China vows to rid Christianity of 'western' influence: 'One more Christian, one less Chinese'

Early Rain Covenant Church in China
Early Rain Covenant Church in China | Photo: Facebook/Early Rain Covenant Church

A Chinese official who heads state-sanctioned Christian churches in China has vowed to rid Christianity in the country of any Western “imprint,” calling for further “sinicization” of religion.

In a speech on Monday, Xu Xiaohong, head of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, identified what Beijing perceives to be problems with Christianity in the country, including “infiltration” from abroad and “private meeting places,” the South China Morning Post reports.

“[We] must recognize that Chinese churches are surnamed ‘China,’ not ‘the West’,” Xu told delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

“The actions by anti-China forces that attempt to affect our social stability or even subvert the regime of our country are doomed to fail,” he said.

Xu pointed out that because Christianity was spread to China at a time when Western powers were invading the country, the religion will always be connected to the “West.” Western influence, he said, made the churches in China to want to stay independent and focus on themselves.

'Therefore, people often say: "One more Christian, one less Chinese,” Xu said, according to Xinhua News Agency.

“For individual black sheep who, under the banner of Christianity, participate in subverting national security, we firmly support the country to bring them to justice,” he declared.

Introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2015, China's "sinicization campaign" seeks to bring religions under the officially atheist party’s absolute control and into line with Chinese culture.

In his speech, Xu hailed earlier attempts to sinicize Christianity in the country, including the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 and the anti-Christian movement of 1922-1927. Both events were characterized by violence against Christianity and resulted in a large number of deaths among Christian missionaries.

“We all know very well that in comparison to other religions, Protestantism in China carries a heavier historical burden and faces greater pressure from reality in its push for sinicization,” Xu said, adding that Christianity in China must rid itself of all imprints of a “foreign” religion and establish its own Chinese theology.

According to a five-year plan to sinicize Protestant churches released by the Chinese religious authorities, efforts to make the faith more “Chinese” included a rewrite of the New Testament using Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings to champion socialist ideals.

"There are outlines that the new Bible should not look westernized and [should look] Chinese and reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism," Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, previously told The Christian Post.

"The Old Testament will be messed up. The New Testament will have new commentaries to interpret it."

Additionally, all Christian churches must be approved by the government, with their activities strictly regulated and monitored. Christians who do not comply with government demands continue to be arrested for worshiping according to their faith.

Recently, Chinese authorities arrested just over 40 Christians worshiping in homes after the closure of Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church. Their arrests came after over 160 more arrests of church members were made last year.

Last Friday, the Trump administration’s top religious freedom official, Sam Brownback, declared during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong that the Chinese government “is at war with faith.”

“It’s a war they will not win,” Brownback said, according to reports. “The Chinese Communist Party must hear the cry of its people for religious freedom.”

Brownback warned that the Chinese government is trying to make sure religious minority groups “are brutally and forcefully controlled.”

“Somehow, men and women of faith are viewed as a threat to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “It is clear that China’s misguided and cruel policies in Xinjiang are creating resentment, hatred, division, poverty, and anger.”

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