Eternity is a long time. The death of Mao Tse-tung last month in Peking brought forth great choruses of appeals for Mao and his thoughts to reign eternally. Said the official announcement of his death by Hsinhua, the Chinese press agency, “Eternal glory to our great leader and teacher Chairman Mao Tse-tung.”

Not all the praise for the revolutionary leader of mainland China has come from within the borders of that country. Much has come from without, and some from prominent Christian personalities. Some of their statements have come close to the Mao worship that is so apparent in the official notices.

Mao Tse-tung did have a long view of history, and he was a student of human nature. These facts explain in part why he was able to run a revolution and control a fifth of the world’s people for over a quarter of a century. His knowledge of eternity was deficient, however. The substitutes for religious faith and experience he offered were poor substitutes. They required the people to trust something or someone (particularly Mao) that could be here today and gone tomorrow.

A good example of this religious system, as it was offered to students, is given in David Adeney’s book China: Christian Students Face the Revolution (InterVarsity Press, 1973). Adeney writes that Chinese students were instructed, “Do not worship earth, do not worship heaven, only worship the effort of the people.” The Communist religious system includes the important elements of other faiths: holy writ (Mao’s Thoughts, or the “little red book”), objects of worship, concepts of sin and salvation, rituals for repentance, fellowship gatherings, and a hierarchy.

Maoist salvation, according to Adeney, “is concerned with the transformation of the man and of the society ...

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