The latest PBS / Frontline World program includes a segment called “Jesus in China“. Evan Osnos, the reporter, examines Christianity in China.
He begins by talking about the “underground” church. The underground church in China is made of Christians who cannot meet together openly. Instead, they meet in homes and caves and other locations around their cities. Many of these underground churches are now beginning to meet more openly, in spite of ongoing harassment. Often, the leaders of these underground churches are arrested by Chinese government officials, who charge the leaders with various political charges – but never religious charges.
Interestingly, there is an official Christian church in China. This is what Osnos says about it:
This is the [Communist] Party’s answer to Christianity: an official church where Christians are supposed to worship. The Party actually started this church right after the revolution to put religion under state control… It can all get a little confusing figuring out why this version of Christianity is tolerated… Pastors here like Wu Wei Cheng are trained and approved by the government. I asked Pastor Wu why the majority of Christians are choosing the underground church over his.
Here is Pastor Wu’s response:
There are some people who are not willing to be part of the church. They would rather stay or worship by themselves. I believe ??? [couldn’t make out the word] Church – the church I’m serving – is the church of Christians in China – is the church of the people.
Pastor Wu’s response sounds like the response of many institutional church leaders in America: “My church is the true church, and anyone who doesn’t want to ‘worship’ like and with me is being rebellious and not part of the true church.”
By the way, if you watched the segment, you’ll notice that video that they show of the official church in China looks very familiar. In fact, it looks like they have all the right parts in place: a nice building, choir singing, hymnals, preaching, even the Lord’s Supper with the small cups. I think many Christians in the West would be very comfortable in the official church in China. I wonder why so many Chinese Christians are not comfortable there – to the point of being arrested for meeting “underground”…