By Michael Carl
The Chinese government’s state church is sending a Bible exhibit on tour in the U.S., but evangelical Christians in China aren’t impressed.
In fact, they call it propaganda.
Voice of the Martyrs reports that a blogger in China, anonymous like so many in China who comment on the government’s repression of religion, has denounced the exhibit as deceptive, saying it’s an attempt by the Chinese government to present a distorted picture of Christian freedom in China.
“Since it is acceptable to expose the China Red Cross Society’s embezzlement and corruption and its monopoly of charity work, so we can likewise criticize the Three-Self for being politicized, for not being separate from the state and for controlling and restricting the church,” the blogger said.
“In any case, when the government violates biblical principles, the church, as the vanguard of society and its conscience, has the responsibility to criticize and to bring up biblical truths,” the student wrote.
VOM reports the exhibit was sponsored by the national committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Church in China, the only Protestant denomination officially sanctioned by the communist government.
The exhibit, titled “Thy Word Is the Truth: The Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Protestant Church in China,” has been on display in Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; and Chicago.
China Aid spokesman Mark Shan agrees that the exhibit is government propaganda.
“If it is not propaganda, they should hold the Bible exhibit inside China, but they didn’t,” Shan said.
VOM says the exhibit is misleading at best.
“The exhibit displayed Bibles that Chinese Christians copied during the Cultural Revolution and at other times when Christians were widely persecuted in China. Yet no mention was made anywhere of who was persecuting the church and who had made it impossible for Christians to buy Bibles, or who helped the government forcibly take over the church, or the fact that the Three-Self monopoly on Bible distribution brooks no interference,” VOM noted.
“What they are trying to do is to dress up a religious policy that is wrong and not free and the Three-Self’s history of controlling and persecuting the church so as to create the illusion of religious freedom in China and the Three-Self as an organization that loves the Lord and loves the church,” the blogger said.
WND has previously reported that the Chinese government not only continues to persecute Christians but sometimes resorts to torture.
WND spoke to International Christian Concern’s China analyst Kris Eliott, who said her sources report an increase in persecution.
“We haven’t seen any pattern of the effort, but I’ve talked with some of our partners, and they’ve seen an increase in Christian persecution in the last year or so,” Eliott said.
Just recently, two Catholic priests were arrested and tortured and pressured to register with the government, Eliott said.
“We’ve seen another human rights lawyer be arrested, tortured and now believed to still be under house arrest. We’ve seen the government focus on the leaders so these people become an example for the government to other dissidents or Christians,” Eliott said.
Shan challenges the Chinese government to back up the claim of religious freedom with action.
“If there is Christian freedom, they should abolish the rules and laws of anyone under 18 years, student, teachers, soldiers, and others who are not allowed to have religious faith and go to church,” Shan said.
Shan told of his personal connection to Christian persecution.
“Even as I am here working for China Aid Association in the United States, writing something theological for the house church, the secret police visited my brother Randy Shan in Hebei province three times this year,” Shan said. “They gave threats and asked me to stop what I am doing.”
“So I hardly believe there is religious freedom inside China. They even expect Chinese people to obey their laws here in America,” Shan said.
Shan also said that the Chinese government slowly has eliminated the number of church buildings in Beijing.
“Before 1949, Beijing had 200 church buildings with 2 million people. Today Beijing only has 18 church buildings with 18 million people. Christians in China last year numbered about 23 million, according to the official data from academic institution,” Shan said.
Shan pointed out that the exhibit creates the impression that Bible distribution in China is open and unregulated.
“If China has Bible printing and distribution freedom, they should allow Bible[s] to be freely circulated on the market, but they do not,” Shan said.
The Voice of the Martyrs report also says that the Chinese blogger challenges the government’s policy on Bible production and distribution.
“The student also claimed that the Bible exhibit did not paint a true picture of the availability of Bibles in China. He pointed out that Chinese customs officers still seize Bibles when they are brought into the country in quantities,” VOM said.
“Several pastors are in prison for printing the Bible without permission, and Bibles in China are sold only in churches belonging to the Three-Self organization,” the Voice of the Martyrs said.
The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is the government regulated protestant church in China. The three-selves are self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.
Even with the restrictions, Shan is still glad the Bible is available in China.
“Yet it is good thing they print Bibles inside China though with Western Christian donations even from a controlling church perspective,” Shan said.