hu, they did not receive the brutal persecution or physical assaults that have been reported in other places, and for which, the police involved were ultimately convicted.
My point is, that violence toward and persecution of Christians, is only found in those places where such is also inflicted on other criminals, by public officials who have a habit of doing so, and in time, they will be found out and rooted out.
So while one might be free to worship one's god privately and personally, one is not permitted by law to form or belong to, a non-registered church. Now while I understand that in times past there was a very legitimate reason for underground churches, ie. that religion was forbidden, today, religion is not forbidden; Bibles are freely available, and one may choose where and when one worships.
Now my sister-in-law pointed out to me, that the reason people belong to underground churches, is that the Chinese Government does not allow certain theological doctrines to be taught. Well, I don't know if this is true or not. However, I do know Four things.
Firstly, The need for 'secret worship' no longer exists as it did a decade or so ago.
Secondly, in our free and democratic countries, if any church or group of people calling themselves a church were not registered; were not obeying the law, or not fulfilling any number of the country's legal obligations, that church would find itself being hounded by officialdom. In that respect, the churches of China are no different to the ones in the west.
Thirdly, The Government of China is always concerned for social stability. That is to say, they are very particular to ensure that no group of people come together, irrespective of the stated purpose, for the particular purpose of anti governmental political activity. I'm sure in our western countries, our governments are just as vigilant.
The fourth thing I know concerns the subject of prohibitions on preaching particular theological tenets.
I have had numerous arguments in the last year, with a number of people, in relation to Biblical Infallibility. Some people believe that EVERY word of the Bible is SPECIFICALLY given by God himself, and is therefore INFALLIBLE. I have also been told, that unless you read God's own Authorised Bible, The King Jame's Bible, you are being lead astray by the Devil, and will probably go to hell.
If I grant here, that the Bible is infallible in every respect, and that it's every word was uttered by God and specifically dictated by Him; and furthermore grant that the 'written' Word of God is powerful as a two edged sword; and further grant that these very 'written' words contain POWER to change lives; and further grant the those who believe will be lead by the Spirit of God; that he will lead them into all truth; that he will love them and guide them and protect them, then it occurs to me that if one will not belong to a registered Chinese church because of theological restrictions, then that person has no real faith in the Power of the Word of God, ie. The Bible.
Furthermore, I am lead to believe, that these same people, really don't trust God to do his work, and really don't believe the promises found in the Bible.
My understanding of the New Testament, is that believers are daily to be transformed into the image of Christ; into his nature and character and power Their transformation is their most powerful witness to the presence of the living God.
My question is then, 'Why must you do it 'illegally' when it can be done legally?'. How can you witness to the nation, the power of the indwelling Christ, when everything you do is illegal, secret and underground. I understand why it was so twenty years ago, but don't understand why it should be so now.
My sister-in-law appreciated my reasoning, and asked if I had any ideas as to why people still seek to operate illegally. The only thing I could come up with, was derived from my knowledge of psychology.
You may have heard that a child victim of abuse, is most likely to marry an abusive person, or if not, then behave in such a way as to drive that spouse to abusiveness. The psychology of this is simple. Some people only know how to operate within certain defined parameters. They cannot function outside of what they have known and are used to, even if that was abusive.
It may be, that underground churches 'need' to be underground, because it is the only way the leaders can function. It may be connected to a desire to be a victim, that is, to be a martyr. It may derive from some theological foundation that sees connection to the government, as connection to the devil, and may even be connected to some political notion of being dispossessed of the land.
In short, I wonder how many people involved in underground churches, are there, because of a personal psychological need to be 'secretive and underground'.
Certainly I, like everyone else, would like to see the people of China have the same democratic rights as those we enjoy in the West. However, given where our western societies are heading, can we in all good conscience will that on the Chinese? Do we want to create other 'Waco's?' China in the past experienced fatal fanatical Christian Sects. China wants stability, and that is best guaranteed if everything is above board.
I understand the reasons for the underground secret Christianity of one or two decades ago, but I really see no reason for it now.
That is just my opinion, and I am open to having someone point out one or more legitimate reasons why the Church needs to be underground, but before you write to tell me, please understand what I have written here.
Don't tell me that the Catholics aren't saved or cannot be saved by reading the Bible, or that believing and having faith in Christ is not enough, one must have YOUR theological perspective to be saved.
Please don't tell me that an underground church is necessary because the Chinese government is godless. That can be said of any government.
If you have a legitimate point that you would like to share with me, don't hesitate to write.
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R.P.BenDedek is the owner and Editor of KingsCalendar.com which was originally set up to publicize his research results into the Chronology of Ancient Israel. Those results were published under the title: 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran'.
Whilst there have been many attempts to solve the chronological riddle of the Bible's synchronisms of reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah and their synchronism with other Ancient Near Eastern Nations, no other research is based on a simple mathematical formula which could, if it is incorrect, be disproved easily. To date, no one has been able to dismiss the mathematical results of this research.
Free to air Academic articles set forth Apologetics for and results of his discovery of an "artificial chronological scheme" running through the Bible, Josephus, the Damascus Documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Seder Olam Rabbah.