Thinking Out Loud

January 14, 2018

China: Freedom of Religion in Theory, Not in Practice

From The Independent (UK):

Chinese authorities blow up Christian megachurch with dynamite

Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions.

The church had faced “repeated persecution” by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand… But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common…

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying. Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes…

Read the full story at The Independent

In this image taken from video shot Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, by China Aid and provided to the Associated Press, people watch the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen in northern China’s Shanxi province. Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary troops known as the People’s Armed Police used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, a Christian mega-church that clashed with the government.

This was the second of two recent demolitions. The Express (UK) reports,

China demolishes second church as fears of crackdown against Christianity grow

…A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened.

China guarantees freedom of religion but authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious practice…

…According to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organisations, congregation members were beaten by 400 officials during an incident in September 2009 which resulted in church leaders receiving lengthy prison sentences on charges such as assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic and illegally occupying agricultural land.

Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, said: “I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one.

“It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February.”

Chinese authorities have taken a harder line against practicing Christianity since 2013.

Officials launched a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists…

…A pastor at a nearby church, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals said there were “more police than I could count” preventing a crowd on onlookers and worshipers from approaching the site.

He said: “My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own.

“This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”


Upper Image: Independent (appears elsewhere credited to Andy Wong/Associated Press)
Lower Image: Religion News Service (China Aid via Associated Press)

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November 17, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Probably the most mixed-up link list ever posted here.  If this is your first time; please check out last week’s!   And though I don’t have a specific link for it, today is the 40th anniversary of the live recording of the Elton John album, 11-17-70, which, at the very least, gives us a nice graphic.  (Note to U.S. readers: note it’s actually 17-11-70, the right way to do it.  Smallest to largest, get it?)

  • Starting in a different place this week, we go back to October’s Catalyst conference, where Craig Groeshel spoke on the generational tension that can exist in some churches, both large and small.  Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance summarized this well, and also has similar thumbnails of the other main conference speakers.
  • Julie Clawson fuses the Eucharist with a different interpretation (or explanation) of Jesus feeding the 5,000. “We were asked to share whatever we had with us–gum, granola bars, soft drinks, Goldfish, Altoids. The table overflowed with abundance, which we served to each other.”  Check it out at One Hand Clapping.
  • This was also linked at Christianity 201 on the weekend, but should be seen by more people, even though it’s written primarily to pastors.   Skye Jethani on the Ten Commandments of Scripture Interpretation.
  • This is a longer one, but it’s a must read.   On the weekend iMonk ran a classic from the late Michael Spencer on the Archie Bunker mentality.  “Archie loved an argument the way most people love dessert…” “I’ve decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can’t stop making their point…”   And this one, my favorite:

    “I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution. Pentecostal/Charismatics have all varieties of little brothers of Saint Archie who can’t stand it that someone isn’t riding the latest wave of the Holy Spirit into last days revival. Seminary students who can’t understand why there is anyone refusing to read N.T. Wright, and hand-wringers staying up nights writing letters to people who do read N.T. Wright.”

    You can read it all here.

  • And while we’re in a mood for ranting, we couldn’t not share — the above piece notwithstanding — this piece where John Shore lets out his frustration over people who tell him what to think.  He calls it Church Authority Smurch Smashmority.
  • Matt Appling visits a touring art installation based on Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution in China and ends up considering this particular piece entitled The Execution of Christ.
  • Don’t know how, but my wife stumbled on an interesting thread of articles all having to do with an obscure brand of medical products we’d never heard of: 666 Cough Syrup and other 666 cold remedies.  In this link, a customer is on the phone with a customer service rep trying to get them to see the other side of this; “But I mean it’s not, like, ‘665’ or ‘667.’ It’s ‘666.’”
  • Okay, with a few exceptions, there’s not a lot of depth or substance to this week’s list but in case you’ve missed the fun people have been having for the past month at text-to-video site xtranormal.com, here’s one of the best:  How To Plant a Church.  And The New Music Minister.   And The New Youth Minister. (Don’t get confused that they’re all wearing the same shirt; this ain’t Veggie Tales.)
  • For a more serious take on church planting, check out Nancy Beach’s recent observations.
  • Our cartoons this week are from the UK: Jon Birch’s popular The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus.   It’s been so long, we should explain that the acronym stands for the British term, Anti Social Behavior Order.   ASBO is always thought-provoking and often controversial.   Click the images to link.

July 21, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The Christian Internet:  Charismatic, Reformed, Fundamentalist, Catholic, Mainline Protestant and Evangelical sites all sharing cyberspace and competing for your attention.   Here’s a few we visited this week…

  • Our own link list cartoon this week is Joe McKeever at Baptist Press.

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