First of Two Parts

Until twenty years ago, says Hong Kong educator Timothy Yu, Christian credibility among the Chinese in Asia ran so high that non-Christians, impressed by the innovative establishment of schools and hospitals as well as churches, frequently professed to be Christians to gain public esteem. But that day is gone. The Cultural Revolution a few years ago saw Christian fortunes plummet to their lowest depth in two decades of Communist domination of mainland China.

Not only were all church services banned and church buildings confiscated and converted into political centers and commune shops; the Red Guards also diverted all remaining Christian schools to other purposes, burned and destroyed many Bibles, and brought the era of institutional religion to an end. They defamed missionaries as spies employed by Western imperialists preparatory to an intended American invasion of China. They said that Christian orphanages were centers for indoctrinating Chinese children, and that church buildings cloaked imperialistic spy activities. The Communist party organ Red Flag in August, 1969, openly stated that “building of the kingdom of Christ on earth” is as incompatible with the world ideals of Communism as is fire with water. A draft of the new constitution for Communist China, to be sure, permitted freedom “to believe … or not to believe in religion”; but it allowed freedom only to “propagate atheism.”

Whatever may be said about a better day for Christians in Red China, the fact remains that the visable church has now been eclipsed. In the aftermath of the Nixon visit a few political showcase churches, as in Peking, are being tolerated. But even here the sermons are officially approved. Evangelical laymen, however, serve ...

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