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Protestant Church Updates

November 2020 UPDATES

 

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

November 2020

 

 

2 Updates

 

        1.What the Christian evangelical grip on America means for China and the world

       2. Churches shut, demolished and ordered to be             sold in China

    

 

 

1.

       What the Christian evangelical grip on America means for China and the world

                                    

14th November 2020

 

South China Morning Post

 

What the Christian evangelical grip on America means for China and the world

 

Nurtured by Donald Trump, the Christian radical right – with its doomsday prophecies – threatens to bring civil war, deepen US rivalry with China and upend international relations and governance

 

By: Peter T. C. Chang

 

For US President Donald Trump’s conservative Christian ?supporters, Justice Amy Barrett’s swift ascension to the Supreme Court marked a momentous victory?. In August, the president had told his supporters at a rally that “we move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem”, and “That’s for the evangelicals.”

 

The alliance between Trump and the pietistic evangelicals is as odd as it is alarming, with far-reaching consequences for America and the world, including US-China rivalry.

 

The risk lies within the Christian apocalyptic world view. Some evangelicals believe they can and should expedite events to bring about the end of the world, culminating in an epic Armageddon battle of good vs evil that will usher in the kingdom of God. The Jerusalem move was important because it was one step towards heralding the second coming of Christ.

 

Many, including America’s founding fathers, were averse to Christianity’s supernatural revelations. Thomas Jefferson’s Bible is famously rid of references to miracles. But to protect religious freedom, Jefferson instituted a wall of separation between church and state, securing a private sphere for divergent beliefs.

 

This allows the governance of a public space free from theological interference. Over time, Americans began to rally around a new creed centred on civic virtues such as liberty and dignity, in what sociologist Robert Bellah calls American “civil religion”.

 

But this ethos began to unravel in the second half of the 20th century as the United States entered a protracted culture war. Among the contested issues, abortion is the most polarising?.

 

Since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Christians have waged a long and bitter battle to overturn Roe vs Wade. They felt besieged by a liberal establishment that seemed intent on subverting their Christian way of life.

 

The religious right’s embrace of Trump underscores the depth of their despair. The milieu has become so secularised that the sacred must be salvaged at all cost, even if it takes a flawed – and possibly – non-believer. For embattled evangelicals, to save Christian America, the end justifies the means.

 

Trump did not disappoint. Aside from the Supreme Court, he has packed the federal benches with Christian conservatives. But these conservative wins are unlikely to end the culture war. The US is deeply polarised and its unique experimentation with civil religion could lead to civil war.

 

This is not just an American saga – the impact of the conservative Christian resurgence extends into the international arena. The evangelical imprint on US foreign policy began in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan startlingly called out the Soviet Union as the “evil empire”.

 

In response to the September 11 attack, George W. Bush launched a “war on terror” against the “axis of evil”. More recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others have cast China as an “atheist” empire eroding the core values of the US-led free world.

 

To be sure, America’s presumption to global leadership and sense of exceptionalism were sowed at its birth. Despite a disdain for supernaturalism, the founding fathers retained their conviction in Christian divine providence.

 

America’s manifest destiny, they extolled, is to be a city upon the hill, a beacon of democracy. When the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union’s collapse, political scientist Francis Fukuyama triumphantly declared liberal democracy the apex of political progress and the “end of history”.

 

Herein lies the crux of the US-China stand-off. In rebuffing liberal democracy, China is seen as subverting a divinely ordained world order and affronting a divinely anointed US global leadership. But the evangelicals set this superpower tussle within a wider theological narrative.

 

As the “chosen nation”, America is commissioned to evangelise the world in preparation for a new heaven and Earth. Thus any challenge to US supremacy, to wit China, is deemed as thwarting the advent of the kingdom of God.

 

In contrast, America’s founding fathers, despite their conviction in divine providence, had the sensibility to limit US exceptionalism to the earthly domain.

 

Herein lies the danger of the evangelicals’ sway on the Trump administration. Christian eschatology (concerning the ultimate destiny of humanity) is as bewildering as it is unnerving. The pandora’s box of theological dogmas and religious impulses could defy and upend the norms of international relations and global governance.

 

Some Christian fundamentalists, for instance, are certain the world has entered a period of great tribulation. Amid a raging pandemic, crippled economy, and worsening social upheaval, beleaguered evangelicals see signs of the “last days”.

 

The end is nigh and the faithful must gird for the final cosmic battle of Armageddon when God will obliterate his enemies. In the QAnon universe, apocalyptic nihilists are using “scorched-earth” violence to hasten the Messiah’s return.

 

These doomsday prophecies and their effect on Americans’ views and politics can only aggravate already tense US-China rivalries and volatile global geopolitics.

 

America’s founding fathers envisioned a liberal, democratised world, a utopia on Earth, marking the buoyant “end of history”. For Christian fundamentalists, the ultimate lies in the heavenly, and to cross over to the other side, history must first meet a fiery end.

 

Compounding the peril of Christian apocalypses is Trump’s narcissism. The self-proclaimed “chosen one” has shown little moral inhibition in his insatiable quest for self-grandeur and raw power. The alliance between Trump and his God-fearing supporters is disruptive for America and disquieting for the world.

 

This alliance will end when Trump exits the White House. But the Christian right’s web of influence has infiltrated the American body polity and is likely to remain a potent force. The unsettling impact of Christian evangelicals on America and US-China rivalry will outlive Trump’s presidency.

 

Religion can be a spring of inspiration but it has also proven in much of history to be a source of tragedy. This is especially so when we surrender our rational faculties on the altar of unbridled faith. When this happens to the upper echelons of a nuclear-armed superpower, the consequences could prove dreadful.

 

* Peter T. C. Chang is based at the Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya. He is trained in the field of comparative philosophy and religion. His current research project looks at China's soft power and its impact on the Sino-Malaysia relationship specifically and the wider world generally.

___________________________________________________________

 

2.

    Churches shut, demolished and ordered to be sold in China

 

                                13th November 2020

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

 

Churches shut, demolished and ordered to be sold in China

 

Churches are eradicated to ensure there are more Chinese Communist Party members than believers

 

UCA News reporter, Hong Kong

 

More than 70 Protestant churches and venues were shut and ordered to be rented out or sold in the cities of Lianyungang and Suqian in Jiangsu province of east-central China last year.

 

Officials have also decided to demolish or repurpose the venues with an aim to prevent congregations from resuming gatherings, according to Bitter Winter, an online magazine focusing on religious liberty and human rights in China.

 

Officials in Bailu town in Lianyungang’s Guannan county told directors of the local Three-Self Church during a meeting in August that the empty churches must be rented out or sold. In August, one of the churches, which was closed in June last year, was rented out and another one was sold.

 

“The government is eradicating churches,” a church director lamented.

 

Even before the August meeting, some church venues had been sold, including the July 26 sale of Chenzhuang Church for about US$3,000.

 

“We didn’t have a chance to save our church,” said a congregation member.

 

After the shutdown, authorities converted Three-Self Church in Suqian city’s Shuyang county into a memorial hall for China’s revolutionary heroes.

 

As part of the conversion, workers hired by the government removed its cross and a pillar with a signboard “God loves the world” on June 5. It was replaced by another signboard reading “Huaihai District’s Military and Political Auditorium,” a resident told Bitter Winter.

 

“The church will now be used to teach the young generation about China’s revolutionary spirit,” announced a village official.

 

The official explained why three branches of the Three-Self Church have been demolished.

 

“People of faith outnumber Chinese Communist Party members, and the party is not winning people’s hearts,” the official explained. “The government fears that this will bring instability. Churches are eradicated to ensure that there are more CCP members than believers.”

 

Officials in Xiayi county in Henan province ordered demolition of a former Three-Self Church venue on Oct. 21 and decided to replace it with a clinic. The church was shut down last year and used as a clothing factory.

 

The government crackdown has also targeted house churches. In April, authorities in Guangxin district in Shangrao city of Jiangxi province closed down a church venue for “organizing illegal gatherings.” The venue was converted into state-sponsored Civilization Practice Station for New Era the next month.

 

Since then, the faithful have been holding gatherings in their homes.

 

Another local church was forced to be used for a processing factory and officials continued to check to prevent the return of members.

 

End

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