CCP’s idea of celebrating 70 years of the People’s Republic of China – performances of patriotic songs and dances in churches. For believers, it’s an erosion of faith.
by Wang Yong
In preparation for the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China or the National Day, to be celebrated on October 1, about two months ago, all state-run churches in Nanchang city received a notice from local authorities, ordering them to launch a choir song competition.
“Believers chose initially to sing a few hymns, but after practicing them for just two or three days, they were forced to replace them with patriotic songs because city officials said that hymns were unacceptable,” a church co-worker who was forced to participate in the competition said with some residual anger. “Now, they have to sing songs praising the Party and aren’t allowed to sing songs praising God. Isn’t that persecution?”
On August 17, Grace Church in Nanchang, the capital of the southeastern province of Jiangxi was crowded with people. A lively singing competition had just ended, and the scores of the 12 participating teams were displayed on a screen. The pastor personally presented an award to the winning choir.
Patriotic programs organized by a Three-Self church to celebrate the National Day:
Songs, poetry, and paintings to praise the Party
Under orders by the CCP, similar activities are taking place all over the country. Bitter Winter has obtained documents issued by the authorities in Fuzhou and Quanzhou, both are prefecture-level cities in the southeastern province of Fujian, that require churches to hold a series of activities “to praise the Party and bless the motherland” ahead of the 70th anniversary. These activities include but are not limited to patriotic songs and essay competitions, exhibitions of paintings, calligraphy, and photography.
Some Three-Self churches in Baoding city in the northern province of Hebei have been required to rehearse dances to patriotic songs like My Motherland, My Chinese Heart, and Great China, recite poetry and perform various other shows. All program content needs to be reviewed and approved by the Religious Affairs Bureau.
“In our poetry recitation, we wrote ‘The LORD’s leadership has enabled China to get where it is today.’ It was reviewed three times by the Religious Affairs Bureau, but was never approved,” a believer said.
Christians face hardships
In the context of religious persecution that results in the closure of even state-approved Three-Self churches, disobeying the government’s orders means placing one’s church in jeopardy. So, believers have no other choice but to perform red songs and dances.
“We absolutely can’t sing the song Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China, nor can we sing songs that praise Mao Zedong because they conflict with our faith,” explained a Three-Self church co-worker from Zibo city in the eastern province of Shandong. “Many believers cannot accept this. We initially intended simply to go through the motions, but the Religious Affairs Bureau is very serious about this: they make recordings of us singing and play them on television. It is used for propaganda purposes and exploited for political gains.”
A believer from Sanmenxia city in the central province of Henan who was forced to participate in a red song competition explained that the only reason his congregation agreed to do this was to preserve their chance to continue holding their gatherings. “Government personnel that were sent to supervise us said that if we didn’t perform, it would mean we don’t support the Communist Party, and our meeting venue could be shut down. They even took photos and videos of our performances,” the believer said.
A church choir in Fujian’s Nanping city was required to sing red songs on Sundays. “None of us is willing to sing, but we can’t say that directly. Sunday is for worshipping the Lord. If you dare to oppose to singing, you will be treated as a key control target, and your life will often become difficult,” a believer who is a member of the choir said helplessly.
Whether to sing red songs and how to sing them, has become a test for believers. In fact, ever since the implementation of the new Regulations on Religious Affairs, every “sinicization” act, such as dismantling crosses, raising the Chinese flag, and having propaganda placed in churches, has been tormenting believers.
“All the people who love God are patriotic!”
Some state-groomed Three-Self clergy have actively welcomed rehearsals of the patriotic shows, and are in general supportive of government initiatives to make Chinese churches more patriotic.
A Three-Self church pastor from Dalian, a port city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, said during a congregation gathering that “all prophets were patriotic; each loved his compatriots and people.” After citing similar “concrete evidence from the Bible,” the pastor added: “It is apparent that patriotism permeates the Bible. All the people who love God are patriotic!”
It seems that there is nothing that cannot be “sinicized” in China. Some Christians vividly refer to this phenomenon as “boiling a frog in warm water” – people are unwilling to be aware of evil acts until it’s too late; like a frog is cooked to death because it is put in tepid water and is brought to a boil slowly. They feel that with the government actions in full play, the Christian faith is dying out in China, and there is nothing much they can do.