The government increases censorship on was is said in state-run Protestant churches, demanding pastors and preachers to advocate CCP policies and praise its leaders.
by Ye Ling
Six months after churches across China were closed to prevent the coronavirus spread, some were allowed to reopen only if they pledged to sing praises to the government. More and more believers found the content of sermons becoming increasingly politicized.
Following President Xi Jinping’s call to curb food waste in China, the Two Chinese Christian Councils of Quanzhou, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Fujian, demanded all Three-Self churches in September to integrate the president’s ideas on the matter into their sermons, so that “the policy reaches everyone in society.”
Clergy members had to become creative to implement the order. Some even integrated the president’s words into the Biblical story about Jesus feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.
A Three-Self church pastor from Shengzhou, a county-level city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, was told in July to promote to his congregation the so-called “street stall economy”—Premier Li Keqiang’s call to the jobless to help revive the economy by opening vending stalls. In the spring, officials also instructed the church’s clergy to preach to the congregation that Americans brought the coronavirus to China.
A pastor from another Three-Self church in Shengzhou told Bitter Winter that government officials increasingly supervise sermons’ content, making clergy members anxious and uncomfortable. They know that the religious venues refusing to praise the government would be suppressed even more.
“This is how the government sinicizes Christianity,” another Shengzhou pastor commented.
In August, the Two Chinese Christian Councils in the central province of Henan issued the Notice on Organizing and Launching Peace Prayer Activities to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World’s Anti-Fascist War. It requires churches across Henan to organize commemorative activities in churches, deliver themed sermons, hold seminars, visit war memorials, and pay tribute to China’s revolutionary martyrs.
The Two Chinese Christian Councils of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang issued a similar order. The document states that “the Chinese people, under the Communist Party’s leadership, showed the world the incomparable advantages of the socialist political system” amid the coronavirus epidemic, which provoked “the Western society, headed by the United States, to despise China’s achievements” and hinder its economic and military development. Under this backdrop, the spirit of patriotism exhibited during the war of resistance against Japanese aggression should be carried forward.”
“The government threatened to close any church that refused to hold these activities,” a Three-Self preacher from Henan’s Sanmenxia city said helplessly.
“The Religious Affairs Bureau forced us to preach about this and ordered to integrate aspects of traditional Chinese culture and the Constitution into our sermons,” a Three-Self church preacher from Henan said. “Churches that disobeyed were threatened to be closed, and congregations suppressed.” The preacher was also demanded to promote Xi Jinping’s “achievements” in defeating the epidemic as a precondition to reopening his church.
“We were looking forward to listening to sermons after the church was reopened following a long break,” a congregation member remembered. “But all of them praise Xi Jinping. Isn’t this Communist Party faith? If this goes on, what’s the point of our religion?”
“The CCP hopes to spread its propaganda with our help and test if we obey the government,” a Three-Self clergy member from Fujian Province commented. “They want to control Christianity because it grows most rapidly in China.”