Christian Church Destroyed in China
TRE GOINS-PHILLIPS | JAN 13, 2018 | 3:04 PM
Chinese authorities used dynamite this week to destroy a well-known Christian megachurch in the northern part of the communist country.
The decision to demolish the Golden Lampstand Church in the Shanxi Province came amid the Communist Party's long-established fear that Christianity, seen by authorities as a Western way of life, is a threat to the government’s power, The New York Times reported.
Why Was the Church Destroyed?
The state-run newspaper Global Times described the church's destruction as part of “a city-wide campaign to remove illegal buildings,” quoting an anonymous government official who said the house of worship was “secretly built” and disguised as a “warehouse.”
But clearly, the church wasn’t much of a secret, because in 2009, members of the congregation said police confiscated Bibles and imprisoned several of the church's leaders. Nevertheless, the church was leveled Tuesday, according to ChinaAid, an American watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China.
The group's founder and president, Bob Fu, said China's “repeated persecution” toward the megachurch shows the government has “no respect for religious freedom or human rights”:
“ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”
Is Christianity Illegal in China?
While Christians are severely persecuted in China, it's important to note that — on paper — Christianity is not illegal in the Asian nation. While China's official stance is atheistic, Christianity is one of five approved religions in the country.
The other approved faiths are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Catholicism, though the Catholic Church in China is forced to operate independent of the Vatican. The Chinese government, however, maintains its tight grip on Christianity via a nonreligious, nationalistic body — the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) — established to regulate the church.
And that very much restricts the freedom Christians have in China. A central tenet of the Christian faith is spreading the gospel, or evangelism, but the “Three-Self” aspect of the TSPM totally restricts that.
Each congregation in China is to be self-governed, self-funded, and self-propagated, according to The Gospel Coalition. Furthermore, since the government is paranoid of established groups, due to the power they could wield, movements and denominations are also forbidden.
So in order to spread the Christian message effectively, believers have been forced to establish so-called “underground churches,” which are created outside the purview of the TSPM, because those within the government database are subject to constant censorship and supervision.
Is This an Isolated Incident?
According to the Times, under Chinese President Xi Jinping's leadership, the government has frequently destroyed churches or removed their crosses and steeples. Xi has indicated he prefers a tight control over Chinese society.
In April 2016, the Chinese president gave a speech on religious policy. During the address, he urged the Communist Party to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means,” warning any religion in the country must “Sinicize,” or become Chinese, The Associated Press reported.
Xi also made clear any faith-based group must submit to the leadership and whims of the Communist Party, adding, “in no way should religions interfere with government administration, judiciary and education.”