Pastors and preachers of state-run Three-Self Church are forced to undergo political re-education, as the CCP is intensifying efforts to “sinicize” Christianity.
by Wang Anyang
Throughout China, authorities are organizing training courses for Three-Self Church pastors and preachers, aiming to “reform” them into loyal CCP servants that would help strengthen the political standing of congregations by instilling communist ideals into their minds. Unable to resist in the face of threats and intimidations, they witness the eradication of Christian doctrine in the country, as their places of worship are being turned into propaganda centers.
No preaching for “unreformed” clergy
In mid-July, Liaoning provincial government in northeast China launched a training course for Three-Self Church pastors and preachers at Shenyang Seminary. Among the instructors of the course was the director of the provincial Religious Affairs Bureau.
“During the training, not even one sentence from the Bible was mentioned. All they talked about was “sinicization.” They said that traditional Chinese clothing must be worn when giving sermons; all churches in European, Gothic style must be demolished and Chinese-style churches built instead,” a pastor who attended the training revealed. “As for the content of sermons, it can only include what the government orders. Everyone who preaches must participate in the studies; those who don’t, won’t receive a certificate of completion and won’t be allowed to go up on the podium to preach.”
The pastor also said that if government officials asked what had a higher authority – CCP’s policies or the Bible – those who dared to say that the Bible, would have their preaching qualifications revoked immediately.
In June, Xinzhou municipal government in China’s northern province of Shanxi arranged for more than 70 well-known religious figures from 14 counties and cities within the jurisdiction to go to Beijing’s Central Institute of Socialism, a CCP-run institution, for training.
According to one of the attendees, officials mostly talked about the new Regulations on Religious Affairs, the love for the country, and similar topics. Six speakers gave lectures on the works of President Xi Jinping, China’s history, and other politics-related content.
“Attendance was mandatory. Anyone who refused to participate was threatened to be punished later,” the attendee said. He also observed that the general tone of the training was extreme, slandering Christianity and indoctrinating the participants with communist propaganda. Some speakers claimed that Christianity was brought to China by force as an outcome of the Opium Wars – two mid-19th century military conflicts between the ruling Qing dynasty (1644-1912) and Western countries, often regarded in China as a conspiracy by European nations to destroy China “with drugs and gunboats.” The settlement after the second war made China to open its ports and give Hong Kong to Britain, beginning what China calls the “Century of Humiliation.”
Three-Self churches around the country are experiencing continuous threats and harassment from authorities in their drive to sinicize Christianity. A police station head came to a church in a county of Liaoyang, a prefecture-level city in east-central Liaoning Province, to promote policies on religion. “We must regard the Party as God, just like God,” was one of the things that he told the congregation.
In late May, the “sinicization of Christianity promotion team” of Liaoning Province held a lecture tour in churches in and around Anshan city under the theme “Bless the motherland and fulfill the China Dream,” referring to President Xi’s loosely-defined call for national rejuvenation, launched in 2013.
Believers screened for patriotism
As part of events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to be celebrated on October 1, patriotic events are organized throughout Three-Self churches.
On July 10, a performance was held in a Three-Self church in Liaozhong district of Liaoning’s Shenyang city. National flags were hung throughout the church, obstructing religious paintings, and patriotic images were played on a large screen.
A member of the congregation revealed that there were 11 performances in total during the event. The first song that believers sang was “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.” Most of the other performances were secular programs performed by non-believers.
Officials from Liaozhong district’s United Front Work Department said that the primary goal of making believers sing “red” songs is to see whether they are truly patriotic.
Members of the congregation did not want to attend the government-organized performances to worship the CCP. When the person in charge of one church in the area said openly that she didn’t want to take part in the event, local officials threatened to close down the church if she disobeyed the government. A believer couldn’t participate in the celebrations because of a backache, but was informed that attendance was mandatory; otherwise, he would be regarded as “resisting the government.”
On July 9, the Two Chinese Christian Councils of Fuzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi held a 70th-anniversary celebration at Zixi county’s Meng’en Church. The program included poems and adorations to the Communist Party.
“All the performances at the meeting were poems to praise the Party and patriotism. There wasn’t even one Christian hymn,” a congregation member said angrily. “It felt absurd to be listening to these degenerate poems in the church. How is this believing in God? Isn’t this worshiping the Communist Party? All churches are now under the realm of the Communist Party that manipulates them as it wants.”
In early August, the Two Chinese Christian Councils of Nanchang city also held a patriotic choral song competition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC.