God's Kingdom is far better than man's kingdom
Although we have appreciated being able to return to in-person services without the need for Government oversight, the same cannot be said in China. Christian congregations have been told by the Religious Affairs Bureau in Zhengzhou (the capital city of the central province of Henan) that they must meet strict guidelines in order to be allowed to open for in-person worship services once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. You might expect that the primary rule for the return of services would be social distancing or hand sanitising, but no. The primary rule that the Religious Affairs bureau want Christians to adhere to is the display of overt loyalty to the Communist Party.
In fact, there are 42 requirements that churches must meet before being allowed to open. On top of scrupulous adherence to epidemic prevention, people who want to enter religious venues must register online, share their personal health information and provide their personal details (including name, gender ID card and phone number). Most alarmingly, churches are required to include patriotic education and the study of China’s religious policies. Failure to meet any of these preconditions means that the church will not be allowed to reopen. But even if a church decided not to reopen, the Chinese government has also banned preaching and other services online.
The government is also examining the content of preachers’ sermons. Several members who were excited to attend their first service in many months came away disheartened. One person said, “Instead of a normal sermon, the preacher talked about the patriotism of medical workers during the epidemic and their sacrifice to the state. These things are important, but political things were discussed for half of the time. Many believers complained afterward.”
One county government even demanded that preachers of state-run churches give the same style of sermon. They all were to commend President Xi Jinping for “the right way to lead people in defeating the epidemic” and praise China for its single-party rule. Additionally, they were required to slander the United States and other countries. The problem that has arisen for church members, particularly since they are only permitted to meet once a week for an hour, is that after delivering a “patriotic sermon” there’s little time left to talk about Jesus Christ.
Inspired by American propagandists including Walter Lipmann (1889 - 1974) and Edward Bernays (1891 – 1995), the Chinese Communist Party assumes that if a government wants to change the content of its citizens’ beliefs, it can. So far as Christianity is concerned, the Communist Party expects Chinese Christians to rejection salvation by faith in a resurrected Saviour because Marxist materialism denies the possibility of life after death.
Communism is based on a materialistic and humanistic view of life and history. Under it, God is merely thought of as a figment of the imagination, religion is considered a product of fear and ignorance and the church is viewed as an invention to control the masses. Moreover, like humanism, communism thrives on the grand illusion that man, unaided by any divine power, can save himself and usher in a new society.
In rather cold, calculating fashion, communism attributes ultimate value to “the state”. In their view, man is made for the state and not the state for the man. Under communism, man has no inalienable rights. His only rights are those granted to him by the state. But the good news is this: God, through the sacrifice of His Son, set us free, not only from the bondage of humanistic governance, but also from the bondage of sin so that we may live forevermore in His kingdom.