Christian Churches should implement the conclusions of the recent National Conference on Religion “immediately.”
by Zhang Chunhua
On December 3 and 4, Xi Jinping personally presided on the first National Conference on Work Related to Religious Affairs the CCP held since 2016. Xi spoke at the Conference, and asked for a more in-depth study of Karl Marx’s texts on religion by all those involved in the management of religious activities in China. He also reiterated that “Sinicization” of religion means its alignment with the CCP’s principles, goals, and directions, and lamented that the process he started with the 2016 conference is not advancing quickly enough.
Since Xi indicated that Christians, in particular, tend to engage in proselytization activities, which are forbidden, and in posting unauthorized religious content on social media, the government-controlled Three-Self Church, the body the government uses to control Chinese Protestants, was the first called to implement “immediately” the directives of the National Conference.
On December 7, Pastor Xu Xiaohong, Chairman of the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, organized an extraordinary meeting of the Committee and of the China Christian Council, which supervises education in the Three-Self Churches, whose purpose was to listen to a videotaped version of Xi’s speech at the National Conference, and devise a plan to implement it. All main national leaders of the Three-Self Church were present, including Pastor Wu Wei, chairperson of the China Christian Council, Pastor Shan Weixiang, Vice-Chairman and Director-General, Vice-Chairman Shen Xuebin, and Secretary-General Gu Mengfei.
Xu Xiaohong said that churches are expected to leave aside less important matters and focus on two issues, prevention on COVID-19 and the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Xu said that Xi Jinping’s speech may be summarized in “Nine Must,” which should become the program for every pastor and community in the next weeks and month. First, we must deeply understand that religious work is a part of the larger work of the Communist Party. Second, we must obey the Party’s leaders and the officially approved religious leaders.
Third, we must study and implement the Marxist theory of religion. Fourth, we must study and implement the CCP’s directives on religious work. Fifth, we must continue on the path of Sinicization of religion. Sixth, we must understand that the main aim of each Christian community is to rally Christian believers around the CCP and the government. Seventh, we must cooperate with believers of the other authorized religions for these purposes. Eight, we must build more stable and well-controlled organizations. Nine, we “must raise the level of rule of law in the religious work,” which means that we must punish those who deviate from the existing regulations.
The meeting also instructed Christian churches to preach in their sermons the Four Consciousness (四个意识), Four Matters of Confidence (四个自信) and Two Upholds (两个维护). These are slogans all Chinese know and are asked to repeat daily, but what is interesting is the insistence they should become part of sermons in Christian churches. The Four Consciousness are the consciousness of the duties of maintaining political integrity (政治意识), appreciating the larger picture (大局意识), following the core leaders (核心意识), and remaining aligned with the core leaders (看齐意识).
The Four Matters of Confidence mean the confidence in the CCP’s path (道路自信), theory (理论自信), system (制度自信), and culture (文化自信). The two uphold mean upholding the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee of the CCP (坚决维护党中央权威和集中统一领导) and the core position of General Secretary Xi Jinping both in the Central Committee and the Party as a whole (坚决维护习近平总书记党中央的核心、全党的核心地位).
As far as Bitter Winter knows, an important matter that was not addressed is how to prevent the Three-Self Church from keeping losing members dissatisfied with the fact that the sermons increasingly focus on CCP propaganda rather than on Christianity.