We’ve previously heard declarations for unregistered churches to come into line with the official state church. In practice, this has meant, “Conform or at least shut up.” Enforcement was random and highly dependent on the will of the local party cadre. The understood agreement between local authorities and church leaders was this: “Don’t make us lose face and we’ll leave you alone.”
That’s not the current situation. The plan itself is more specific and comprehensive in scope. Since the government announced its intention to Sinicize religion, we’ve seen leaders implement the policies with far more breadth and aggression. In other words, there has been much more “follow-through” than in previous years.
Cameras have been installed in churches. Arrests have increased. A curriculum to “re-train” pastors has been written. Even the biggest churches have not been able to avoid conflict. Authorities also have plans to re-translate the Bible to suit their purposes.
As various outlets have reported, the government in Guangzhou is now ready to pay people to snitch on people who are engaged in religious activities deemed illegal (e.g., house churches, theological training, etc.). The government has even cooperated with other South Asian countries in order to track the activities of Christians who have ties to the Mainland.
While the government has always been sensitive about foreigners interacting with minority groups, it has taken more extensive measures in the past year. In Kunming, for instance, leaders have expelled or pressured out a substantial number (perhaps most) of the missionaries in the area, including entire organizations.
The rhetoric has changed a bit as well. Specifically, official propaganda is much more “anti-Western” than in previous campaigns. Sinicization is portrayed as a struggle against the oppression and imperialism of Western powers, especially the United States.
In a recent speech, Xu Xiaohong, Chairman of the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, stated,
In modern times, Christianity was introduced to China on a large scale along with colonial aggression by Western powers. It was called “foreign religion.” The churches anywhere in our country were merely the result of Western missions and “Christianity in China.” Many believers lack national consciousness, so people say: “One more Christian is one less Chinese.” The occurrence of many teaching plans, especially the “Boxer Movement” and the “non-Christian movement”, prompted the church to create a “self-reliance movement.”
Sinicization is the brainchild of China’s highest political authorities. Given the fact that President Xi is no longer restricted by term limits, we have little reason to expect pressure to let up when he leaves office. He will be around long enough to see the process through.
What we are seeing in China and the rest of the world is the prophesied escalating “end times” tribulation being carried out by people controlled by Satan and his minions. Christians should not be taken by surprise as Jesus warned us beforehand. More importantly, we need to be obedient to his command to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to the whole world. Jesus is coming back and He and the Saints will rule and reign on this earth for 1000 years.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:9-14
The Millennial Kingdom is a transition period when God fulfills the covenants He made with Abraham and David. God promised a descendant of David, Jesus will rule the nations from a restored Jerusalem.
“And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for His treasured possession, as He has promised you, and that you are to keep all His commandments, and that He will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that He has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as He promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19