An Idolatrous State Tries to Smother the Church

February 10, 2023

RFI President Eric Patterson this week published a piece in WORLD Magazine discussing a new report detailing China’s control of religious institutions, which as Patterson highlights, “undermines not just the religious freedom of individual adherents, but also the important role that houses of worship and faith-based organizations play in society.” He writes:

China’s government ‘exercises comprehensive and extensive control over religion … through a complex web of state laws, regulations, and policies,’ according to a new report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). As prayerful citizens of the global church, Christians need to understand, and challenge, government attempts to control institutional aspects of religious life.

Beijing uses multiple mechanisms to control religion, including oversight bodies such as the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department. The purpose of such organizations is to ensure that the religious content of ‘approved’ houses of worship is patriotic, promotes national unity, and is in line with the messages of President Xi. USCIRF reports that Article 15 of China’s Measures on the Administration of Religious Groups law demands the ‘political reliability’ of religious leaders.

China formally recognizes five religions (Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam) and formally oversees approved religious practice through seven state-backed associations such as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Islamic Association of China.

One specific way that China’s Communists attempt to shape religion is by controlling leadership selection. For example, the Chinese government has outlawed the Dalai Lama and interfered in the selection process of senior Tibetan Buddhist leadership. George Weigel has criticized the Chinese government’s demand to pre-approve and pre-select Chinese Catholic leaders. Beijing wants religious leaders who will publicly avow socialist dogma and support the Communist Party. These days, the Vatican seems willing to defer to China’s Communist Party on the choice of church leaders.

Read the full article: “An Idolatrous State Tries to Smother the Church.”