To obtain licenses from government authorities, preachers have to prove their knowledge of Chinese culture and socialism rather than Christianity.
Bitter Witter recently accessed a classified document regarding examinations conducted for preachers in China. It states that in addition to an understanding of Christian rules and teachings, individuals seeking preacher licenses should have “knowledge of Party statutes and policies, sinicization (the policy of adapting religions to socialist ideology) of Christianity, and understanding of traditional Chinese culture and customs—such as the Tomb Sweeping Festival and the Chinese New Year.”
The document also demands, “vetoing of trial lectures that violate policies and statutes or are opposed to sinicization.” On the other hand, for preachers who perform well politically, “age restrictions may be relaxed to 65-years-old.”
Preachers are upset by such policies as they feel that the content of the exams is utterly unrelated to the Bible. Many fear that this is an insidious attack on Christianity, as by controlling the religious content being preached, the CCP will indirectly control how Christianity is practiced in China. This is well in line with the Party’s “sinicization of Christianity” goal.
As per recent reports, such exams are already underway in Henan. Bitter Winter spoke to one such examinee, a preacher at a government-controlled Three-Self church in Shangqiu city, about his experiences.
In late August, officials from his neighborhood committee office examined the preachers at his church. They were allowed to recite their gospel for 15 minutes only, after which they were questioned on the content of it.
Later, the officials also asked questions regarding the core values of socialism. When they asked about traditional Chinese holidays, especially those related to the elderly, one preacher replied, “Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.” For this, he was reprimanded and told that these were “foreign holidays.” Another preacher who spoke about Christmas was berated similarly.
Reported by Jiang Tao