REFLECTIONS ON MY EXPERIENCE WITH CHRISTIANS IN CHINA
In my travels through China, i’ve never come across a RastafarI (or at least not someone who openly professed to me to be one). i&I did have opportunities to interact with wonderful Chinese Christians, so for me it was no problem -- I just spoke of “His Majesty” and we were mostly on the same page. The post in this thread about “burning Bibles” in China reminded me of these delightful encounters so I reflected back upon them a bit more in order to write this.
It’s important to understand that the Chinese government doesn’t really concern itself with which God Chinese individuals choose to worship, nor does it object to small groups of people worshipping Christ together. This is what our Chinese Christian friends told us when we first met them (and have reaffirmed this recently) in response to my questions about China’s constitutional right to freedom of religion. This absence of a policy of “official repression” of individuals because of their choice to practice Christianity seems to be confirmed by some Western sources also. Economist-editor John Micklethwait of Bloomberg News states:
“The rules within China basically say when you get to 25 people; no [Christian house church] meeting can go beyond 25 people without government approval. So you have 25 people in a house church. When it gets to 27 or 28 members, the church, because of that rule, is forced to split. And because it’s forced to split, it grows. So immediately you get two groups of 12 who are out there looking for more people. So ironically the very rules the Chinese have introduced turn out to be the very things that make the religion grow as fast as it does.”
So this is interesting. When you think about China, like many other countries targeted by Washington as official “adversaries”, it has a VERY REAL external threat always trying to infiltrate the country, foment civil unrest, and subvert the People’s government. U.S. government organizations like the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) spend literally billions of dollars (with a “B”) every year trying to subvert “adversarial” governments, including China’s, which the U.S. aims to ultimately dominate politically, militarily, and economically.
China’s government is very well aware that Christianity has been ‘weaponized’ both historically and in recent times by Western imperialists, and successfully used to set up horribly brutal and exploitive colonial systems. The Catholic Church’s permeation throughout, and extraction of vast quantities of wealth from, the countries of Latin America (and even the Philippines) are prime examples.
China’s grass roots Boxer Rebellion from 1899 to 1901 was motivated by popular opposition to Western imperialism and Christian missionary activity (e.g., the Chinese understood the Catholic Church to be highly interested in acquisition of agricultural land, extraction of tributes, and control over local political and economic issues). Obviously this rebellion had nothing to do with any Chinese government policy of religious repression.
Just as the U.S. government will not permit religious groups in the United States to assemble and practice religion with the perceived aim of subverting the government (e.g., the Branch Davidians), the Chinese government will not allow Christianity to be used to subvert the People’s Republic. But because the constitution of China guarantees the right to practice “normal religious activities”, people are not persecuted, as an official policy, for merely believing in Christianity, studying the Bible or getting together with family and friends to worship Christ. The Chinese Christians I’ve met are members of house churches and have never been hassled by any government official for engaging in their Christian religious activities.
[Note: China is a country of 1.3 billion people with a lot of different local government jurisdictions, so I’m not at all surprised that stories of local persecution emerge, just like stories of Americans killing Sikhs in the U.S. mistakenly believing them to be Muslims also occurs, but is not official domestic policy.]
What’s interesting about all of this is that not only has Christianity continued to spread throughout China, it’s NOT morphing into the money-grubbing, politically-active, bigotry-infested Evangelical megachurch business organizations that we see in the U.S. It CAN’T by law. Now there’s some spiritual beauty to that.
If we start up an organization, and engage in all that goes with such an undertaking, we almost invariably end up with some of the corruption and in-fighting that we find in most large organizations. We’ve all seen how small groups of 5, 10 or 15 people accomplish remarkable things, but once they go beyond that they almost invariably start to become corrupted; in little ways at first, but eventually more so as the size of the organization increases.
This is might be one reason why early Christian church worship groups reportedly rarely grew beyond about 15 or 20 people (e.g., I’ve even heard some people say that Jesus chose 12 disciples because that was the optimum size of a worship gathering and spiritual action group). My own sister tried out all kinds of different Christian churches in the U.S., became fed up with the Jesus Christ, Inc. mentality, and finally settled on a tiny house church group in Phoenix. She found it to be optimum, focused on Christ not Babylon, and that's all she's attended for the past 20 years.
As a person who has never gravitated toward large religious gatherings and one who has never thought it appropriate to mix politics and political action into religious worship gatherings, I&i would fit well into the practice of RastafarI in a house church in China, and would certainly not feel that my religious freedom was being impinged upon. After all, emancipation of the mind and our relationship with JAH are not external things; they require nobody’s permission.
Despite the astonishing growth of Christianity in China, much is still made in the Western mainstream media (which marches in lock step with other anti-China propaganda) about religious repression. This makes me think that perhaps their complaints have less to do with impingement on the individual freedom to practice Christianity and a lot more to do with denial of access to the church as breeding and launching ground for anti-Chinese-government civil unrest.
I&i nah need no big church to worship JAH, never have had one, and i’ve done just fine seeking H.I.M. without one. What was really cool was that the Chinese Christians i met shared exactly that same sentiment - seeking the Lord does not require a big building, a big organization or a mass media broadcasting channel. These guys humble themselves before JAH and place all of their faith in His Awesome Power. These are some very cool, righteous people.