Officials in China’s third largest province are training pastors to include Communist ideology in their weekly sermons, according to a new report from a religious liberty watchdog. The same officials also are forcing pastors to affirm traditional Chinese beliefs, such as ancestral worship, that conflict with Scripture, writes Michael Foust, Christian Headlines Contributor. Christian Headlines says that at issue is the approval of pastors within the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the government-approved Protestant body that faces severe restrictions. Pastors who failed a test on communist beliefs weren’t approved.
The article says that last year the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs began applying Communist Party (CCP) membership standards to screen preachers, according to Bitter Winter, an organization that monitors religious liberty. The assessment included a sample sermon and a questionnaire. The Bureau said pastors should write a sample sermon that must include “national policy, traditional culture and the core socialist values” in the text. Christian doctrines such as eternal life, Heaven and Hell were prohibited from being included. “Preachers worry that churches in China could become the Governments political propaganda agencies,” Bitter Winter’s Jiang Tao wrote.
One pastor was told to prepare a sermon on the subject, “Christians must love their country.” The questionnaire included questions on Chinese and communist beliefs. A pastor only passed if the answers corresponded with the beliefs of the government. The question, “How do you regard tomb-sweeping and offering sacrifices to ancestors?” needed to include the answer, “It is part of China’s traditional culture; Christians can sweep tombs and offer sacrifices to their ancestors; it is not against the Bible.” The question, “Why are minors not allowed to go to church?” needed the response, “This is a national policy; to ensure children’s physical and mental health.”
In one major city, Xinzheng, only 58% of pastors passed. In Luolong district, nearly 60% failed the assessment. “The test for a preaching certificate is used to examine participants on their political thinking. Government officials don’t understand the Bible,” one pastor said. “As long as you flatter the Communist Party and support it, you can pass the assessment. Otherwise, no matter how well you can talk about the Bible, it would still be useless.” Another pastor, who is in his 80s, said: “The government’s goal of training young preachers is to indoctrinate them, so that they use the CCP’s methods when giving sermons, and they become more than willing to serve the CCP.”
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