The Chinese government is forcing believers and the clergy to replace Christian teachings with traditional Chinese culture and socialist doctrine.
by Wang Yichi
While state-run Three-Self churches are being shut down, repurposed, and demolished in large numbers, the surviving ones are transformed beyond recognition to comply with the regime’s requirements of “sinicization” policies. Christian symbols are being replaced with materials and images propagating socialist doctrines and traditional Chinese culture, and clergy members are forced to preach communist ideology and interpret the Bible according to Chinese values and customs.
Clergy forced to memorize Xi Jinping’s quotes
In mid-September, more than 200 clergy members and representatives of different groups of society from across China gathered in Guangzhou, the capital of the southern province of Guangdong, for a five-day training. Themed “Lantai Happiness Cultural Classroom,” the event was organized by the Guangdong provincial government.
A Three-Self preacher from the central province of Henan told Bitter Winter that he was unwilling to attend the training, but the local government threatened to revoke his preaching certificate if he refused to go, so he had no choice but to comply.
According to a member of a Three-Self Church who attended the training, clergy and believers from Christian churches as well as Buddhists and Muslims were among the participants. Starting at 6 a.m. each day, the attendees had to read materials on traditional Chinese culture and memorize quotes by President Xi Jinping. The key text for the conference was “The Standards for Being a Good Pupil and Child,” Di Zi Gui (弟子規) in Chinese, an ancient manual based on the teachings of China’s most influential philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC) on how to be a good person.
“Western culture has a history of merely hundreds of years, while our Chinese culture – five thousand. We’ll dominate the world in the future, so why do you, Chinese people, believe in the God of foreigners?” one of the lecturers proclaimed during the training.
The believer added that before the start and at the end of each day, participants had to bow to the images of Confucius and Xuanyuan Huangdi or the Yellow Emperor (軒轅黃帝) – one of the three ancient China’s mythological emperors, patron saint of Taoism, considered the common ancestor of all Chinese. Most participating Christians were reluctant to do so, getting looks of disapproval from non-religious participants.
“Christians shouldn’t worship other idols, but some participants still did, accepting CCP’s indoctrination unconsciously,” the believer said worriedly.
Such means of indoctrination seem to be having an effect on the clergy. After returning home, some of the training participants started giving sermons promoting the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party and the core socialist values.
The Bible misinterpreted
“China is under the rule of the Communist Party, which is greater than God. Each church has to hang slogans promoting the communist doctrine, and all churches must be ‘sinicized,’” an officer from the Religious Affairs Bureau in a county under the jurisdiction of Henan’s Luoyang city told the congregation of a church. He demanded to display posters promoting traditional Chinese culture inside the place of worship.
Bitter Winter visited some churches in Henan’s Zhengzhou and Luoyang cities where practically no images of Jesus or the Bible could be found. Instead, panels promoting the core socialist values and comparisons between traditional Chinese culture and the Bible were in abundance. The information on the boards was intentionally designed to emphasize non-religious content.
A Three-Self preacher in the area believes that by comparing the Bible with traditional Chinese values, the CCP deliberately distorts the Christian doctrine. He gave an example. In the CCP’s propaganda, the words of Jesus from Matthew 12: 36-37 “And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” are likened to a teaching from the “The Standards for Being a Good Pupil and Child,” “If a person has a shortcoming, do not expose it. If a person has a secret, do not reveal it.” According to the preacher, people are taught to conceal bad things that others do and let them carry on, which is against the teachings in the Bible to help sinners confess their sins and repent.
“The CCP comprehensively indoctrinates pastors and church elders attempting to change the inherent nature of our faith and make all believers submit to the government,” the preacher added. He believes that the biggest crisis and challenge that churches in China confront is not the forced shutdown or demolition of meeting venues, but ideological indoctrination. By intertwining Christian creed with politics and Chinese culture, the government attempts to eliminate Christianity by “sinicizing” it, the preacher believes. And, according to him, the destruction of faith is harsher than during the Cultural Revolution.