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Christian Persecution in China
China Wants to Create Its Own Christian Theology

Chinese authorities may be stepping up their efforts to co-opt the explosive growth of Chinese Christianity by constructing a regime-friendly version of the faith. All Christian churches in China must have official government approval. This has already led to some “Sinicized Christianity,” especially in the official Chinese Catholic Church, which does not fully recognize the Vatican’s authority. But the government apparently wants to do more than approve and oversee churches; it now also aims to aggressively promote a “Chinese Christian” theology.

According to the Hindustan Times, country officials called for a “Chinese Christianity” at a recent Shanghai seminar:

Speaking at the seminar, Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said: “The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture” […]

The government had launched a five-year campaign in 2013 to promote its version of the religion. It will continue to promote “correct” Christian theology with a “range of publications, exchanges, discussions and evangelism.”

The Chinese government appears to be taking a two-pronged approach to Christianity. On the one hand, it continues to crack down on orthodox churches and communities. On the other, it seeks to prop up a brand of worship that won’t threaten its power but will fulfill the spiritual yearnings driving conversions to Christianity. Instead of neutralizing Christianity through direct, brutal persecution, like Mao did, the current leaders are taking a much more subtle and crafty approach. Time will tell if they’ll be any more effective than Mao in sapping the strength of the churches.

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  • Andrew Allison

    And this differs from Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England, etc., how? Plus ça change. When a Church becomes a threat, even perceived as in China, to the power of the State, the Church loses.

    • Corlyss

      A more relevant question might be “how does this differ from Confucianism?” Were Christians noticeably more bumptious during the imperial period? I don’t know. I’m just looking for info. If they expect this move to spare them the traditional hostility between the church and the king, I suspect that history would be more indicative of what they would face.

      • B-Sabre

        “The Taiping Rebellion was a massive civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty. It was a millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus. At least 20 million people died, mainly civilians, in one of the deadliest military conflicts in history.”

        • Corlyss

          Thanks, B!

          • B-Sabre

            Yeah. Hong Xiuquan may not have been anything westerners would have recognized as a “Christian” (he and other Taiping leaders engaged in polygamy, among other practices) but Christianity has always been seen by the Chinese leadership as a foreign, disruptive influence, whether spread by foreign missionaries or native believers. The Japanese under the shogunate also persecuted Christian converts for similar reasons.

            It was concerns about the actions of foreign missionaries that helped provide the spark for the Boxer Rebellion. (There were rumors that missionaries were stealing the eyes and organs of orphans in order to make western medicine, which is a charge you’re hearing about today related to aid organizations in ebola-infected west Africa.) And the Boxer Rebellion led to concerted Western military intervention, the occupation of Beijing, and the eventual decline of the Quing dynasty. So from a Chinese perspective, maybe they have a point.

          • Corlyss

            “Chinese leadership as a foreign, disruptive influence, whether spread by foreign missionaries or native believers. The Japanese under the shogunate also persecuted Christian converts for similar reasons.”
            Naturally, really. It disrupts their uniquely Chinese or Japanese cultural hegemony. The west in its mad rush to accommodate so many different cultures in their own borders under the rubric “diversity” forgot that true diversity is a consequence of need. That is, each party in the putative exchange brought something to the arrangement, and I don’t mean votes in exchange for a lifetime on the dole. It wasn’t a policy borne of squishy “can’t we all get along?” thinking. It wasn’t valued in and of itself, just as adults can’t create self-esteem in children by pretending that just showing up represents a triumph of personal character. There has to be some valued substance involved in the relationship. Immigrants skills and a willingness to work hard under difficult circumstances. Working hard under difficult circumstances has been outlawed as inhumane treatment. So that’s out. The immigrants that flood into Europe and America have no skills, only physical needs. So we have a self-perpetuating mess.

  • Boritz

    ” It will continue to promote “correct” Christian theology…”

    This will be familiar to many Christian church goers. &nbspThe rub is that the people are not free to go down the street to a church teaching a different correct Christian theology.

  • Eric J.

    I wonder if the Second Coming would require authorization from the Chinese government, the same way that the Dalai Lama is not allowed to reincarnate into an unapproved vessel.

  • AndrewL

    Oh no. I’ve been grateful that China has remained godless for so long, until now. Humanity has already shed enough blood over religion. The last thing the world needs is a new group of “true believers”, who — like all the “true believers” before them — will delude themselves into thinking they’re God’s chosen people. Of course, I’m not saying the Chinese government should persecute Christians. They shouldn’t encourage it either. A little separation of the church and the state, please.

    • Corlyss

      The Chinese tyrants already have a god – a public one for mass consumption, Marx; and their private god, Adam Smith.

    • Fred

      So fanaticism is unique to religion. Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Hitler (who may or may not have believed in God but whose fanaticism was certainly racialist and not religious) seem to falsify that hypothesis. Are you really naïve enough to believe that if we eliminated religion, we would eliminate fanaticism? There would be, as there have been, those who fanatically persecute the few still evil enough to believe in religion. To condemn religion because there have been religious fanatics is like condemning medicine because it was barbaric in the past and to this day occasionally loses patients.

      • AndrewL

        I don’t claim fanaticism is unique to religion. Rather, throughout history, religion has been responsible for a lot of it. Yes, Christianity has toned down its fanaticism, but the other two monotheistic religions are still quite “passionate”.

        • Fred

          About Islam, I would certainly agree, but I believe that’s more the result of the savagery of Middle Eastern/Western Asian culture than of the religion per se. A savage culture will produce a savage religion. Judaism I don’t claim to be an expert in, but in my experience and from what I’ve read, it has produced no more fanaticism than any other human system of ideas. As for Christianity, one of the amusing ironies of you atheist/agnostic/”spiritual but not religious” types (whichever you happen to be) is that the morality you love to accuse Christianity of violating arose from and is utterly meaningless in the absence of Christianity itself. Another irony is that the fact that Christians have not and do not always adhere to their own morality is, in fact, exactly what one would expect given the Christian doctrine of original sin.

          • AndrewL

            Your argument — savage culture producing savage religion — has it backwards. A true believer of any religion (especially the monotheistic ones) necessarily believes that he knows the Truth far better than non-believers. Jews are too polite (or afraid) to say this out loud. Christians sugarcoats it. Muslims tell it like it is. In any case, this self-righteousness has led otherwise good people to commit unspeakable evil, all in the name of the (fill in your favorite deity here). The West has become more civilized precisely because religiosity has waned. Since Muhammad arrived on the scene half a millennium after Jesus, let’s give Muslims 500 more years to recover before we pass judgment.

            As for your assertion morality cannot exist without Christianity, it’s more like morality has survived in spite of it. Looking at Christian theology closely, one notices a big loophole: no matter how much one has sinned, as long as one sincerely repents before death, he still gets to go to Heaven. So if you play it just right, you get to have the cake and eat it, too. True morality stems from the moral compass inherent in each of us (most of us anyway). I have more faith in that than in any organized religion.

          • Fred

            As for your assertion morality cannot exist without Christianity, it’s more like morality has survived in spite of it.
            Ridiculous. Define morality. I’m willing to give big odds that any definition you give will ultimately derive from Christianity. And your argument that the Christian notion of repentance excuses or encourages sin is simply silly. Repentance involves true regret for the commission of sin and resolve not to repeat it. Someone who says “I think I’ll do something really evil today. Why not? I’ll just repent later and everything will be both hunky and dory,” doesn’t have the slightest understanding of Christianity. Nor does any atheist with a holier than thou (irony intended) attitude toward believers who ascribes such a nonsensical position to them.

          • AndrewL

            You stated: “Define morality. I’m willing to give big odds that any definition you give will ultimately derive from Christianity.” So you’re saying there’s no morality before Christianity? What about the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Indians? What about Plato and Aristotle? If you studied history, you’ll find that they preceded Christ.

            You stated: “So the Arabs were civilized before they were Muslims, and Islam caused a devolution to savagery? I refuse to believe that anyone capable of operating a computer is really that dumb, so I can only conclude that you are a dogmatic atheist with very little knowledge of history.” You are engaging in irrelevant ad hominem attacks without presenting any solid evidence to support your position. Again, if you studied history, you’ll find that the it was the Arabs who translated and preserved Aristotle’s work while Christian Europe was caught up in the Dark Ages. But Arabs’ achievements began to wane with the advent of Islam.

            Fred, though you disagree with me, I had enjoyed reading your earlier comments. But your latest comment is long on ad hominem attacks and short on evidence and reasoning. Please calm down and return with better arguments.

  • Duperray

    Better for chinese population to embrace a Christian way, even if “sanitized a la chinese” (probably removing from texts some revolutionary appeals against tyrans…) rather than falling into the extreme materialism cleared of any moral skelton – like West is foundering now – under the banner of “freedom” !
    Under the latter label, we have installed in the West an extreme selfish-ism making human priority ranking as follows:
    1- (dominant one): “I want to be a star that everybody sees, in whatever circumstances”: arrogance
    2- “I want the power over others”,
    3- “I want the money, preferably that one of others, because I am the best”,
    4- “I want to enjoy all pleasures of life, irrespective of subsequent pain upon others”,
    5- “I dont allow others to think freely, they must think what I impose to them”,
    6- “I dont want to coomit, engage, I want to stay free of any committment.
    The chinese thousand’s years of life experience will protect these populations from nowadays west moral distress.

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