The CCP is mandating the five authorized religions in China to hold preaching contests that must include socialist doctrines and elements of traditional culture.
by Jiang Tao
“Those who fall behind will come under attack. Having gone through the baptism of poverty and war, the more the Chinese people endure failure, the braver they become. Ultimately, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese nation has made a great leap forward since the inception of reforms and opening-up. Chinese people have regained their dignity and are becoming prosperous and strong.”
The text above is not an excerpt from a speech by a government official; it is a Christian sermon deemed as “excellent” by the authorities and included in a publication, jointly prepared by the United Front Work Department, Religious Affairs Bureau, and Two Chinese Christian Councils of Xinzheng city in the central province of Henan.
Titled Christianity and Chinese Civilization, the publication is composed of 36 sermons by Three-Self Church preachers. Initially, the government mandated 58 state-approved preachers in the locality to write each a sermon and then selected the best for publication, explained a local Three-Self church co-worker.
“The preachers had to incorporate traditional Chinese culture, the core socialist values, as well as laws and regulations, into the Protestant doctrine,” the co-worker said. “Those who refused to contribute were threatened to be relieved of their duties and have their preaching licenses revoked.”
The publication includes sermons like “Christians Should Actively Practice the Core Socialist Values,” “A Biblical Perspective on Christian Patriotism,” “How Christians Should Spend the Spring Festival,” and “The Qingming Festival and Christian Faith.” The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China, while the Qingming Festival, often called Tomb Sweeping Day by non-Chinese, is dedicated to paying respect to deceased ancestors.
“The state is controlling too many things now. People have to cooperate in implementing all the political tasks that it assigns. If you were born in this country, you have no choice!” the co-worker explained. He added that every church in the area now has a copy of Christianity and Chinese Civilization.
In fact, all five authorized religions in China have been mandated with compiling similar publications.
In May, the Office of the Committee on Ethnic and Religious Affairs of Henan issued the Notice on Forwarding the “Five Lots” Implementation Plan for Provincewide Religious Groups. The “five lots” refer to specific tasks:
- Establish model religious venues;
- Select a group of exemplary clergy members, able to give sermons with Chinese characteristics;
- Create “sinicized” information materials, like wallcharts, that incorporate Chinese culture and traditions;
- Organize activities that absorb Chinese culture and traditions, such as visiting patriotic venues, paying tribute to revolutionary martyrs, and alike;
- Collect and promote best practices of managing “sinicized” religious venue.
The document also assigned each of the five official denominations to hold religious oratory competitions in May, the winning texts to be compiled into a publication and widely distributed. The winners are to go on a speaking tour in September and October.
The Notice on Forwarding the “Five Lots” Implementation Plan for Provincewide Religious Groups.
Similar contests have been launched all over China. After listening to sermons during a patriotic preaching competition, a co-worker at a Three-Self church from the northeastern province of Liaoning said with anger, “These sermons are completely odd. Things have been taken out of context to support patriotism. Like, ‘Moses made a lot of sacrifices because he was patriotic and loved his people’ or ‘Sweeping tombs during the Qingming Festival is also a kind of sacrifice.’ Things have been totally muddled up!”
A Three-Self church preacher from Henan was also concerned: “These contests have completely distorted the pure doctrine of Christianity. This is a denigration of the Bible and desecration of God. Such erosion of the doctrine is an even bigger disaster than the destruction of places of worship. In the future, there will be no faith in China to speak of!”