Commentary by China Aid Association, October 13, 2011
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” – Matthew 22:29
China Aid Association issues the following solemn declaration with regard to the Bible exhibition “Thy Word is Truth,” currently touring the United States, that was organized by the “Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Protestant Church in China,” which is part of China’s official Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement. ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian human rights group committed to exposing and helping the victims of the Chinese government’s persecution of Christians and house churches, makes this declaration to the international community to clarify and clear up any misunderstandings.
Even though the funds come from overseas Christians groups, nevertheless, ChinaAid appreciates and welcomes the fact that large quantities of the Bible can be printed and distributed on the Chinese mainland within the official Chinese Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement network. However, the Three-Self’s Bible-printing efforts do not include printing Bibles in the languages of the three largest minority groups in China: the Uyghur, Mongolian and Tibetan languages. Furthermore, any Christian organization or individual outside the Three-Self system that engages in not-for-profit printing, shipping and warehousing of Bibles is deemed to have engaged in illegal activities and is punished according to the law. With regard to these two facts and the ever-growing numbers of house churches and even some Three-Self churches that have suffered official government persecution, ChinaAid expresses its extreme bafflement and grave concern. Therefore, ChinaAid wishes to raise some questions with regard to the Bible exhibition that is currently touring the United States and to provide some analysis of the deceptive and misleading nature of this political propaganda show.
(Photo above shows Shi Weihan during a prison visit. Shi, a Beijing house church leader, was given a 3-1/2-year prison sentence for printing and transporting Bibles and other Christian materials. Photo Credit: China Aid Association)
This is the second such Chinese Bible exhibition to tour the United States (the first was in 2006 and went to Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City), and it opened on Sept. 28 near Washington, D.C., at the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Maryland. After it closed there on Oct. 2, the exhibit moved to Chicago, where it is being displayed from Oct. 12-16 at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. From Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, it will be at the Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, Texas, and it completes its U.S. tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it will be on exhibit at the Billy Graham Library at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters from Nov. 8 to 19. According to a July 20 report on the exhibit’s official website, the exhibit “will make a special stop at the Willow Creek Church outside of Chicago” (http://www.ccctspm.org/news/ccctspm/2011/720/11720398.html). The two main non-Chinese sponsors of this year’s Bible exhibition tour are Dallas Theological Seminary and the International Bible Study Fellowship (http://www.chinabibleexhibition.com/about-cbme.html). Some leaders of non-Chinese Christian institutions have also voiced their support for the exhibit and sung its praises.
Minister of the State Administration of Religious Affairs Wang Zuo’an speaking at the opening ceremony of the Bible exhibition in Washington, D.C. Photo credit: SARA
According to a Sept. 29 report on the website of China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs, the administration’s minister, Wang Zuo’an, personally attended the opening ceremony in the United States. He said in his speech, “Chinese churches hope that by bringing the Bible exhibition to the United States, it will be a window through which more Americans can learn more about the healthy development of the church in China and the piety of Chinese Christians, and discover the true facts about a colorful China.” (see http://www.sara.gov.cn/xwzx/xwjj/10203.htm)
ChinaAid believes that “the healthy development of the church in China and the piety of Chinese Christians” is the unforeseen outcome of 60 years of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s brutal persecution of the church, especially during the decade of the Cultural Revolution. Furthermore, that persecution continues even to today. In November 2005, Beijing house church pastor Cai Zhuohua was sentenced to a three-year prison term because he had transported and warehoused a large quantity of Bibles and other Christian materials. During his imprisonment he was subjected to forced labor: making soccer balls for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In June 2009, Beijing house church leader Shi Weihan was given a 3-1/2 year sentence for printing and transporting a large quantity of Bibles and Christian materials. In August 2009, Uyghur Christian Alimujiang was sentenced to a 15-year prison term for his work as a house church leader, and he is still serving that sentence today. This is the real “truth” of Red China.
The Shanghai ITPC International Transportation Co., Ltd., which signed a contract on June 13, 2011 to take charge of the logistics and transportation needs of the Bible exhibition, in a July 25 post on its website said the event “has great political and propaganda significance.” (see http://www.itpc.net.cn/v.asp?id=74)
This is precisely the point that ChinaAid wishes to make: such a Bible exhibition is a political propaganda show, the intent of which is to mislead members of the public, politicians, and church leaders overseas who are unaware of the realities in China and to cover up the Chinese government’s persecution of house churches and any government-approved church that dares to adhere to the principles of the Christian faith and refuses to submit to the government’s political control and go against those principles. From June 2009 to Sept. 2010, the Changchunli Three-Self Church in the city of Jinan, Shandong province, endured repeated government persecution: its pastors were removed, its church members beaten and its church building demolished. From June to November 2010, the Tinghu District Three-Self Church in the city of Yancheng, Jiangsu province, was demolished and its members were beaten (see ChinaAid’s 2010 annual persecution report at http://www.chinaaid.org/p/annual-reports.html). In September and October 2010, the 200 Chinese house church leaders who had been invited to attend The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization were persecuted by the Chinese government, which blocked them from leaving the country to attend the conference and even beat, detained and held some in police custody. Since April 2011, a Beijing house church – Shouwang Church – has been forced to worship outdoors because of government persecution. The persecution has continued for the past 27 weeks, with Shouwang church members being detained and held in police custody. Therefore, is it any wonder that this Bible exhibition “has great political and propaganda significance”?
The forced demolition, on government orders, of the Three-Self church in Yancheng city’s Tinghu District, Jiangsu province, on Nov. 19, 2010. Photo credit: China Aid Association.
On June 13 this year, a scholar of Chinese house churches, Xiao Guang, published an essay entitled “The Heresy of Patriotism in Churches in China” which elicited a strong reaction from the churches in China (the essay is available here in Chinese: http://www.chinaaid.net/2011/06/blog-post_16.html). In it, he compared the “German Christian Faith Movement” that was controlled by the “Ministry of Church Affairs” of Germany’s ruling Nazi Party with the “Chinese Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement” controlled by the “State Administration of Religious Affairs” of the Chinese Communist government, and he likened the “Confessing Church,” which refused to submit to the control of the Nazis with China’s “house churches,” which refuse to submit to the control of the Communist Party. Through these comparisons, he showed the shocking replay of history and how people today have forgotten or are avoiding this historical lesson. The essay criticized those individuals and groups who support and collaborate with the Chinese government’s political show of religious freedom and pointed out the hypocritical nature of this Bible exhibition. It called on Christians in China to “beware of and eradicate the yeast of ‘Beijing theology’: a bowl of ‘love the nation, love the religion’ red stew,” [like the red stew that Esau traded his birthright for in Genesis 25:30].
July 1, 2011 was the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. On June 11, the Beijing Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council held a musical praise concert to celebrate the event. According to a June 17 report posted to the government’s Protestant Christianity website www.ccctspm.com, performers sang many songs in loud and clear voices, including “‘Picking a Camellia Blossom to Give to the Party’ [which] movingly expressed the gratitude of Christians toward the Party and the government for the many years of care and help they have given to Christianity, …” and “… greatly inspired the audience’s love for the Party and the country,” etc., etc. It also said, “The theme that was unfurled in this praise concert was that when everything is well with the Communist Party and the state, then everything will be well with the church. [The concert] once again demonstrated the Christians’ true feelings of support for the Party, love for the country and love of their religion, and expressed the eternal theme that Chinese Christianity has always been of one heart with and on the same path as the Chinese Communist Party and the Central People’s Government.” (emphasis added) Obviously, in the past 60 years, the heretical “love the country, love the religion” heresy of “Beijing theology” has developed to this alarming extent. (see http://www.ccctspm.org/news/lo_ex/2011/617/11617332.html, and ChinaAid’s translation at http://www.chinaaid.org/2011/06/beijing-municipal-three-self-patriotic.html)
From July 1 to 3 this year, overseas Chinese churches and Christians ran an ad for three days in the U.S.-based Chinese-language newspaper World Journal with the headline “Support Shouwang Church, Guarantee Right to Religious Freedom.” The ad criticized the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement system for taking part in the government’s persecution of Shouwang Church (see Shouwang’s report of Three-Self pastors participating in police interrogations at http://www.chinaaid.org/2011/06/beijing-shouwang-church-announcement-on.html). It also called for a boycott of the U.S. tour of the Bible exhibition organized by the State Administration of Religious Affairs and the Three-Self Movement, calling it a“grand diplomatic deception tour.” More than 4600 Christians and churches from more than 400 countries signed the ad supporting Shouwang Church, including former Shouwang member and the contact person for the “Help Shouwang” movement Betty Chu, as well as some well-known Chinese pastors: Hong Yujian, Zhang Boli, Liu Tongsu, etc. Hong Yujian, senior pastor of the Faith Chinese Baptist Church in Vancouver, Canada, who holds a PhD in physics and chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, has actively participated in the support-Shouwang activities. He said, “With regard to this Bible exhibition, especially the way that the American evangelical organizations have all helped to set it up, I think it is a kind of grand deception for political propaganda purposes. Because in China, except for government-operated Christian bookstores within the Christian system, no other bookstores, including Xinhua bookstores, are allowed to sell the Bible. This is an oddity found nowhere else in the world. That a place where the public sale of the Bible is banned would actually hold a grand ‘Bible exhibition.’ This is a total show for deceptive purposes.” (see Radio Free Asia’s Chinese-language report: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=148608198508835&topic=692)
Regrettably, some American Christian groups and churches have obviously been misled and hoodwinked by this use of religion to engage in political and diplomatic trickery. According to a report in the English-language China Daily, after the Bible exhibit opened, World Evangelical Alliance Chief Executive Officer/Secretary General Geoff Tunnicliffe praised the development of religious freedom in China. (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/2011-09/29/content_13817044.htm). In a February interview with The Gospel Herald, he enthusiastically endorsed this Bible exhibition, saying, “The China Bible Ministry Exhibition will be a great opportunity to interact with church leaders from China.” If that’s the case, shouldn’t these Chinese church leaders also include the leaders of house churches? (http://www.gospelherald.ca/news/min_1855.htm)
Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the Bible exhibition in Washington, D.C. Photo credit: SARA
ChinaAid’s founder and president Pastor “Bob” Fu Xiqiu, who was arrested and imprisoned in China for leading a house church of mostly college students, said of this Bible exhibition, “We understand that the leaders of overseas churches and Christian organizations, eagerly hoping to enter China’s booming and expanding religious market, have chosen to cooperate with the Chinese government and the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council. However, as we pointed out in the letters that we have privately sent to the leaders of these churches and organizations, this Bible exhibition is a political show, the real intent of which is to cover up the religious persecution perpetrated by the Chinese government. This is a reality about which there should be no prevarication. In the end, what those persecuted and imprisoned brothers and sisters in China ‘will remember is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.’”
ChinaAid hopes that the church and Christians worldwide will understand the truth and, through keen spiritual insight into the political intentions of this Bible exhibition, refuse to believe its deceptive propaganda and false testimony, call on the Chinese government to end its ban on the public sale of the Bible in any marketplace and bookstore, and do something substantive for the persecuted church in China. As for this Bible exhibition, it is just as Jesus said in Matthew 6 in condemning the hypocrisy of those garbed in religiosity: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”
Churches and Christians around the world, let us stand united and work together to resist the ever-growing persecution of Christians all over the world, refuse to bow to the evil forces, and condemn the persecutors and help the persecuted. In 1974, at the Lausanne congress organized by the American evangelist and revivalist Billy Graham, the Lausanne Covenant was drawn up. Let us look again at section 13 of the covenant, on “Freedom and Persecution”:
It is the God-appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the Church may obey God, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and preach the gospel without interference. We therefore pray for the leaders of nations and call upon them to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practise and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God and as set forth in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also express our deep concern for all who have been unjustly imprisoned, and especially for those who are suffering for their testimony to the Lord Jesus. We promise to pray and work for their freedom. At the same time we refuse to be intimidated by their fate. God helping us, we too will seek to stand against injustice and to remain faithful to the gospel, whatever the cost. We do not forget the warnings of Jesus that persecution is inevitable. [emphasis added]
(I Tim. 1:1-4, Acts 4:19; 5:29; Col. 3:24; Heb. 13:1-3; Luke 4:18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12; Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21) (http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/lausanne-covenant.html)
China Aid Association: Bob Fu, President; Mark Shan, Spokesperson
Tel: (267) 205-5210
Website: www.ChinaAid.org www.MonitorChina.org
Sign Petition for Shouwang: www.HelpSW.org
Contact person: Betty Chu HelpShouwang@gmail.com; cell phone: (202) 695-4455