Church overtakes communist China
By Sandhya Jain
Evangelical Christianity, funded and backed by the United States, is threatening to escalate into China'snew Opium War. Unless timely measures are taken, the land of Confucius, degraded by Chairman Mao into a spiritual, cultural and economic wasteland, may well emerge as a major outpost of a new imperialist thrust spearheaded by America. This would be a blow to the hitherto proud Han people, and a loss to India which has always regarded ancient Chinese civilization as a sister civilization.
American newspapers are gleefully documenting this phenomenon. Christianity has penetrated so deeply into towns and villages that converts surpass the membership of the Communist Party of China (The Washington Times, 3 August 2005). Official statistics of those registered at the State-sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches reveal a staggering 35 million followers, which puts Christianity in third place after Buddhism and Taoism, overtaking Islam which comes fourth.
What should ring warning bells in Beijing, however, is the fact that Chinese Christianity'sAmerican sponsors brag about ?secret converts,? that is, converts who do not confess their new religious adherence to State census officials or State-recognized churches. This group of converts, which is linked up through a rapidly proliferating network of underground or ?house? churches (homes where the faithful congregate), is said to number 100 million, far above the 70 million strong Communist Party. Since China officially permits religious freedom provided the faithful go to State-recognised institutions, the presence of a virtual ?army? of underground believers does not bode well for its long-term security and sovereignty.
The pragmatists who led China away from Marxian sterility towards economic enterprise and free markets failed to recognize that Western capitalism (and its allied colonialism, later neo-colonialism) has always gone hand in hand with Christian evangelism, as conversion alone makes native people quietist enough to permit exploitation. The story of FDI in China is no success of the Communist Party in attracting foreign investment in the country, as made out in media hype. It is nothing but the story of a concerted Western attempt to swamp one of the world'soldest civilizations by alluring a corrupt and effete leadership. If the Chinese still retain a fragment of their legendary national pride, they would do well to investigate the functioning of the multinational corporations functioning on their soil.
Since China officially permits religious freedom provided the faithful go to state-recognised institutions, the presence of a virtual ?army? of underground believers does not bode well for its long-term security and sovereignty.
Even by the standards of a ?craze,? Christianity has spread too far and too fast to be acceptable. Remote villages in backward provinces and urban areas like Beijing are literally bristling with local evangelists, and some hidden hand must be guiding their activities. The evangelicals, feeding on everyday unhappiness such as sickness and disease, must also be getting ?compensated? (paid) for their exertions. If the payment is made through Western sources in some guise or other (China does not permit foreign missionaries), the Chinese Government should investigate the larger political motivation behind the conversions.
This is pertinent because it has come to light that some of the prominent figures of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, mostly living in exile, are converts. Zhang Boli and Xiong Yan, who figure on a list of 21 most-wanted student leaders, published soon after the massacre, have actually been ordained as priests. Han Dongfang, who went to America in 1993 on being released from prison after he contracted tuberculosis, also converted.
As in rural India, a key factor in the success of Christianity in China is its near monopoly of health services. A woman convert informed worshippers at the official Protestant church in Beijing that her ?brother'sdaughter had a virus, which doctors had never seen before. She was on a ventilator and everyone had lost hope. But I prayed for her, and she recovered. Now her family follows Christ, too.? This is obviously gibberish, and if the membership in her village in the poverty-stricken Anhui province has grown from five or six worshippers to 100 in just five years, there is obviously an entrenched system of inducements operating all over China.
The Communist Party is alive to the threat. Last September, President Hu Jintao reportedly told a select gathering of the party elite that Christianity represented a major threat to party rule (Wall Street Journal, 2 June 2005). But the regime is clearly out of its depth. Instead of encouraging a return to Confucius, Lao-Tse, and Buddhism, the Government is banking upon a sterile atheism to satisfy the spiritual quest of a thirsting nation. It is doomed to failure.
Equally suicidal is the move to build more state churches in order to monitor worshippers. Far from curtailing the appeal of foreign missionaries and creating ?nationalist? Chinese Christians, this is de facto legitimising the proliferation of secret underground churches where, people are being made to believe, the ?real? gospel is taught. In this manner, the seeds of subversion are being laid and strengthened.
If this sounds like a conspiracy theory, consider the fact that some churches are actually holding Arabic classes (its true!) to prepare missionaries to proselytize in the Gulf. This clearly indicates a Western mind at work, pulling invisible strings from the safety of a corporate office in Beijing, and preparing ethnic Chinese as cannon fodder in Islamic countries. If China, which has excellent official ties with Islamic countries, can be thus used to subvert those countries, what kind of subversion can be done in China itself?
A newly converted upper class professional revealed that the church is targetting the well educated rather than the poor and unsuccessful because, like the early Christians, the attempt is to ?dominate the Roman Empire.? Noodle entrepreneur Su bribed Government officials to keep her seminary (where Arabic was taught) afloat. She distributed liquor, cigarettes and red envelopes of cash, sometimes hundreds of dollars, before holidays. A religious affairs officer, Xu, acknowledged receiving gifts; he helped her reopen a vocational school shut down by the authorities. As in India, official corruption may prove to be the undoing of the People'sRepublic.