Every Christian knows the story of when Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
But in China, pastors cannot share that miracle without explaining how the Communist Party feeds the people as well.
That’s just one instance and sadly, it gets worse.
With Christians facing increased persecution in China and other communist countries, the CCP continues to use the coronavirus to gain further control and politicize religion, The Christian Post reports, citing Italian-based watchdog magazine, Bitter Winter.
That includes ordering the pastor of a church in Shengzhou to tell his congregation that Americans brought COVID-19 to China.
According to CP and Bitter Winter, two Chinese Christian councils in Quanzhou in Fujian Province forced all Three-Self churches to mention President Xi’s ideas for curbing food waste into their sermons so “the policy reaches everyone in society.”
That forced pastors in September to integrate Xi’s policies into the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000.
Officials of the CCP routinely monitor sermons and have threatened to shut down churches that do not comply with their demands.
“This is how the government sinicizes Christianity,” a pastor of a Three-Self church in Shengzhou said.
In another instance of Chinese control, two Christian councils in Henan Province issued a notice requiring churches to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the “Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World’s Anti-Fascist War.”
Churches were required to “organize commemorative activities in churches, deliver themed sermons, hold seminars, visit war memorials, and pay tribute to China’s revolutionary martyrs,” according to Bitter Winter.
In Heilongjiang Province, the Christian council presented official documents asserting that the CCP “showed the world the incomparable advantages of the socialist political system” during the pandemic.
The document states that China’s success in combatting the virus provoked the United States and other Western countries “to despise China’s achievements and hinder its economic and military development.”
“The Religious Affairs Bureau forced us to preach about this and ordered to integrate aspects of traditional Chinese culture and the Constitution into our sermons,” according to a Three-Self church pastor from Henan.
“Churches that disobeyed were threatened to be closed, and congregations suppressed.”
The CCP also ordered pastors to promote Xi Jinping’s “achievements” in ending the pandemic in order to reopen their churches.
“We were looking forward to listening to sermons after the church was reopened following a long break. But all of them praise Xi Jinping. Isn’t this Communist Party faith? If this goes on, what’s the point of our religion?” a congregation member told Bitter Winter.
According to a Three-Self clergy member from Fujian Province, “The CCP hopes to spread its propaganda with our help and test if we obey the government.”
“They want to control Christianity because it grows most rapidly in China.”
There have been numerous reports of the CCP exploiting Christians and churches during the pandemic, including issuing extreme prerequisites for reopening.
In Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, the Religious Affairs Bureau ordered churches to “intensify patriotic education” and “study China’s religious policies.”
In other parts of China, state-sponsored churches were forced to pay money to reopen or renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao or Xi in order to keep their welfare benefits.
According to Bitter Winter, which monitors religious liberty violations in China, the CCP has also escalated its ban on the printing of religious material, including the copying of hymns.
“Any religious content makes the issue political, not religious,” said the manager of a printing house who had his business inspected on Sept. 14.
“Although banners on the streets say people are allowed religious beliefs, the only faith they can practice freely is that in the Communist Party.”
The printing manager said he would be fined or have his business closed if government officials found religious material.
That included photocopies of Christian hymns, he said.
“I don’t even dare to make copies of two sheets with religious hymns because of strict investigations,” a worker at another photocopying business in Luoyang said.
“I was told to report anyone who comes to copy religious materials.”
A sales department manager of another printing business told Bitter Winter that others have been jailed for printing religious material.
“The government does not allow to print religious materials nationwide, especially Christian,” he said.
“Anyone who takes on such orders breaks the law and might be put into prison. This is the line that we absolutely can’t cross.”