Russell Moore seeks confrontation with China

Warning signs of China’s persecution were legion even as ‘Christian’ publishers took China’s side in trade dispute with Trump, US.

If business makes China stronger, and Lifeway does business with China, then it is clear we should re-examine that relationship.

China’s Crackdown on Christianity

In 2019 at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, messengers approved a Resolution committing Southern Baptists to pray for persecuted Christians in China and North Korea.

The Resolution “On Religious Persecution And Human Rights Violations In North Korea And China” declared China and the Communist Party of China had “used extreme applications of technological surveillance on houses of worship, raided worship services, imprisoned pastors, and in other ways persecuted Christians.”

In other words, China and its leadership were attacking Christianity.

This wasn’t the first time the Southern Baptist Convention took up religious persecution in China. In 2000 messengers approved a resolution (On Religious Persecution In Sudan And The People’s Republic Of China) condemning China’s actions against Christians.

In fact, the SBC called for strong measures against China.

“That we urge the administration and Congress to use every appropriate means to compel the governments in Sudan and the People’s Republic of China to stop the various atrocities and ongoing violations of religious freedoms,” the Resolution said.

However, as the SBC publicly attacked China for its human rights abuses, its publishing arm has a deep relationship with China. As of 2019, Lifeway announced 31 percent of its printing costs were in China. It was publicly taking China’s side in a trade dispute between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. Lifeway fought tariffs on Bibles printed in China.

There is one authorized Bible printer in China—Nanjing Amity Printing Company. The American Center for Law and Justice detailed how China controls Bible distribution in China via this printer and the state church. The regime even stopped online sales of the Bible in 2018. 

Voice of the Martyrs detailed how China uses the state church as a means to crackdown on people distributing the Bible. It is a harrowing account of the state police, the state church and the Bible printing business working in tandem to advance the Communist Party’s goal—the remaking of Christianity into China’s image.

Sinicization of Christianity

In March 2019 at the Great Hall of the People Xu Xiaohong, chairman of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), China’s state Protestant church, attacked Western Christianity.

“[We] must recognize that Chinese churches are surnamed ‘China’, not ‘the West’,” Xu told delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, according to the South China Morning Post.

Xu then launched into a rhetorical attack on how Christianity was an imperialistic religion.

Xu also said, “Some believers lack national consciousness, and that’s why we have the saying: ‘one more Christian, one less Chinese’.” 

And this is the leader of China’s Protestant church. He has problems with Christianity.

China plans a new Bible translation to address these “problems.” Most of these reforms are laid out in a 2018 document outlining a Five-Year Plan to change Christianity into something more Chinese.

The plan called the Outline of the Five-year Working Plan for Promoting the Sinicization of Christianity in our Country (2018-2022). It is a direct result of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership. In 2016 Xi outlined his vision for Christianity in China—namely, “that China should actively guide religions to adapt to the socialist society.”

Xi then affirmed a religious test—or non-religious test—for involvement in the Communist Party of China. According to The Diplomat Xi said Communist Party members, “should be firm Marxist atheists and must never find their values and beliefs in any religion,”

The Free Beacon reported in August 2018 that these Sinicization of Christianity efforts resulted in a wave of repression—including forcing churches to replace pictures of Jesus with pictures of Xi. 

So, Christian leaders during 2019 were aware of China’s crackdown on Christianity. Yet, during 2019 when the US was involved in a trade dispute with China, leading Evangelical publishers including the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway took China’s side. Lifeway argued it would raise the cost of Bibles to impose tariffs on goods printed in China.

Taking China’s side has been the problem for not only government leaders but businesses seeking access to cheap labor.

China’s Economic Development and Geopolitics

According to Michael Pillsbury, “In 2005, a Chinese defector I will call Ms. Tang confirmed for us the economic component of China’s Marathon strategy—to compete with and surpass the United States as the world’s leading economic power.”

In other words, China decided many years ago to improve its economy to surpass the United States and become a new global hegemon.

Pillsbury provides details of these discussions in China dating to the 1980s. China viewed its economy as key to making it into a power capable of challenging the US.

Without a doubt, China’s economic growth made China stronger.

From its navy to outer space, China can challenge the US. China has launched an aircraft carrier (two were active as of December 2019) and submarines. China has shown it has anti-satellite capabilities.

Economic modernization made this possible.

China built its economy and is now building its military power through its mercantilist economic policies—policies that exploit US business and investment.

And US business seems oblivious to how it is funding the rise of a totalitarian, atheist power capable of undermining human rights not only in China, but now around the globe.

China is now advancing its own vision of World Order. It will only become more aggressive in the coming years.

Conclusion: Christian publishers should stop making China stronger

If business makes China stronger, and Lifeway does business with China, then it is clear we should re-examine that relationship.

The Southern Baptist Convention has made clear—China persecutes Christians.

Likewise, we know China’s economic growth made China stronger.

Also, we know China dominates Bible publishing and major “Christian” publishers including the SBC’s Lifeway print in China.

Therefore, we should reconsider this relationship.

Do US Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular want to make China stronger?

Or, would Southern Baptists rather be good patriots and cease helping China?

It is time to ask tough questions? Do we help fund Chinese state repression of churches by doing business in China?

Or, is there a better way?