We tend to read about persecuted Christians around the world and feel sorry for them and pity them. Think about it though. If we really are all part of the body of Christ, these people are more our brothers and sisters than our own family.
[Please excuse the grammar problems if there are any. The copying and pasting was a trip. This is my research paper for my English class. I was very touched by it.]
Christianity is growing in the world. Despite what it may seem to many in the Western world, Christianity may very well be undergoing its biggest growth in history (
Although there were Catholics in
From the 1920s onward, communism slowly rose in influence until Mao Zedong and
Despite the advances that were made for the communist agenda, Mao Zedong was not satisfied with the progress. Through a series of events and advertising campaigns, Mao began the next significant event against criticizers of himself and communism. The Cultural Revolution, as it was called, lasted from 1966 through 1976 and was possibly the most bloody event for Christians in history. The infamous Red Guards, school children ripped from their education in order to bring down the “counter-revolutionists,” went on a rampage. All religion was banned and even the government controlled institutions disappeared. Millions of people died and millions more were disgraced and/or sent to labor camps. The struggling economy led to atrocities such as mass cannibalism. Paul Marshall wrote that “In one incident a mother and son were tortured, buried alive atop one another in a single grave, then dismembered and eaten by their tormentors” (Marshall 78). Christianity and the house church movement, however, survived the chaos, largely because of its relatively new independence from foreign missionaries (Grant;
The rest of the century saw the death of Mao Zedong and the reign Deng Xiaoping. Xiaoping attempted to paint over the mistakes made in the Cultural Revolution and sent misleading messages of “religious freedom” to the outside world. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement was back with just as many restrictions as before driving millions more to the house church movement. The highs and lows over the rest of the century ended in the 90s with a heightening of the persecution—wherein thousands of house churches were closed. Torture, forced sterilization, and labor camps were among the fears of 1990s Christians. Overall, the first 50 years of the communist government saw one out of every 22 Christians detained, hundreds of thousands sent to labor camps, and thousands others tortured or killed (History of Persecution in
After seeing a brief history of the persecution of Christians in
The other question presented was, “Why do they hate Christianity?” The reality may be that the reason for persecution is not so much out of hate but somewhat out of fear and recognition of the power of human spirituality. Paul Marshall quoted the Chinese state-run press in 1992 saying that in order for
Another measure taken by
TSPM’s traces its origins to before communism in 1892, as mentioned previously, when church leaders chose to move toward independence from Western missionaries. This principle was called the Three-Self Principle: self-supporting, self-leading, and self-propagating. In 1950, however, the communists took the name and made it political. The new Three-Self Movement, later changed to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, was designed to keep the church loyal to the communist government. Under the Religious Affairs Bureau, TSPM and the church was directly subject to the government and any objection was swiftly punished (Hart; Grant; The
What was so wrong with TSPM that prompted the explosive growth of the house church movement? TSPM decides where and where not to have meetings—only Sunday services are allowed. Those under 18 cannot be brought, evangelized, or baptized and some pastors have to have their sermons screened by the government. These and other restrictions, with severe consequences for refusal, prompted different reactions from believers. Some joined TSPM and tried to cope with the restrictions while others abandoned TSPM’s often twisted doctrines and met among themselves. Today, the millions of Chinese Christians meet in house churches—a large reason for the persecution (Hart; Marshall 74; The Underground Church). These reasons still play a part in the lives of the present day sufferers.
II. The present day sufferers
In May 2007, the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom stated, “The Chinese government continues to engage in systematic and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief (120).” In 2004, Hu Jintao came to power in
Just how big is the Chinese church? How many people actually worship apart from state churches in these so called “house churches?” The Chinese government officially says that there are 16 million Protestants and three million Catholics. These are only those in state approved “patriotic” churches, however. The actual total is probably closer to 130 million, according to a Chinese official’s closed door report. The forced secrecy of the house church movement makes it tough to pinpoint actual numbers but the estimates show the church doubling in the past decade—around 35,000 every day. In 2005 there was an estimated 6000 house churches in
House Groups or
Today, if arrested for “illegal activity,” believers face a myriad of different punishments. Probably the most unpublicized of these punishments are the laogai camps: re-education through labor (RTL). In principle, these camps are not much different than the general concentration camp. Two thirds of the roughly 300,000 occupants in 300 camps nationwide are those who have committed “minor” crimes, a very arbitrary term as defined by law. The other third is made up of religious prisoners of various groups including Christians. During the Cultural Revolution and the surrounding years, the camps were much more widely used. Still, only 10 years ago, one-third of
Many Christians only face fines or a few days to weeks in prison. However, apart from labor camps,
Peter Xu Yongze, mentioned earlier as the founder of a large Christian movement, suffered torture first hand. At the time of the 2002 BBC News story by Kate McGeown, Xu was 61. Over his lifetime he had served five prison sentences because he believed in Christ. Xu, who now lives in the
Ma Yuqin was another first hand witness of the methods of the Chinese. She bravely endured torture, refusing to betray those in her congregation, even while her son and friend were suffering with her. 54 years old at the time of the interview that was published in 2002 by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in an article entitled “God and
III. The perseverance of the saints
The question must be asked: “How has the decades-long persecution affected believers?” It’s easy to paint a pretty picture of
Not all of these struggles are felt just by the house churches. Those in the state church, though not arrested, undergo different kinds of persecution such as ridicule just because of their Christian faith. Few non-genuine Christians, it would seem, would stay and endure even in the state church. However, a rift has grown between the house churches and the state church that is almost irreconcilable. Many in the state church see house churches as obstacles to the future of religious freedom, as the cause of new regulations from the government. Adding to the tension, many house churches see the state churches as people who compromise their faith (
However, although there are negative effects that come with persecution, for a Christian, there are also positive effects. Persecution has a way of drawing the persecuted closer to God and to their fellow victims. Surrendering to God and his perfect will, identifying with Christ in his suffering, and simply worshipping God are several ways that Christians cope with and benefit from the persecution. Even while enduring trauma and complete isolation from the things of God, what a Christian has hidden in his heart can be what gets him through and even what helps the spread of the gospel in prison (Tong; Ting and Watson).
The personal effects also work together to grow the church as a whole. Recent estimates show Christianity growing at around seven percent every year, which amounts to millions. The church in
With virtually everything except listening to a state-approved, Sunday morning message being illegal, how much does the persecution affect how Christians live out the basics of the faith? The truth is, apart from necessary precautions to avoid detection, nothing is neglected. They can’t preach on the street corners, but witnessing goes on everywhere. One on one with friends, family, and co-workers—it goes on, quietly yet potently. Offices, factories, and homes are all places of witnessing. On college campuses Christians meet secretly, make friends, evangelize, teach, and train new converts to do the same. Wherever and whenever possible, Chinese Christians do not neglect what God has called them to do (_____; Tong).
The conclusion I wrote for my paper
When I, as the author, observe my research, I draw many things. It is important to note that although the focus of this report was Christians, Christians are not the only people being persecuted in
I also draw many things from the effects of the persecution on Christians. As a Christian from the West, I see that the Chinese are just like me, just like Christians from the West. They have their problems and divisions just like the West does. However, they are not like the West in the way that they grow and in the way that they stand firm. Persecution draws them together and strengthens their faith. It helps the church grow and sends a message of hope to the world.
In my overall view of my findings, I see a group of Christians who do not have freedom—yet they prosper. In the West, I see a group of Christians who have freedom—yet prosper in worldly goods alone. I have emerged from my study with a sense of shame to live in a country where I can worship freely. The Chinese are the ones that deserve to be free. They have used their lack of freedom for God’s glory while the West has misused the freedom given to them. All throughout the Chinese church’s history, there has been a consistent desire to honor God.
The story of Chinese believers has a long history. The cause of the persecution: a two-faced government who desires power above all else and lies about its doings. The effects of the persecution: a group of believers who have been drawn closer to each other and to God as they fulfill their heavenly calling without compromising. The story is still unfolding. As