The year 2020 is still new and for different people will be either a success or a failure, joyful or sorrowful. As we begin a whole new chapter, we should not forget to review the past year.
In 2019, many things happened in and outside the Christian community in China. However, there are always some marks left by history that are worthy of reflection. Here are some observations and reflections from a Christian perspective.
1. A mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand
On March 15, 2019, a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand rocked the world. According to BBC and various media reports, the tragedy caused a total of 50 deaths and more than 50 injured. The whole of New Zealand was shrouded in panic. New Zealand police described the shooting as a "terrorist incident" and the media described it as the "Christchurch massacre."
This terrorist attack took place in a mosque and the gunman was an extreme white racist.
Because the gunman had posted a "declaration" on the Internet before the crime claiming he would retaliate against immigrants who committed crimes such as sexual assault in some Western countries and would resist their "invasion" of the home of the white race, there were many people who cheered the gunman's actions. However, when the list of Christchurch victims was published, it was discovered that they were ordinary people from all walks of life in New Zealand who worked hard or studied. Apparently, the gunman had made them scapegoats as the object of his anger...
Ethnic conflicts related to religions have existed throughout human history, and the perpetrators are often certain extremists. However grandiose their arguments, however "justified by God" they may be, they cannot excuse themselves by killing the innocent!
Therefore, we are to declare that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the hearts and minds that are bound by hatred and selfish desire, and remove the "wall of separation" between individuals and ethnic groups.
2. Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral
On the evening of April 15, 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral, a famous landmark in Paris, France, having a long history, suddenly caught fire that lasted several hours during which the spire collapsed. The stunning rose windows were all destroyed.
After the fire, thousands of people spontaneously gathered around the Cathedral, gazing with tears in their eyes singing songs of prayer.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a symbol of the strong dominance of traditional Christianity in Europe, and now it has been hit hard by fire. It seems to have become the "symbol" of the decline of traditional Christianity in Europe. How sad! In addition to being shocked, some brothers and sisters also prayed for the decline in the Christian faith in France and all of Europe...
3. Foreign cult "Shincheonji" burst out.
"Shincheonji" is a cult from South Korea that has in recent years infiltrated China. The organization was designated as "heretical" by the South Korean Orthodox Church many years ago and has become a major focus for preventing its spreading. The cult's infiltration into mainland China drew the authority's attention two or three years ago, but it was the most rampant in 2019!
May 12, 2019 was both Sunday and Mother's Day, and some brothers and sisters noticed the postings of Shincheonji on multiple self-media platforms, such as Weibo, WeChat, QQ, and Douban. Unlike China's indigenous cult "Almighty God, "Shincheonji" is active in big cities, targets young white-collar professionals and college students, and is very harmful.
After being exposed as a fraudulent cult, "Shincheonji" quickly adjusted its strategy and continued to expand. This organisation is extremely cunning. There is no doubt that striking at "Shincheonji" is not an overnight thing, but a protracted war!
4. "Today's Chinese Version" (TCV) was criticized for the "falsification" of the Scriptures.
In late May 2019, a "storm" against the TCV swept through many Christian communities such as WeChat groups or Moments. Prior to this, the TCV can be said to have been "unknown" amongst mainland churches and believers, but quickly became a "hot topic" of conversation because of the sudden, unprecedented incident.
The incident began with the TCV translation of the book of Romans 8:3. The translation in the TCV states: "...God sent his own Son in the likeness with the same sinful nature as others..." Yet the translation in the Chinese Union Version reads: ...God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh...".
Thus, the claim that the TCV had falsified the Scriptures to desecrate Jesus became so popular that critics used the words "toxin" and "poisonous weeds", slang words common during the decade of the Cultural Revolution. In fact, it is interesting to note that the TCV has been out for at least forty years, several years on the Internet, but its "problems" have only now been exposed. It would not have been so magnified without the energy and boost that the Internet gossip culture gave it. There are sensitive and complex psychological factors involved in the criticism of the problem.
Therefore, the occurrence of such a 'storm' provides us with a "window" into China's current Church ecology. Through this "window", we can see that there are some issues that need to be reflected upon. Therefore, during this storm, there were also brothers and sisters who asked that theologically academic issues not be politicized, but rather that Christians move beyond the idea of the 'irreplaceable' Union Version. Everything can be explored and discussed instead of struggling through this type of harsh criticism.
5. The new era "fire anointed apostle" Luo Paul got popular on the Internet.
In the first half of 2019, several short video clips posted in the weChat groups of many Christians showed a "Reverend Luo Paul" doing miracles and driving out demons. These videos went viral, attracting immeasurable attention. Immediately afterwards, the video's main character, "Reverend Luo Paul" also quickly became hot. He was invited to Healing Conferences in South-East Asia, Canada and Africa. His team's corresponding publicity campaign was an absolute hit.
The promotional material about "Luo Paul" was wonderfully written, and perhaps the Apostle Paul would also be surprised when reading it:
"He is a fire anointed apostle, and in the special meetings and services he leads, there is the operation and anointing of the Holy Spirit, the distribution of spiritual gifts, and the manifestation of the Power of the Holy Spirit with healings, the driving out of demons, miracles, wonders, and special powers. Many people are healed of blindness, being deaf or hoarse, being unable to walk, paralysis, bone necrosis, stroke, Parkinson's, severe scoliosis, tumors, cancer, hemorrrhage, asthma, cervical and lumbar issues, infertility, heart disease, rheumatism, diabetes, depression, schizophrenia, uneven length of hands or feet..., as well as drug addiction, alcohol addiction, homosexuality, etc.--all treated and released). "
This "Luo Paul" declared the continuation of the working of miracles in the Apostolic age and the restoration of the gospel to its "original version". As it became more and more popular, so did the title of "Luo Paul: Prophet, Apostle, International Healing Preacher, Spiritual Father, Godly man" and so on. On his public WeChat account he boasted he could "heal long hands".
Luo Paul not only won over many fans online, but also influenced some churches offline. For example, some churches simply introduced Luo Paul's model of extreme Charismatic spirituality, imitating his "sermons," "prayers" and "speaking in tongues." Some ministers sought his "miracle", and at one point they simply played Luo Paul's "healing" video to the congregation. However, in time, there was much vigilance in asking many questioning about the Luo Paul phenomenon, and about whether the miracles that Luo Paul did, including "group healing" were false or really from God. Is Luo Paul restoring the gospel or changing it? There is no doubt that how to view Luo Paul and his extreme spiritual ministry, including miracle healing, is a challenge to the Church.
6. A US pastor's publicly announced his renunciation of the Christian faith.
In July 2019, a pastor in China who jumped from a building to his death caused shock to many believers. There had been a debate on whether Christians who commit suicide will still inherit eternal life.
What was even more incredible to believers, however, was the news in July of the same year that a "famous pastor" had publicly renounced his Christian faith. The incident was considered "apostasy" by some Christians.
The 44-year old American pastor Joshua Harris was reportedly also author of many best selling books on Christian love and marriage. He enjoyed a high reputation in the United States and was also well known to many Chinese Christians.
However, it was very ironic that such a "famous pastor" who taught marital chastity, publicly announced on a social platform on July 18, 2019 that he and his wife had "separated" because of "significant changes". Then on July 27th, he publicly announced on social media that he was no longer a Christian, amounting to an abandonment of his Christian faith.
The pastor's decision caused a heated debate online for a long time. Some dismissed him as an "apostate", others were more sympathetic.
7. Prosperity gospel pastor Benny Hinn showed open repentance.
In early September 2019, Benny Hinn, a controversial television preacher who represented the prosperity gospel movement in the United States shocked the Internet for the first time when he publicly told the public that he had renounced his past preaching of a health and wealth gospel. The video went viral on the internet.
He added that he had had enough of "the success gospel" and did not want to be accused by the Lord when he went to heaven. So it was now necessary to tell the public his true thoughts.
On December 7, 2019, three months after Benny Hinn's repentance, Reinhard Bonnke, a representative of the controversial contemporary charismatic movement, died quietly at the age of 79, accompanied by his family. Bonnke was a world-renowned international preacher and founder of Christ for All Nations (CFAN), a global mission organization which has inspired 77 million people throughout his lifetime to become Christians.
No matter Hinn's repentance or Bonnke's death, it causes us to think--what is the pure gospel? What kind of gospel do we have to believe in to be saved?
8. The cult "Almighty God" was exposed by the public media and once again suffered a major setback.
In May 2019, a gruesome and bizarre case caused public attention. A family of five having travelled from Henan province, three of whom were found dead and frozen in a freezer, one jumping off a building to their death, and the fifth being the only surviving member. The incident occurred in a residence in Shenzhen. Police found three bodies in a freezer in a rented room. The bodies appeared deformed and had shrunken. After an investigation, the police confirmed that the deaths of the three were not suspicious, ruled out the possibility of criminality, and the forensic findings indicated "death by starvation".
By October of the same year, the mystery had finally been solved. According to an investigation by the publication Southern Weekends, the family was trapped by the notorious "Almighty God" cult. The bodies hidden in the fridge were the result of "fasting" which was practiced by the family members.
Conversations about the cult began to get the public's attention beginning at the time of a homicide back in 2014. At that time six cult members, all from one large family, while in a McDonald's fast food restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province, having failed to obtain a phone number from a random woman, started to believe that she was possessed by an "evil spirit ". They then struck her violently which ultimately led to her death. This was the "5/28 Shandong Zhaoyuan intentional homicide" case that was related to the cult that astonished the whole nation.
According to media reports, on November 1, Qingdao Police took down a very large local "Almighty God" criminal gang from a total of 24 cult sites, and captured 38 cult leaders.
The dangers of cults are obvious. Not only are they the arch-enemy of the true church, but also a cancer on the whole of society. Preventing and curbing cult activity should not only be the work of the church, but also have the participation of those in power. It is also necessary to not only precisely define the theological doctrines based on truth, but also pay attention to the socio-cultural soil in which the heresy is bred.
9. "Domestic violence" became a trending topic.
November 25th was the annual International Day for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. On this day, a female live-streaming blogger network named Yuya used the internet to lament to the public about her own experience and to seek help. In the past six months she had suffered from domestic violence, was beaten, had her neck pinched, was wrestled hard to the ground, had feet step on her face, received kicks to her body..."
As Yuya had millions of followers, the video quickly spread across the internet. The topic of domestic violence had become a hot search, causing intense attention. Local police also stepped in to investigate. Yuya's boyfriend was put in detention, and Yuya called for a "Personal Restraining Order."
Yuya's domestic violence ignited a "domestic violence" storm and also increased the public's general knowledge about domestic violence. After the Yuya case, a number of domestic violence incidents caused concern and became hot hits. People began to dismiss the ideas that "domestic violence is a domestic matter" and that "victims are guilty". This resulted in a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of domestic violence and the harm it causes. "Domestic violence - only zero times or not having to count". A phrase such as this one became popular and was deeply engraved in people's minds.
There is no doubt that this was also something the church could refer to when handling domestic violence incidents.
10. An unprecedented "anti-homosexuality" vote brought drama.
In late December 2019, a massive and unprecedented "anti-homosexuality" campaign jammed with information went out on many Christian WeChat Moments. The campaign began with a Phoenix Network report containing both the headline: "A spokesman for the Law Commission: There is an opinion suggesting 'same-sex marriage legalization be written into the Civil Code" and a call for an online vote to be set up.
Soon there was a frenzy on the internet to mobilize for a vote. Everyone reminded everyone else. Brothers and sisters in the church were highly sensitive to the issue of same-sex marriage, and their position on this issue was very clear.
The "anti-homosexuality" vote almost became a campaign. However it turned out to be a "misunderstanding". because the campaign was conducted by Phoenix media and not legitimate with the national legal system. Moreover, the legitimate opinion poll at the national level had ended on November 29th.
In addition, the relevant officials of the National People's Congress Law and Industry Commission at a press conference on August 21, 2019 made it clear that the compilation for marriage and family in the Chinese People's Civil Code does not accept the idea of "legalizing same-sex marriage".
In this round of voting, the Christian position on marriage and family as outlined in the Bible was good, but it was also worth reflecting upon and reviewing without discerning a blind vote.
- Translated by Charlie Li