The Chinese Church and the Culture, Part 3: A Fire-Hot Love in a Cold Society
Editor’s note: Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors writing and thinking critically about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.
This post is from a talk given by a pastor at a gathering of those interested in China. It has been edited from transcriptions of the original talk. Make sure you catch up on earlier posts in the series!
In church history, there is a saying that the church revives on the blood of the martyrs. It truly is like this in China. In past decades, we have suffered a lot of persecution. My church is no exception; we have been through a lot.
In the past, there was an impression that the church in China was marginalized and secretive. But that is not the church in China in the present. Our church has started to get involved in the community, and in society. We hope God will use us to transform the culture of China.
For example, Chinese society is very cold. Many hospitals do not even have a blood bank. Even though the government keeps on calling for Chinese citizens to donate blood, few have responded. In the end, the government forces government workers to go and donate blood.
God is a merciful God. God loves the righteous, and he also loves the unrighteous. We teach this to our church members: how can we kindle a fire-hot love in the midst of our cold society? In response to this truth, several years ago we partnered with another church and eighty of us went to a blood bank to donate blood. The person in charge of the blood bank was very touched by this. Before we arrived, he called the media. When the editor of a local newspaper heard we had a group of Christians who were willing to donate blood, he decided to write an article about it. Of course, when his higher-ups realized what was going on, they forced him to retract the article, so it was never published.
The head of the blood bank was very angry. When he saw the newspaper would not report it, he decided to report it. He wrote about what happened on his website. (We did not know all this would happen beforehand.) After we donated blood, the head of the blood bank came to our church and gave us a certificate of commendation. He told us what happened behind the scenes, and when he put it on the Internet, a lot of citizens of the nation saw it. Many brothers and sisters in our church shared the post to even more websites.
When Christians want to be salt and light in this world, the forces of darkness are unhappy about it. Chinese culture has been saturated for thousands of years. It is not easy to change it.
For example, education in China is a one-party dominated system. The one-party system controls thought. From elementary school until college, students are brainwashed by the government machine. The government wants to influence the education and beliefs of children, so we made a conscious decision that our children should not go to public school. We should have our own schools.
We started a school in September of 2014. The first day it opened, twenty to thirty government people showed up. They said, “This is illegal.” We tried to communicate with them, but they sent an official warning that what we were doing was illegal, and we needed to cease and desist.
Usually when Chinese face a conflict like this, we will compromise, or shove the issue under the rug. In the church, usually this means we will move to another location and continue underground. But this time, we decided to take legal action and fight for our rights. We told the government we have the right to educate our children according to our beliefs. It is written in the constitution of China that every citizen has a right to their belief. We pursued this right, yet still the government wanted to suppress us.
We hired a Christian lawyer to help us take legal action. According to Chinese law, before the government takes any action, you are allowed to appeal once. The place of the appeal is the local department of education, and the judge is appointed by the department of education. As you can imagine, it is very difficult to get justice under this system. We knew we were fighting an uphill battle, but we prayed and had faith in God.
For them, it is easy to use their power to suppress us. For many years, there were rarely citizens who were willing to take legal action against the government. Later we realized it was actually a historic time, that a citizen would dare to appeal and the government would have to have a public hearing. For many years, since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, no citizens would dare to challenge the government in this way.
The government began to prosecute us and showed evidence we did not have proper documentation. They said we were illegal and could not exist. Our defense acknowledged we were establishing a religious school. This is actually a gray area. Chinese law does not have much information about how to regulate religious schools. For many years, there were no religious schools in China, because the government would never allow them.
I told the judge that education is a God-given right for every Christian. Even according to the common human rights of the world, every person has the right to educate their own children. When the United Nations presented a document to this effect, China signed the document. The prosecutors were shocked by this, because they did not realize China had signed such a document. But I said, “Yes, this was signed by the Chinese government. The document is right there.”
After three months of legal debates in the courts, we convinced them. When the prosecution had concluded, the bureaucrats in the department of education came and shook my hand. They said, “We did not want to pursue this. It was actually my superiors who forced us to do this.”
It is really hard to change the environment in China. But the church can be a blessing to society. We truly believe that real change and real renewal can only be brought forth by the gospel and by Christians.