The communist regime ruling over mainland China is stepping up its war against Christians, their churches, and, especially, the cross. In recent weeks, dozens of houses of worship in the province of Zhejiang have received official notices that crosses must come down. Despite resistance by local persecuted Christians, some churches have been entirely demolished as the regime furiously cracks down on what it calls “illegal” religious activities. Hundreds of church buildings have been torn down this year across China, as leaders are arrested. And human rights organizations fear the worst is yet to come.
Of course, the ruthless regime in Beijing and its lower-level minions around China have come up with lots of implausible excuses for terrorizing Christians and attacking their places of worship. The growing wave of demolitions and cross removals in Zhejiang, for example, is being attributed by Communist Party officials to “permitting” and “safety” concerns. As part of a three-year plan to eradicate “illegal” structures in the province, the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” has already targeted at least 64 churches for persecution, according to sources on the ground cited by human-rights groups focused on China.
Perhaps the most shocking example came in late April. Communist authorities demanded the destruction of the beautiful Sanjiang Church, which was officially sanctioned, as opposed to the “illegal” house churches spreading like wildfire across China in the face of barbaric state terror. In response, over 1,000 faithful assembled at the church to protect it from government demolition squads. The local branch of the regime responded with over 100 heavily armed SWAT officers and paramilitary units before sending in machinery to raze the $5 million church to the ground on April 28.
At least six other church buildings in the province have been totally or partially destroyed by officials since then, sources report. Many more have had their symbols removed as part of what analysts are calling a campaign to “de-Christianize” the skyline. “The cross was secretly taken down between 3am and 6am,” explained Zheng Legou, a leader with the Guantou church in Wenzhou. “The worshippers were threatened that if they resisted, their church would be demolished just like Sanjiang.”
Christian victims of the persecution in China have expressed a broad range of emotions. Despite the regime’s attacks on their churches, many remain upbeat. “Throughout church history, pressure from the outside has only made the gospel spread more and more,” Pastor Yang Mushi was quoted as saying on Chinese social-media service Weibo. “This is because the gospel is not contained in a visible structure. Tears may be in our eyes today, but we can also see a greater revival coming. What we see is not the end, but a new road leading to a new door.”
Pastor Yang also said Christians must realize that the church is not the building it meets in, a widespread sentiment expressed by victims. “Christians shouldn't be so sad. Maybe this is a good time to reflect and wonder if we have put too much focus on church buildings,” he wrote. “With this jiaotang [church building] now destroyed, we should focus our efforts on building the jiaohui [church, congregation, fellowship].” The key functions of the church are “preaching the Word” and “properly administering the sacraments,” Yang added.
Other Chinese Christians asked God to forgive the bureaucrats and officials responsible for the attacks. “Today, my eyes are shedding tears; Today, my heart is broken,” wrote another Chinese Christian, "Aidie/mg Zhendi," in a poem about the demolition. “Father! Forgive them, They do not understand what they did. Demolish! It’s just a building. You cannot remove the cross from our hearts; … It will usher in revival, United, we will be victorious! … Lord God, I beg you to remember this hatred. Father, May your will be done.” Demolishing the church buildings, Zhendi noted, “is like the labor pains of birth.”
The Chinese regime’s “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” brushed off the growing international outcry as a mere misunderstanding. “I want to emphasize that the Chinese government earnestly protects the rights of Chinese citizens including safeguarding their freedom of religious beliefs,” the dictatorship’s “foreign ministry” claimed. “With regard to what has happened in Zhejiang, there has been some misunderstanding. The demolitions took place because those sites were built against relevant regulations. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs.”
The New York Times, however, obtained an official document about the campaign, demolishing the regime’s lies. “The priority is to remove crosses at religious activity sites on both sides of expressways, national highways and provincial highways,” the document says. “Over time and in batches, bring down the crosses from the rooftops to the facade of the buildings.” The scheme is part of a campaign to reduce Christianity’s public profile, not enforce zoning regulations, the Times reported. Only Christians and crosses are being targeted.
In reality, as with all communist regimes, the truth is that the ruthless tyrants ruling over China hate the church with a special passion. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that totalitarians want all loyalty and devotion centered on themselves and their regimes. But it isn't simply that God, the Creator of the universe, represents competition in the view of tyrants. More than a few Christian doctrines conflict with the totalitarian, officially atheistic theology of communism. Ultimately the enemies of God actually want to supplant Him, making themselves "gods" on Earth.
Still, even with the persecution, the church in China will continue to grow.