The Cross and The Sickle
Vol: 106 Issue: 27 Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The People’s Republic of China was formally established in 1949 as an officially atheist state. Under Chairman Mao, houses of worship were converted for secular use.
Over the past thirty years, China, although still officially atheist, has relaxed its opposition to organized religion. Since Party membership is a necessity if one wants to advance in Chinese society, many religious Chinese hide their religious affiliations, so hard numbers are difficult to come by.
So no one knows exactly how many Christians there are among China’s population of 1.3 billion. But there are a lot more Christians in China than most of us ever dreamed there were.
The last 30 years of economic reform have seen an explosion of religious belief inside China. China’s government officially recognizes five religions: Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Daoism.
The biggest boom of all has been in Christianity, which the government has struggled to control, according to a NPR report, by establishing government-sanctioned churches.
The official church is part of what’s called the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-sanctioned Protestant organization.
Three-Self refers to the strategy launched in the 1950s of removing foreign influences from Chinese churches — self-governance, self-support, self-propagation.
There are an estimated 21 million members of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic movement, but nobody knows how many Protestants worship in unregistered house churches. Some recent surveys have calculated there could be as many as 100 million Chinese Protestants.
That would mean that China has more Christians than Communist Party members, which now number 75 million.
The city of Wenzhou, home to more than 1,000 Christian churches has been nicknamed, “China’s Jerusalem.” Unsurprisingly, the most Christian city in China is also the richest. In Wenzhou private enterprise is booming and the wealthiest man in town is a born-again Christian named Zheng Shengtao.
Shengtao was arrested in 1983 on charges of speculation and profiteering when he started his first capitalist venture, delivering goods on a bicycle. Shengtao told his story to NPR;
“I stayed in prison for 69 days,” Zheng says. “There was a charge of speculation and profiteering. I hadn’t thought about Jesus much before. But I started to think about Him all day long. It wasn’t that I believed in Him. I just prayed He would get me out as soon as possible.”
Soon after his release from prison, Zheng turned his life over to Christ. After China relaxed its rules prohibiting private enterprise, Zheng Shengtao became one of the richest men in China. He is ranked by Forbes as the 395th richest man in China — with assets totalling over $400 million.
He grew his wealth through a consortium he founded and named, “the Shenli Group” — which translates literally as “God’s Power”.
As noted earlier there are now five officially recognized state religions in China. And all Christian churches must be licensed and approved by the state. But there is a growing ‘unofficial church’ movement of believers who choose to follow the Bible and not the government, according to the NPR report.
I found the following paragraphs to be especially interesting . . .
“Although leaders of some larger unofficial churches have been harassed and persecuted, the authorities largely turn a blind eye, unwilling — or perhaps unable — to deal with this explosion of faith. Now, there is public discussion about whether these gatherings should be legitimized. Recently the state-run media has been running pieces featuring these “house churches,” raising expectations they may be recognized.”
China’s Christians are pushing back the boundaries, and the authorities don’t seem to know how to respond.
It is easy here in the West, with Biblical Christianity under attack, the Bible outlawed in public places, Christian doctrine being labeled ‘hate speech’ etc., to think that the Church is dying off in the face of increasingly militant secularism to the point that if the Lord doesn’t return for it soon, there won’t be anyone left to Rapture.
We look around at the conditions of the Church and what we see is what Paul foretold as the social and moral conditions of the last days’ Church.
We see perilous times on all fronts. We live in exactly the society Paul described.
Lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God who have a form of godliness while denying it has any real power. . .
That describes the worldview of the elected officials that pass our laws and that of the mainstream media that informs the public worldview, so it isn’t that surprising to see it reflected by the decline of Western Christianity.
The Scriptures offer a pretty bleak assessment of the Laodicean Church Age. The Lord rebuked it as neither hot nor cold, but disgustingly lukewarm, rich, seemingly in need of nothing, unaware that we are spiritually poor, blind, miserable and naked.
But as the light dims on this side of the world, it is growing brighter on the other. All the secular futurists predict America will soon be eclipsed as the world’s leading economic power by China.
I’ve often wondered what Jesus meant when He told the Laodiceans, “Because thou art lukewarm, I will spue you out of My mouth.” Since He is addressing an entire Church epoch, it can’t refer to condemning those He paid so much to save.
But He is clearly addressing a society richly blessed with material goods that the Lord says has blinded them to their true spiritual condition.
It is increasingly obvious, to me at least, that the Lord’s Hand of blessing is being abruptly withdrawn from the West as nations compete to see who can demonstrate the least Christian character.
Suddenly, the reference to being spued from His mouth doesn’t seem that obscure. . .
As the White House continues to deny America’s Christian heritage, America is learning what it is like to live out from under the Lord’s umbrella of blessing.
The further America distances itself from Israel, the more catastrophes we find ourselves having to deal with.
The secular world is fond of describing China’s rising economic status as “China’s economic miracle” – an ironic choice of words given that secularists don’t believe in miracles.
At the same time, China’s economy is booming, its standard of living is on the rise, and from the perspective of some 100 million Chinese Christians, the blessings are falling like rain.
I don’t believe in coincidences. But I do believe in object lessons.