By far the most devious thing the devil has ever done to suppress God’s church was to institutionalize and state sanction its existence. This trend started with the Catholic church and continues right up till the current modern age. Both the US and China have fully institutionalized Churches. In America the churches operate under a system of incorporation called the 501c3, and in China a system of state licensing through the TSPM/CCC. Despite state license, the US and Chinese churches are under constant attack by communist entities in both the public and government arena. Yet the response to these anti-religious attacks by the Christian populations in their respective governments couldn’t be more different.
A Quick History of the Church in China
In 1951 a Chinese Christian leader named Y.T. Wu (1893-1979) started what is called the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in China or the TSPM. This Christian movement aimed to both protect and work with the Republic of China assuring that Christianity would thrive there. This movement was virtually wiped out during Mao’s Communist Cultural Revolution between the years of 1966-1976. The TSPM that had until then enjoyed a close relationship with the Chinese government was shut down, all open displays of religion were systematically eradicated forcing the church to go underground. As a result the Chinese House Church movement sprung up.
The Chinese House church get’s it’s name because it is an ‘unsanctioned’ body of believers and as an unregistered entity it cannot own property or even operate under communist law. During this time the Chinese House Church under the persecution of the red communist government experienced radical growth to the point it was seen as a threat to the communist government. Fearing a political uprising in 1979 the government brought back the TSPM and also formed the China Christian Council a year later in 1980. The TSPM having been reinstated served as a government liaison while the CCC was a internal management organization, both have deep connections with the communist government. It is these entities in partnership with the Chinese government that runs the above ground state sanctioned churches and also the Christian seminaries there in China.
An Insidious Doctrine that Promotes Government Churches
It is important to note that as result of overt persecution by communist authorities the underground church flourished to the point of political chaos for the communist elite. The tactic the government used to bring the church back into compliance was the institutionalization of the church.
The natural state of the church is to be under the total authority and power of Jesus Christ and Him alone and to never allow government influence dictate what the church can and can’t do. Reading through the Gospel narratives, the Book of Acts and also the Epistles would reinforce this fact time and time again. For example Jesus didn’t recognize the Pharisees as a legitimate spiritual authority, nor did the Apostles recognize Rome as a spiritual authority during their ministry. Government is obviously not a spiritual entity of any sort and therefore has no jurisdiction over such. As a result they were all hunted and persecuted because the state obsessively seeks to be the final authority on all human matters.
The Bible makes it clear the church is to operate outside of state authority and jurisdiction, otherwise it can’t truly be called a church which is plainly created as a spiritual entity(Ephesians 2:19-22). When Jesus was asked by representatives of King Herod and the Pharisees if jews should pay taxes and He made the famous statement “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” in Mark 12:17 he made it quite clear to all that listened that Caesar has authority over civil matters, but only God has authority over the spiritual matters of the human soul.
The difference between the Chinese House Church and the government authorized TSPM churches is this doctrinal distinction. The Chinese House churches could careless about the communist laws forbidding their unregistered gatherings and teachings and they willingly violate these laws every time they meet. While the TSPM sanctioned churches grovel and even bend long held doctrinal truths to fit with the regulations and constraints of the communist government.
One of the doctrinal fallacy’s that have been infinitely effective towards the institutionalization of the church is the Roman 13 doctrine of “unlimited submission to government.” This doctrine was made popular in Nazi Germany and promoted by Hitler to subjugate the German churches and it is also utilized in China by the communist government as noted by Garrett Theological Seminary professor and Chinese Christian K.K. Yeo, who writing for The Christian Century Foundation stated,
“However, there is a difference between registered and unregistered churches in political attitude. Most of the churches aligned with the TSPM and the CCC adhere to the theology of Romans 13:1, 4 (“let every person be subject to the governing authorities . . . [they are] God’s servant for your good”) and 1 Peter 2:13 (“For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution”). They hope to be God’s agent of salvation within the political reality. In response to the communist view of religion — and the TSPM has no illusions about communism’s atheist views — the TSPM has been accommodating, finding ways to cooperate with the state’s mission.
The political attitude of the unregistered churches reflects the theology of the Book of Revelation. They assume that the Chinese government, being communist in ideology, is pagan and satanic — similar to that of the Roman Empire, the beast and the dragon in Revelation. Most unregistered churches do not believe that Christianity should collaborate with a government that does not love or honor God. By and large, they don’t find the communist government a trustworthy partner or think that the state’s fallenness is redeemable. Many unregistered churches attempt to focus on theology and to be detached from politics.”
It is right here in our understanding of Romans 13 that the Nazi church, the Chinese state church and the American state licensed 501c3 churches intersect. Romans 13 teaches that we are to submit ourselves to governing authority IF WE CAN in good conscience do so. What was left out in the Nazi church, the Chinese State church and also the American 501c3 church is that critical verse “In good conscience” which is found in Romans 13:5. When the government ceases being “good”, we have no obligation to accept its authority, especially if it violates our conscience through its wicked actions.
The Red Cross Movement
While this understanding of LIMITED submission to government has been lost on the American church and the state run church in China, the underground church in China recognized the evils of the communist government in their bid to desecrate church buildings across China this last year.
This desecration started when both the TSPM churches and underground churches openly displayed Red Crosses throughout the country in support of the horrible Christian persecution in the Middle East by the American funded ISIS militants. Thousands of crosses went up on buildings and were held by protestors during events. The communist government then took action and forcibly started to remove the Red Crosses that were displayed on the state run churches. In fact the Chinese government took this opportunity in audacious fashion to try and further nationalize the churches in the country by introducing its own brand of Christianity. The Director of State Administration for Religious Affairs Wang Zuoan had this to say during the 60th Anniversary celebration of the TSPM just this last week,
“The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture,” Christian Today
These words were echoed by TSPM spokespeople but only encouraged further civil disobedience by the leaders of the underground church movement. A movement that has seen tremendous growth and is well on its way to becoming the largest Christian body in the world at a projected 160 million by 2025. In this same article the author numbered how many churches, have been desecrated and demolished, along with how many protestors have been beaten and injured in defense of these targeted churches.
“Since January, Chinese officials have removed the crosses from at least 229 churches. Some churches have been entirely demolished, and the government has issued demolition notices to more than 100 churches.
Outside Wenzhou Church, police beat protestors with electric batons for contesting the right to remove the church’s cross. About 1,000 people gathered to form a human blockade around the church on the night of the attack. Up to 50 people were injured.”
The state sponsored TSPM churches are a lot like the mega-churches here in the US. A CS Monitor article last January that predicted the showdown coming between the church and the Chinese government describes the state churches in China.
“Yet Chongyi looks and feels like any evangelical megachurch in Seattle or San Jose. There are big screens, speakers blaring upbeat music, coffee bars. The choir is a huge swaying wash of white and red robes. Chongyi seats 5,000 people and holds multiple services on Sunday.” CS Monitor
“Some Sundays we are full,” says Zhou Lianmei, the pastor’s wife. “We also have 1,600 volunteers.”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it, precisely the model and format that we have here in the United States 501c3 churches.
In America under the 501c3 IRS organization the church has created a franchizable and hugely profitable business model that self limits speech well below the set enforceable political standards solely for profit and gain. It can be said that controversy is simply bad for business in the American churches as a result state pressure isn’t even a factor on speech in these churches. There is virtually no one rocking the boat on any hot topic issues to warrant government interventions on politically charged speech in any form in the American church. The same goes for the state sponsored churches in China, they have a lot to lose and though they courageously adorned their buildings with Red Crosses it was the underground Christians who amassed at the churches in opposition to the government thugs that tore down those crosses.
In China it is no secret that the underground church leaders are at the helm of this movement. They are also taking the brunt of the violence and arrests among their ranks, as reported in the Guardian.
“At least nine people I know have been taken away by the police and that figure is still rising,” a provincial church leader told the Guardian. “We think it is a campaign targeting church leaders across the province. It can only be a coordinated action initiated by the provincial government.”
Meanwhile the United States Church Loses Ground
The sad reality is churches in America have nothing in common with the brethren in China and their free church. The most ironic thing about it is the Red Cross Movement wasn’t even started in China, it started as global solidarity movement for Syrian Christians being persecuted. The church there in China being underground and unfettered by government meant they were alive in spirit, and if they in Christian empathy wanted to bring attention to the light of Christian persecution than I feel they have done it to incredible degree. And shame on the national media for not bringing light to bear on middle eastern and now Chinese persecution, and also shame on the churches in America for failing to be a voice for the martyrs across the globe.
While China is in the fight of their lifetimes against hard lined communists that have a urge to purge, the US churches sit back and make no noise whatsoever against the same actions and desecrations of sanctified space. For example that of the sanctity of marriage, our historic southern monuments, the ability to pray in school, the right to life and liberty, AND extending those rights to the unborn. Losing ground left and right.
While the church in China will speak out, and suffer and protest on behalf of the Christians in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and yes even Saudi Arabia the American church is tranced out on special music and fuzzy feel good preaching.
Where is the response in America, isn’t it time we raise the red cross and bring to light the truly repugnant anti-God agenda in our own country. It is all around us, there are exclusively atheist organizations that scream and holler whenever an open display of religion occurs. Every time a Christian in America utters a religious conviction that harms no one they get dragged into court or thrown to the wolves in media and journalism. It is pathetic here, we have plenty of issues and opportunities to take a stand on Biblical principles yet no one does it.
The most exciting thing about the Chinese revolution is it’s appeal to liberty principles, principles you can only ascertain if you see the Bible as a Liberty document from Old to New Testament. Everything in the Bible is about Liberty cumulating in the worthy personage of Jesus Christ. That Truth becomes a powerful motivation in the spirit for a believer to never ever yield in the face of spiritual oppression. It is unGodly to yield to bad government, and that is exactly what 501c3 or TSPM approved churches will do, guide their flocks into yielding to horrible government.
We here in America must find our voice in support of the persecuted church abroad who is feeling the wrath of the New World Order and reject the communist agenda in our own backyard. That means being aggressively bold like the courageous and much prayed for church in China and the Middle East.