Who gets to define religion? In our case, specifically, who gets to define the new Christianity? China passed new religious regulations almost six tears ago. I started to write about them a couple of times. It was never quite right though. I felt like the U.S., in some way, was going to copy what China did. As it turns out, we’re doing just that.
Not in the same way. Not for exactly the same purpose.
But the one thing we’d have in common is the desire to control people by redefining what one specific religion is about.
We don’t really know who or what to pray to anymore, because too much is changed. The adjacent image tells the story.
China targeted every major religion. Here in the U.S., some in the government are targeting Christians to remake Christianity in their image, and thereby control both the Christians and the non-Christians in one fell swoop.
In China, they openly want the government to control Christianity.
In the U.S., they use social media, personal desires, hatred, and the like to get some so-called Christians to be the impetus for their new version of Christianity.
Different. And yet, the same. Either way, Christianity becomes unrecognizable.
What is freedom?
Let’s look at another image. This time the eagle. Here in the U.S., the eagle is a symbol of freedom. But freedom looks different depending on who we are and our point of view.
Here’s the thing about freedom – of religion or of anything. Do you see that bald eagle? That eagle is free. But he’s probably looking for someone to eat. Something alive. And when the eagle finds his target, a little bit of freedom is lost. A life is gone. And the eagle remains free.
With people, freedom of religion is kind of like that. Someone’s “flying around” above us. Someone who either doesn’t like our religion, or likes theirs better. Sometimes they hate our religion so much they want to kill it. If they’re strong enough, they can certainly take out individual people. Even any given church building. But can they destroy an entire religion?
We know from history that powerful people can certainly change religions. Things that were once thought to be truth because they were in the Bible – all of a sudden they aren’t so true anymore. Because some powerful person changed them. The Pope even changed the Our Father for Catholics (aka the Lord’s prayer for the rest of us).
In China, they’re trying to work on both changing and killing Christianity. Changing it, by literally taking Jesus out of His position as the Son of God. Killing it, by creating a new version of Christianity to replace the old one. To replace God’s original version. Will it work? Time will tell.
Here in the U.S. conservative Republican self-proclaimed Christians are turning to the streets, the polls, and the courts to force their brand of Christianity on everyone else. Is it working? Absolutely.
If China can redefine religion, will other countries follow?
The original version of this article included:
Will religious regulations in China to eliminate God be a blueprint for others to follow? Can anyone beat God? Maybe China? Or is this another case of “The more you tighten your grip …?”, as in the Princess Leia quote from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope? If China does succeed though, will it become a blueprint for other countries to follow?
I started to write about this a few years ago. It concerned me at the time. It still does, especially since it seems to be working. Slowly, to be sure. But China takes a long-term view of pretty much everything. Slow is fine, as long as the goal is reached.
The articles were pretty popular too. But they were very time-consuming to write. Too much formatting. Too much information in each one. Shorter ones would have been better.
This is probably the only portion I’ll leave alone – without changes. Everything else will have China and the U.S. both included, comparing and contrasting the approaches, the goals, and the successes/failures.
First, let’s look at China.
What is the goal for a new Christianity in China’s religious regulations?
Obviously, from the title, at least one goal is to redefine religion in China. But are there other goals?
Part of the goal of the Chinese government is to water down Christianity to the point where it retains so little of Jesus’ teachings that it means nothing. Of course, in China, the official position of the Communist Party is that there’s no God. Therefore no Jesus. No Salvation. Everything comes from the Party and all allegiance is to the party. God must be eliminated in order for that to happen.
It’s like the adjacent image. You can still see the crosses, representing Jesus dying on the cross for the salvation of all who believe in Him and follow Him. But you can also see the Chinese flag, trying to cover up the crosses. It’s symbolic of China trying to eliminate God.
It’s not just Christianity either. It’s any religion. So while this is about Christianity specifically, things in it do apply to any and every religion in China.
I dare say, even atheism, which is a religion by definition, will be affected by these regulations. we’ll see why and how as the series progresses.
In essence, the Chinese government is trying to put the Chinese people into the scenario of the Church in Laodicea from Revelation. They want to, in many ways, redefine Christianity to very much reflect the state of the Laodicean church.
Things seem hopeless for them. By them, I mean both the people in the ancient church described in Revelation and the Chinese people today.
A reason for hope in spite of new religious regulations in China
And yet, Jesus promises the right to sit with Him on His throne to those who overcome in the Church in Laodicea. Since this is prophecy, the same promise should be outstanding to the Chinese Christians.
And so, this attempt at oppression seems tailor-made for a “new hope” for the people in China. And even though they may start off with a watered-down Chinese Christianity, Jesus says that anyone who really tries to reach Him will succeed.
Here’s why I say that:
Rev 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
The Three Self Church is the official “Christian” church in China. It’s also known as the Three Self Patriotic Movement. That tells a lot about how much of a “church” it is in the normal sense of the word. In China, it’s got nothing to do with worshiping God. It’s about a group of people essentially worshiping the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese people who fall prey to these regulations and are members of the state-run Three Self Church definitely fit into the “neither cold nor hot” description. No matter how much they might want to know Jesus, they won’t learn the truth about Him at a Three Self Church. No matter how much they may actually think they know – they really don’t. They need to learn from the real Christian Church – one of the underground churches in China.
And those underground churches are one of the targets as China tries to eliminate God. As we’ll see in this series, unapproved Christian churches must either “convert” to Three Self Patriotic Movement Churches or disperse. If not, then as they’re found, they’ll literally be blown up. At the beginning of the process, it was the big churches. But over time, smaller ones are being targeted as well.
As mentioned, progress – even slow progress – is all they need. The Communist Party doesn’t necessarily participate in the kind of thinking that says I want it all, and I want it now. Waiting is not a problem for them.
Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
We see the image of Jesus knocking. Those who really want to know Him will hear that, open the door, and they will know Him. And it doesn’t matter what the government does. God will not be kept from those who want to know Him.
We’ll see though, this is a journey that’s full of danger and perils. The problem with inviting someone into an underground church is that you never really know if it’s safe. You never really know if that new person will be the one to turn you in. Ask yourself, if you had to deal with that in your church in your country, would you still go to church?
In North Korea, some even go to church in a boat to try to stay undetected. Think about that. North Korea. It can be freezing cold. And you’re out in the ocean in a little boat. Would you go to that “church”?
Rev 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Finally, here’s the promise we look at earlier. And what a promise. Such a reward for overcoming the efforts of the Three Self Church and the atheist government behind it.
That reward hinges on God’s faithfulness. However, it also hinges on something else. Our faithfulness, or rather the faithfulness of those who attend the underground churches, knowing they may well be found out. It’s reminiscent of something from the Old Testament book of Daniel.
Da 3:8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Da 3:13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
Da 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Da 3:19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Da 3:24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, O king.”
Yes, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were saved from death at that time. It was the soldiers who threw them into the fire who died. But that’s not the norm. Look at Jesus’ original Disciples. All but one, John, died horrible deaths because of their refusal to abandon their faith in Jesus and renounce their God.
More likely than not, that’s the same fate awaiting some of the people in the underground churches. Especially the leaders. Question – would that have any impact on your faith?
How the Chinese Christian Church can be seen as a modern-day Church in Laodicea
So we can look at the new religious regulations in China as the Chinese government redefining Christianity. In this series, we’ll look at the current Religious Affairs Regulations in China – which went into law in 2005. We’ll also look at the proposed replacement Religious Affairs Regulations – 2016. The 2016 version was met with many complaints. As a result, the Chinese government had a one year review of the proposed regulations and has just passed the final version – Religious Affairs Regulations 2017. The approved version took effect in February, 2018.
We’ll compare all three sets of regulations, and see whether the opening sentence of Article 2 is actually true.
Citizens have the freedom of religious belief.
Or is it merely a talking point that makes China appear to have religious freedom?
Given the opening paragraph of Article 4, I think we’ll see the answer to that question is quite clear –
Article 4: The State, in accordance with the law, protects normal religious activities, actively guides religion to fit in with socialist society, and safeguards the lawful rights and interests of religious groups, religious schools, religious activity sites and religious citizens.
Conclusion – Can the atheist government in China redefine religion?
There are nine Chapters in the new document containing religious regulations in China. Here are the chapter titles, to give you an idea of what’s coming in this series.
Title: Religious Affairs Regulations
Promulgating Entities: State Council
Reference number: Order No. 686
Promulgation Date: 2017-8-26
Source of text: //www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2017-09/07/content_5223282.htm
I: General Provisions
II: Religious Groups
III: Religious Schools
IV: Religious Activity sites
V: Religious Professionals
VI: Religious Activities
VII: Religious Assets
VIII: Legal Responsibility
IX: Supplementary Provisions
Along the way, we’ll compare each article in every chapter with previous iterations of the Religious Affairs Regulations document. As mentioned, we’ll look at the 2005 version that’s being replaced. We’ll compare that with the proposed 2016 document, to see what’s been added/removed/changed. Then, we’ll see how the Chinese government reacted to the complaints about the 2016 proposed document by comparing the proposals to the final version – Religious Affairs Regulations 2017.
Who gets to redefine religion in China – Focus on Christianity
Even though the religious affairs regulations cover all religions in China, this particular series will focus on Christianity. There will be some comparisons/contrasts with the Three Self Church, which is China’s Communist Party controlled version of Christianity.
Some of the rules that govern Three Self Churches are: 1//www.billionbibles.org/china/three-self-church.html
• The Communist Party is the head of the church in China (Three Self churches report to the Three Self Patriotic Movement, which reports to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party).
• The Communist Party has the final decision on who can preach and what can be preached.
• Preaching about resurrection and the second coming of Jesus is forbidden.
• Preaching against religions that deny the deity of Jesus is forbidden.
Next, let’s look at the U.S.
What is the goal for a new Christianity in America’s religious laws?
It’s like the adjacent image. You can still see the crosses, representing Jesus dying on the cross for the salvation of all who believe in Him and follow Him.tom But you can also see the American flag, trying to cover up the crosses. It’s symbolic of some in the U.S. trying to redefine the Son of God. And His Father. And the Holy Spirit.
In the U.S., the goal is to turn Christianity into a weapon. Something to turn into hatred. Those who can be riled up by some portion of the Republican party are the sources to find out who to hate.
Then, that hatred is turned against them. It’s been done before.
I asked Bing Chat to do a bit of research for me. Here’s what I found out about history maybe repeating itself.
There is no consensus among historians about Hitler’s religious beliefs. Some argue that he was a Christian while others argue that he was an atheist or held some other beliefs. According to an article in the Washington Post, Hitler “loathed Christianity” and “despised its ethics” 1. Another article from Christian Post states that Hitler was “godless” and “never acted as a Christian” 2. However, some sources suggest that Hitler was raised as a Catholic and even considered becoming a priest 1. It is important to note that Hitler’s views on religion were complex and evolved over time.
2Learn more: 1. washingtonpost.com2. christianpost.com3. deseret.com4. en.wikipedia.org5. equip.org6. en.wikipedia.org
The Catholic Church in Germany opposed the Nazi Party, and in the 1933 elections, the proportion of Catholics who voted for the Nazi Party was lower than the national average 1. According to an article from Facing History & Ourselves, two-thirds of Protestant voters supported the German Christians movement in a national vote taken in July 1933 2. It is important to note that Christians in Germany were not a monolithic group and had different views on the Nazi Party. 3 Learn more: 1. en.wikipedia.org2. facinghistory.org3. bbc.co.uk4. thenation.com5. en.wikipedia.org6. britannica.com
Sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Leaders who may or may not even claim to be Christian. Leaders who certainly are not following what Jesus taught and commanded His followers or His way of life. And leaders who claim to be Christian, but are rejected by some because of what they are doing to and in the name of Christianity.
One of the most obvious problems, at least it should be, is something as simple as the passage below.
6:29, 30 pp — Mt 5:39-42
Lk 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Lk 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
I don’t know how anyone can know, believe, and live out that one passage from Jesus and still feel justified in following certain members of the Republican party in this country today.
And yet, we know it’s happening. It’s in the news all the time. It’s in social media. We can’t get away from it.
How some American Christian Churches can be seen as modern-day Churches in Thyatira.
Rev 2:18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
For today’s topic, the conservative Republican “Christians” who are weaponizing their brand of Christianity are the Jezebels. Those who follow, even though not actively supporting this Jezebel, are included in the warning God has for her.
There’s something very interesting, and very scary, about this particular warning though. Check this out:
21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering
There’s no more opportunity to repent. The time to turn back to God is already over. Before we look more into that, here’s why I chose Thyatira for the situation in the U.S. today.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
You see there, it says tolerate this Jezebel, not just are active with her.
It also says By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
And isn’t that exactly what’s happening here? By looking to political leaders and even church leaders who teach something totally opposed to the Love of Jesus, who teach hatred, aren’t Jesus’ people being misled and turned away from Him? Also, if we consider “food” as the word of God as the Bible does, then the image of these false leaders as idols also works. So, the comparison does seem to fit.
Returning to the earlier point, the fact that there will be a time when the leaders, the active ones getting others to follow this Jezebel, will no longer be able to repent. They will have, as the Bible also shows us, reached a point where God will harden their hearts.
You see, the thing about God hardening people’s hearts isn’t that He makes them do things they don’t want to do. It’s that God sets their hearts in the condition the people put them into. That’s a scary thing to know, but keep on pushing anyway.
I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
This is for the followers. Yes, there’s a chance to repent. But how long can someone remain just a follower without becoming active and becoming even a little bit of a leader?
As for the others, who neither follow nor lead the Jezebel?
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.
Rev 2:26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
Rev 2:27 ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—
just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
How much do we want to push our luck with God? How close to the edge are we willing to go? Because, I have to tell you, if it’s very far at all, then that’s a good sign we’re not following Jesus and not listening to the Holy Spirit.
Conclusion – Can the conservative Republican Christians in America redefine Christianity?
For a significant portion of the Christian church in America, the answer is a resounding yes. This particular Jezebel seems to be alive and well in the U.S. And they’re trying to spread their news to the end of the earth. Some are even very active in Africa.
Conclusion – Can China and U.S. governments define a new Christianity?
Can the Chinese and U.S. governments define a new Christianity? They’re succeeding right now. For now. And to an extent.
The question is whether those who know and understand what Jesus taught about love, not hate, will stand up and be heard.
Ultimately, of course, God will win.
But actually seeing that victory in person isn’t something I’d wait for. Or even hope for.
Because that’s the end. As in – The End.
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My source for the Religious Affairs Regulations 2017 excerpts is China Law Translate. From their website:
China Law Translate (CLT) is a collaborative translation project dedicated to facilitating communication between Chinese and foreign legal professionals by creating fast and reliable translations of Chinese legal authority. Since its launch in 2013, CLT has become an authoritative English-language source for news and analysis on Chinese law, as well as an indispensable source of quality translations.
They are crowd sourced, and supposedly receive no funds from any countries.
I have compared their translations to a couple of others, and there appear to be no major discrepancies. Obviously, there are wording differences in any translation, but it appears to be accurate for our purposes here. Not legal advice – but to look at the culture, religion, and what these regulations attempt to do to both.
Text from the translation of the Chinese Religious Affairs Regulations with be formatted like this to identify them as such.
Pray Image by Prawny from Pixabay
Image by Gerry from Pixabay
Cross Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
I overlaid it with the Chinese flag
American flag/truth Image by ShonEjai from Pixabay
Cross Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay