As I explained in my post here, PBS Frontline World had a special on about Christianity in China last night.
Apparently Christianity isn’t exactly illegal in China. The government hasn’t taken the hard line they’ve taken in the past with Muslim separatists or the Falun Gong. Instead, they’re being far more they’re being far more forgiving when it comes to Christianity, simply trying to control the religious teachings.
They’ve established their own version of a Christian church… essentially a government approved church, with doctrine that has been approved by the government and teachers who have been trained and certified by the government. But while the approved party church hosts about 4,000 members across 6 services on Sunday, Chinese Christians in general far prefer what they call “house churches” (seeking purity and freedom, and not diluted doctrine).
These house churches are underground Christian churches that grew up in the aftermath of Chairman Mao’s revolution, and they’ve really been pushing the limits, becoming increasingly more open. One church has even sued the local government to stay open. Pastor Jang, interviewed on the program, said “I believe only Jesus, and not the communist party, can save the Chinese people”.
But the government has tried, unsuccessfully, to incent these house church leaders to discontinue their works by persecuting them. One particular leader was unavailable for an interview because he had just been arrested, for the fourth time. The first time he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, the next for 11 months, and the third time was forced to serve in a labor camp.
They showed one particular underground church that was, literally, underground. There were these recesses built into the hills in the forest where they’d convene and teach the gospel… until the government found out about it. Now the place is entirely deserted.
Sometimes the government will demolish the very buildings they meet in. But attempts have largely failed to diminish the faith of the people, and there are now thought to be as many Christians as there are party members. All over, the Chinese Christians believe this is their time to come out of the shadows.
It’s marvelous to watch Christianity surge into China, and I find the faith of these Chinese Christians inspiring. They sacrifice so much, and persevere through threat and trial to pursue and preach their beliefs.
May I do likewise.
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