China’s communist government is overseeing churches throughout the nation as they implement a five-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism and forcing congregants to sing communist national anthems.
China Aid Founder Rev. Bob Fu – who led a house church in China before immigrating to the United States in 1997 to form his watchdog organization of China’s persecuted Church – warned U.S. Congress of the Chinese government’s aggressive move during a House hearing Thursday, divulging details about the plan administered by leading state-sanctioned Chinese denominations geared to “Sincize” Christianity nationwide.
Breaking down the crackdown
The Chinese American champion of the persecuted Church alerted U.S. officials to what is considered the most intense persecution of independent faith groups China has witnessed in decades, noting how the communist crackdown has resulted in the demolition of numerous house churches and removal of thousands of crosses from churches throughout the country.
"Religious freedom in China has really reached to the worst level that has not been seen since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution by Chairman Mao [Zedong] in the 1960s," Fu explained to members of the House Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations at the nation’s capital, according to The Christian Post (CP).
The Chinese government’s new regulations restricting religious freedom that was enacted on February 1 was the focus of Fu’s report, which revealed that the plan has taken persecution of Christians in China to a whole new level – as the revised mandate works to actively guide religion to “adapt to socialist society.”
“[Religious activity sites will be forced by the new regulations to] accept the guidance, supervision and inspection of relevant departments of the local people's government regarding the management of personnel, finances, assets, accounting, security, fire protection, protection of relics, health and disease prevent[ion] and so forth," Fu’s written testimony informed, according to CP. “The Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the Chinese Christian Council (CCC) [China’s state-sanctioned Protestant bodies] developed the five-year plan promoting the Sinicization of Christianity [to comply with the new religious regulations].”
Transforming the Church away from Christ
The Christian leader noted that the TSPM and CCC administered a seminary meeting in July 2017 as a preliminary discussion about the five-year plan, which was finalized in a March meeting this spring.
“[The plan proposes] cultivating and implementing the socialist core values,” Fu explained. “[It will be supervised by the national religious affairs bureau and] every province, autonomous region and municipality's TSPM and CCC seminaries and churches will cooperate with it."
He said the state-sanctioned Protestant bodies are “retranslating” the Old Testament in their plan to Sinicize Christianity, while crafting new commentary for the New Testament to give socialist ideals and Chinese culture a more divine feel.
"The plan made it clear that 'Sinicization of Christianity' means to change 'Christianity in China' into 'Chinese Christianity,'" Fu made clear. “[The plan] emphasized that 'the heart and soul of Christianity's Sinicization is to Sincize the Christian theology,' – and even proposing to 're-translate the Bible or re-write biblical commentaries.'"
Giving an example of the latest outline of the plan, Fu explained that the summary consists of the Old Testament mixed with some Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings – along with the newly devised New Testament commentary.
"There are outlines that the new Bible should not look westernized and [should look] Chinese and reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism," Fu informed CP after the hearing in Washington D.C. "The Old Testament will be messed up. The New Testament will have new commentaries to interpret it.”
Communist Chinese nationalism is now to be the new focus at churches – above God and His Word.
“[The five-year plan advocates for] incorporating the Chinese elements into church worship services, hymns and songs, clergy attire and the architectural style of church buildings,” Fu continued. "This includes 'editing and publishing worship songs with Chinese characteristics and promoting the Sinicization of worship music,' using uniquely Chinese art forms – such as Chinese painting, calligraphy, inscription and paper-cutting to express the Christian faith. [It's also] encouraging churches to blend in style with Chinese architecture to local architectural style."
Noting that more than 4,000 to 6,000 crosses have been ripped down from atop state-sanctioned churches, Fu also shared that portraits of communist Chinese leaders must also accompany crucifixes displayed within their worship centers.
“[Churches that have crucifixes on the inside must] put up pictures of Chairman Mao and Chairman Xi [Jinping] on both sides of the cross,” Fu added. “In the beginning of every church worship service, the choir of the church has to sing a few communist revolutionary songs praising the communist party before they can sing the worship songs."
Non just minimizing, but eradicating Christianity
Door-to-door campaigns have reportedly been launched by Chinese officials urging Christians to renounce their Christian faith by signing a statement.
"For first time since cultural revolution, the communist party is now implementing a policy to mandate the Chinese faithful citizens to sign a form to renounce their faith," Fu pointed out. "We have produced documentation showing [government officials] going door-to-door to force believers to sign a prepared form claiming that these believers were misled by evangelists into believing Christianity. Now – after a few weeks of self-examination and political studies – they have realized they made a mistake. This has not happened in the past."
Keeping kids away from Jesus
Other large campaigns to weaken the Church in China have been administered in various provinces throughout the nation, with some expressly targeting children.
“In some provinces, they have even banned children from going to church,” CP’s Samuel Smith pointed out. “Fu said there is also a plan to shut down about two-thirds of the state-sanctioned churches in China in an effort to merge them. State officials have also urged 20,000 house churches to close and join state-sanctioned churches, according to Fu.”
Targeting youth is a government tactic to inculcate Chinese nationalism in the nation to ultimately usurp Christianity’s influence in future generations.
“Authorities in China have tightened their grip on the country's churches by ordering that children are to be banned from joining religious groups,” the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail reported. “The ban also prohibits children from attending religious sermons and other activities in several provinces across the country.”
An all-out ban on youth attending services at more than 100 churches was reported this month in just one province alone.
“Earlier this month, over one hundred churches in Wenzhou – China's Zhejiang province – reportedly received a notice from government officials informing them that young people will be banned from entering churches, according to a report,” the Daily Mail’s Sophie Williams recounted. “Minors are also reportedly banned from participating in religious activities. Members of the church were told not to participate in religious activities, and churches were not allowed to organize a youth summer camp.”
Assuring allegiance to the state
Just to make sure leaders of state-sanctioned churches are thoroughly aligned with communist dictates and loyal to the state above God, the denomination and church leaders were forced by communist officials to go through a second round of examinations.
"The first criteria they have to pass is whether they can publicly pledge they will [uphold] the party's words and the party's path," Fu explained. "These slogans are being hanged around the church – even in many Catholic churches – on the walls and on the doors. On the entrance door, it says, 'Listen to the words of the party, follow the path of the party.' How can you have a real independent faith as believers? As Christian believers, we are taught to obey the command of the Lord and listen to the command of the Lord. Essentially, the communist party wants to impose themselves as the Lord over the Church."
The former TSPM chairman insists that those in the movement are of the mindset that the road to salvation through Jesus Christ is incomplete.
“[They believe the] doctrine of justification of faith by Jesus Christ is too narrow," Fu told CP. "He is promoting justification by love in doing good deeds. He essentially said that God is very inclusive, so these communist party heroes he listed are doing so many good deeds and they should be accepted into Heaven by our God. It is kind of a universalist doctrine."
Rebels for Christ
In the face of aggressive government efforts to de-Christianize China, the new regulations were condemned by hundreds of Christian leaders this month via an online statement, which also expressed opposition to the communist party’s takeover of churches and to the intensified persecution Christians are facing at the government’s hands.
"[W]e believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church," the online statement declares. "We declare that in matters of external conduct, churches are willing to accept lawful oversight by civil administration or other government departments as other social organizations do. But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation. We also will not accept any 'ban' or 'fine' imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the Gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses – even the loss of our freedom and our lives."
Intercession by the Trump administration is being sought to fight the communist takeover of the Church in China.
“Activists have called on the United States government to label China as a ‘country of particular concern’ – a State Department designation that carries with it the potential for additional sanctions,” Smith informed. “Optimism was expressed during the hearing that the State Department could be on the verge of designating China as a country of particular concern. At its Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July, the State Department released a formal statement condemning China for its religious freedom violations, however, the statement was only signed by three other nations.”