This is more evidence — if anyone needed it — that China is not a free and open society, as the casual observer might believe. A crackdown on Chinese Christians not affiliated with the official state church would indicate that as China becomes an economic superpower, it is drifting — as all totalitarian systems do — into the persecution of true and private beliefs.
The economy of China is much freer than under Mao. It is much freer than most Marxist regimes in modern history have been. The result has been modest affluence (in stark contrast to the grinding poverty of 40 years ago.) Chinese now have cell phones, computers, motorcycles, television sets, and all other goodies which we connect with the good life. Even in 1989, when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, faxes and satellite communications coming out of China were evidence of the technological sophistication of the Chinese people. But it is clear that the freedom granted to the Chinese people is sharply qualified: the souls of the people still belong to the Party.
The existence of state controlled religious doppelgangers is not new. The Nazi allowed the German Faith Movement, which was overtly hostile to Christianity. Within a year of the Nazis taking power, this movement published itsTwenty-Five Theses of the German Religion, a conscious modeling of the 25 points of the Nazi program. Thesis XV of that Nazi publication states: “The Ethic of the German Religion condemns all belief in inherited sin, as well as the Jewish-Christian teaching of a fallen world. Such a teaching is not only non-Germanic and non-German, it is immoral and nonreligious. Whoever preaches this menaces the morality of the people.”
Ernst Bergmann, Nazi professor at the University of Leipzig added: “Christianity is especially alien to the German nature because it is the creation of a pre-eminently oriental mind and rests on the sacred writings of the Jews. It contradicts, at almost every point, the German sense of custom and morality.” University Nazis in Keil wrote in 1935: “We Germans are heathens and want no more Jewish religion in our Germany. We no longer believe in the Holy Ghost; we believe in the Holy Blood.” These Germans were willing to have a “religion” which worshipped Nazi racial policies and militancy, but not a God of love.
Nazis also tried to do what the Red Chinese have tried as well: Create a “State Christianity," which will, in effect, be a vessel of party policy. Dr. Muller, the Nazi-appointed boss of the Church, not only attacked Jews but attacked anyone who claimed that Jesus was a Jew. The Confessional groups of Christians — Protestants who had refused to join the “German Christian” movement — sent Hitler a letter in May 1936 asking whether he intended to “de-Christianize the German people.” The response was wholly unsatisfactory, with the Christian clergy believing that Hitler had accepted honors due only to God.
Famous authors (who have now been thrown down the memory hole) such as Dorothy Thompson wrote on October 17, 1938 that National Socialism, like Communism, was a secular religion and that until that was understood, then nothing about Nazism and Communism made sense. She then noted that both violated the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Then Thompson states that this is why the most formidable opposition to both these totalitarianism movements came from people of faith; and that while it may be possible to unite Communism or National Socialism with some economic theory or political system or sociology, it is absolutely impossible to harmonize either with the Bible. She observed that those who have thrown their lot with Hitler in Germany were those without serious religious convictions, and that Hitler had found among the Christians of Germany the only opponent he could not terrorize or bribe.
The Soviets allowed the existing Russian Orthodox Church to continue, but agents of the OGPU and other incarnations of the odious Cheka infiltrated seminaries and churches, so that it was very likely that the priest who, somehow, survived the purges of Stalin and still participated in church ceremonies was simply an agent of the Soviet secret police. When slaves of the Evil Empire found God, it was very often like Solzhenitsyn did: in the nightmare of the Gulag. In his lonely and tormented years after leaving the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn was helped by many but, notably, not by the official church.
China once had leaders who were Christian, and during those years, despite civil war and a brutal war defending China from Japanese aggression, these leaders were pulling their homeland into a happier future. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was a Christian, although some may have questioned the authenticity of his faith. Chaing Kei-shek and his wife, on the other hand, were profoundly serious in their faith. When Madame Chaing died at the age of 106, her pastor in America said that she was “God’s masterpiece.”
Christianity, real Christianity, is like garlic to Communist vampires. Yet the human soul searches for more than just a full belly and the gadgets of technology. So Christianity is still alive in China, just as it survived the horrors of Hitler and the savagery of Stalin.