As people in the West gear up to celebrate Christmas, the people of China are bracing themselves for the Chinese Communist Party to follow through on its stated plan to intensify its war against the Christian faith. President Xi Jinping has announced that Chinese Christian churches must “cultivate core socialist values,” punish pastors who evangelize or worship without the government’s permission, and instruct the faithful to obey the Communist authorities in their own oppression.
President Xi Jinping and other Communist officials laid down the law at the National Religious Affairs Meeting on December 4, the first national-level meeting about religion in five years. President Xi told religious leaders they must make deliberate “efforts … to keep enhancing the recognition of the motherland, the Chinese nation, the Chinese culture, the CPC [Chinese Communist Party] and socialism with Chinese characteristics among religious personages and believers.” Religious “believers should be guided to cultivate core socialist values and put them into practice,” he said. “Xi also demanded efforts to rally vast religious believers around the [Communist] Party and gozvernment,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. In other words, teachers of any of China’s five recognized religions — Buddhism, Taosim, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam — must become apostles of Communism, preaching the pseudo-Gospel of obedience to the State.
Xi wants to assure that churches know their place — or else. Religious belief must not “interfere with educational, judicial and administrative affairs as well as social life,” he said on December 4. This is especially true of clergy who teach on social media and the internet, something that has terrified the CCP since the last meeting in 2016. Unauthorized prayer or preaching threaten the atheistic regime.
Worse yet, President Xi is calling on church “leaders” to do his bidding for him. To help secure his power, President Xi is instructing churches to crack down on clergy who proclaim the Gospel or worship with fellow believers without the party’s approval. “All religious groups are required to strengthen their self-management,” Xi added. Since President Xi changed party rules to effectively make himself president for life, churches know they face obedience or Xi’s wrath for many, many years to come.
But the CCP is not leaving the suppression of the Gospel to ecclesiastical leadership. To bring this about, Xi said, he will send “cadres” of Communist agents into churches who are from the government, and they’re here to help. “[I]t is necessary to cultivate a team of party and government cadres who are proficient in Marxist religious views, familiar with religious work, and good at working with religious believers, and let them study Marxist religious views, the CCP’s religious work theories and policies, and religious knowledge.” A cadre leader must be “firm in ideology and politics, adhere to Marxist religious views … and strengthens the construction of the discipline of Marxist religious studies,” reported Bitter Winter magazine, which reports on Christian persecution in China. That follows the Chinese Communist Party’s resolution on history, adopted just days before Xi’s virtual meeting with Joe Biden, which says that “religions in China … provided active guidance for the adaptation of religions to socialist society.”
This month’s meeting, which attracted few headlines in the U.S., signaled a new era of deeper persecution. The Communists’ tone was so harsh that even propaganda media couldn’t cover for them. “China tightens control of religion,” reported the South China Morning Post, which The New York Times has said is “pioneering a new form of propaganda” for Beijing. (Pot, meet the kettle.)
Believers have had things bad enough under the 2016 guidance. “Religious freedom conditions in China continue to deteriorate,” according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“The communist Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falon Gong and other religions,” reported USCIRF. “Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang.”
Yet the Chinese Communists do not merely persecute believers but insist on changing the substance of the faith itself. The meeting demands that church leaders proceed with what President Xi calls the “sinicisation of religion”: Each faith must be interpreted according to Chinese Communist ideology, and every religion must create a “religious theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The meeting signals that this process of adulterating the faith, which is already apace, will ramp up in the years to come. For example, a Chinese textbook claims that Jesus Christ killed a woman. A textbook that teaches law and ethics in Chinese secondary schools twists the traditional Gospel story of the woman caught committing adultery. In the Gospel, Jesus says that only someone without sin should cast the first stone at her, then tells the woman to “go and sin no more.” The Chinese textbook presents a twist ending: “When the crowd retreated, Jesus raised a stone and killed the woman, and said, ‘I am also a sinner, but if the law can only be executed by a spotless person, then the law will die.’” The story — which the authorities apparently plagiarized from Orson Scott Card — teaches that citizens should obey government officials “because, honest or corrupted, they represent the [Chinese Communist] Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned,” explained Bitter Winter magazine.
Unfortunately, the CCP’s war on religion has extended beyond classrooms, reaching into churches, seminaries, and Christians’ homes.
- In April 2020, one of the CCP’s cadres ordered impoverished Christians to remove pictures of Jesus, or banners with scriptural quotations, from their living rooms or lose the state pension that keeps them alive. That follows a 2017 campaign to force Chinese Christians to replace crosses, images of Jesus, or Bible verses with pictures of President Xi Jinping. Christians also had the option of replacing an image of the Prince of Peace with a picture of the greatest mass murderer in history, former dictator Mao Tse-tung. In March 2017, a social media account reported that villagers in Jiangxi province “willingly” took down 624 faith-oriented images and put up 453 pictures of Xi. But villagers confirmed that government officials used force — including threatening the loss of government benefits — to effect the change.
“Help turn those who believe in religions into believing in the Party” pic.twitter.com/dKXnmX1KK8
— Yaqiu Wang 王亚秋 (@Yaqiu) November 13, 2017
- In June 2019, Communist officials ordered a state-sanctioned Protestant church in Henan province to replace the Ten Commandments with socialist propaganda. “You have to do whatever the Party tells you to do. If you contradict, your church will be shut down immediately,” a CCP official reportedly told the congregation. One of the newly displayed quotations from Xi Jinping states that “core socialist values” will “immerse various religions of China.” Imagine having to replace the Ten Commandments with a statement that Communism will drown your faith.
- The previous November, officials with the United Front Work Department required another Protestant church to erase the first commandment of the Decalogue, which forbids having other gods. “This must be removed,” one of the 30 members of the inspection team that showed up at the church said, pointing at the words etched in stone by God’s finger.
- Those who do not comply with the government’s tiniest edict face incarceration. On May 21, Communists arrested Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang, seven priests, and an undisclosed number of seminarians. Their crime? Using an abandoned factory as a makeshift seminary without the government’s permission.
The “Sinicization” of Christianity is impossible, because socialism is incompatible with Christianity. Marxism and the Bible envision different kingdoms, led by different rulers, established in different spiritual spheres, and operating according to radically different morality. Christianity, which teaches the inherent dignity of every human life thanks to its creation in the image of God, can never reduce anyone to a mere cog within the wheels of the State. And no religion whose Golden Rule proscribes the love of every soul could embrace the hatred that lies at the heart of socialism.
“Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot,” said Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. “To achieve its diabolic ends, communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails a destruction of faith and nationhood.”
In the Communist view, efforts to bastardize Christianity, to turn churches into exponents and theorists of socialism, and to get the church to quell all internal dissent and disobedience is only the first step to the compete eradication of Christianity, and every religion. The Left is right that Communism is in an all-or-nothing war with the Author of faith; it is wrong about how it will end. In the battles between now and that conflict’s final consummation, we should take to heart the words of Solzhenitsyn to hold fast to truth, because “one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” We should do so all the more at Christmastime, when “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.