China bans prominent 'illegal' underground church in Beijing

For many years, I have been hearing glowing accounts of thriving "underground" Christian churches in China, congregations that do not register and affiliate with state-controlled religious organizations – the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association for Catholic congregations, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council for Protestants.  Enthusiasts have told me that these underground churches are close to the spirit of early Christianity, affirming their faith despite official insistence that they align their activities with the goals of the state pre-eminent.  As unofficial and out of favor, there is no way to calculate the number of people involved in underground churches, but I have heard estimates into the tens of millions.

Whatever the figure, it is large enough that the regime feels threatened by the power of a movement outside its control.  Christian Shepherd reports from Beijing for Reuters:

Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated "illegal promotional materials", amid a deepening crackdown on China's "underground" churches.

Even though "underground" – i.e., not registered – Zion Church in Beijing functioned openly, with hundreds of worshipers attending its services in its own hall.  

But since April, after they rejected requests from authorities to install closed-circuit television cameras in the building, the church has faced growing pressure from the authorities and has been threatened with eviction.

On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and were now "legally banned" and its "illegal promotional material" had been confiscated, according to images of the notice sent to Reuters late on Sunday and confirmed by churchgoers.

The coming repression was signaled early this year:

Churches across China have faced new waves of harassment and pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs in China came into effect in February and heightened punishments for unofficial churches.

Of course, Christianity has been suppressed by governing authorities from the very beginning.  

The Beijing regime is entering a period of tightening controls on many aspects of life.  This is not a sign of strength so much as it is of fear of state control weakening in the face of economic development and all that accompanies it.

China's foreign policy is getting more aggressive, which is one way of fanning the flames of patriotic resentment against the West and Japan for historic humiliations inflicted in China.  The state wants patriotism to firm up its support among "the masses" that communism supposedly serves.

The leadership of China, members of the Chinese Communist Party all, are committed to a materialistic view of life and probably do not have any way of understanding the power of spiritual life.  Repression does not have a history of working well in eradicating the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Photo credit: Pexels.

For many years, I have been hearing glowing accounts of thriving "underground" Christian churches in China, congregations that do not register and affiliate with state-controlled religious organizations – the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association for Catholic congregations, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council for Protestants.  Enthusiasts have told me that these underground churches are close to the spirit of early Christianity, affirming their faith despite official insistence that they align their activities with the goals of the state pre-eminent.  As unofficial and out of favor, there is no way to calculate the number of people involved in underground churches, but I have heard estimates into the tens of millions.

Whatever the figure, it is large enough that the regime feels threatened by the power of a movement outside its control.  Christian Shepherd reports from Beijing for Reuters:

Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated "illegal promotional materials", amid a deepening crackdown on China's "underground" churches.

Even though "underground" – i.e., not registered – Zion Church in Beijing functioned openly, with hundreds of worshipers attending its services in its own hall.  

But since April, after they rejected requests from authorities to install closed-circuit television cameras in the building, the church has faced growing pressure from the authorities and has been threatened with eviction.

On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and were now "legally banned" and its "illegal promotional material" had been confiscated, according to images of the notice sent to Reuters late on Sunday and confirmed by churchgoers.

The coming repression was signaled early this year:

Churches across China have faced new waves of harassment and pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs in China came into effect in February and heightened punishments for unofficial churches.

Of course, Christianity has been suppressed by governing authorities from the very beginning.  

The Beijing regime is entering a period of tightening controls on many aspects of life.  This is not a sign of strength so much as it is of fear of state control weakening in the face of economic development and all that accompanies it.

China's foreign policy is getting more aggressive, which is one way of fanning the flames of patriotic resentment against the West and Japan for historic humiliations inflicted in China.  The state wants patriotism to firm up its support among "the masses" that communism supposedly serves.

The leadership of China, members of the Chinese Communist Party all, are committed to a materialistic view of life and probably do not have any way of understanding the power of spiritual life.  Repression does not have a history of working well in eradicating the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Photo credit: Pexels.