As White Evangelicals Believe They are Being Persecuted in the United States, a Story About Evangelical Christians and a House Church in Chengdu, China Reveals What Persecution Really Is

Many white Evangelical Christians in the United States believe they are being persecuted. Its the belief of this blog that evangelicals are not facing persecution in the United States. To continue to make this point I want to draw attention to a story in the Los Angeles Times that followed a Christian church in China facing persecution. Ask yourself as you read this Times article has Franklin Graham or Robert Jeffress or any other evangelicals in the United States come under anything similar?

“Persecution  is the heirloom of the church, and the ensign of the elect.”

Charles Spurgeon     

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Matthew 5:10 NLT

Chinatown in San Francisco, California

Last Friday in Miami, Florida President Trump held a rally inside an evangelical mega church for Evangelical Christians. He promised to protect them from the “left.” And during that rally he played on white evangelical beliefs about persecution in the United States. In Christian entertainment how many movies come out that make up some fictional claim about persecution? How many movies like God’s Not Dead are really out there? And how bad are those movies not only in acting but they also play off evangelical fears about being persecuted. Then you see these problems filter down into evangelical churches. This blog which writes about the Evangelical Free Church of America denomination wrote about a screening at an EFCA church in Hydesville, California of God’s Not Dead. You can read about this and the topic of evangelical persecution in, “The Youth Group of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, California Shows God’s Not Dead 2. A Frank Discussion on White Evangelicals Warped View of Persecution.” 

This blog has long claimed that Evangelical Christians in the United States are not facing persecution. Their belief of persecution is fantasy and off base considerably. Its comes from their unhealthy culture of being inside a bubble. Furthermore I would also state that fantasies of persecution is the equivalent of pornographic fantasies as I wrote in that prior post. All this was on my mind when I read an article in the Los Angeles Times recently that was engaging. The Los Angeles Times in covering China had a reporter spend time with a Christian church in China and the stress its under from the Communist Party government. As I write about the issues of evangelicalism I wanted to add this to the blog to give those who think they are being persecuted some perspective. Has Robert Jeffress been taken into custody and told to renounce First Baptist Dallas? Has Franklin Graham been taken in by law enforcement and interrogated in a prison? Has any Southern Baptist or EFCA pastor been told they have to sign a document and renounce their faith in the United States? Nope, nada, it just doesn’t happen here in the United States.  Those who believe they are facing persecution ask yourself in what you read in this Los Angeles Times story apply to you and your evangelical church? If you run into problems with the Los Angeles Times firewall I have the text down below. But the article contains a lot of pictures. You can read the article in, “For China’s underground churches, this was no easy Christmas.”

Li Chengju glared at her prison interrogator as he pressed her to renounce her Christian church and condemn her pastor.

Her captor warned she would not be so lucky as the pastor, who was locked in secret detention but at least might get a day in court.

“Look at you. You sweep the floors at church,” the interrogator said. “You think you’re getting a trial like your pastor? You don’t qualify.”

Li still refused to sign the document disowning her church.

“I’m a citizen who has faith,” she told the interrogator. “God knows everything you are doing and he will judge you one day.”

Then she repeated a saying she’d heard at church about the Chinese president: “Xi Jinping is sinning against God. If he doesn’t repent, he will be judged by God.”

Li, who recounted her detention in a recent interview with The Times, belonged to the Early Rain Covenant Church, which authorities here in Chengdu dissolved late last year as part of a sweeping campaign by the government to rein in the country’s fastest-growing religion: Protestant Christianity.

The state-sanctioned Three-Self Church has long been the only legal place for Christians to worship in China, even as the country saw a proliferation of so-called house churches — congregations such as Early Rain that meet in office buildings, hotel conference rooms and other makeshift sanctuaries.

The government calls its campaign “Sinicization” — a euphemism for turning faith into a tool for indoctrination in Chinese Communist Party ideology. The official five-year plan, issued in 2018, calls for inserting “patriotic education” and “socialist core values” into churches, revising the Bible and using church sermons to enforce party leadership and reject foreign influences.

One pastor in Hong Kong, who spoke on the condition that his name not be published, said the message was made clear when a group of Chinese officials visited in 2016.

“You keep talking about separation of church and state,” he said they told him and other theologians. “But Chinese tradition is that state leads and church follows…. In China, you are a tool to transform the people.”

The pastor said the campaign in some ways was repeating history.

In the 1950s, the newly established People’s Republic of China co-opted Protestant leaders with the Three-Self Church’s anti-colonial slogan: “Self-governance, self-support, self-propagation.”

But by the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, all religion was violently purged. Even the Three-Self Church was not immune, and many of its founders were tortured, sent to labor camps and worked to death.

The house church movement sprang up at the end of the Cultural Revolution, starting in rural areas, where mass conversion in provinces like Henan brought the number of Christians to 3 million by 1982. It rapidly spread to cities in the 1980s and 1990s, as rural preachers followed migrant workers and Christianity became increasingly attractive to university students disillusioned by the Tiananmen Square massacre.

By 2018, official statistics said there were 39 million Protestants in China. Scholars estimate that including house church worshipers pushes the real number to at least 80 million — almost 6% of China’s population, on par with Communist Party membership.

Fenggang Yang, founding director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, predicts that by 2030 China will have more Christians than any other country.

He said that growth has been particularly worrisome to Xi, who became general secretary of the Communist Party in 2012 and Chinese president in 2013 with a governing ideology centered on Communist Party control over all aspects of life.

“Since Xi took power, militant atheism has prevailed in China,” Yang said, contrasting that approach to the “enlightenment atheism” of previous Chinese leaders.

“Enlightened atheism emphasized sympathy and education,” he said. “Militant atheism wants to control by political force.”

Experts described Sinicization as a creeping process that starts when authorities ask house churches to register with the government, often promising not to interfere with the preaching content.

“Then they start to document you,” said the pastor of a large house church in Chengdu who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Then your children cannot go to church. Then you have to plant a flag.”

Eventually, clergy are forced to change their sermons to align with “socialist core values” and paste Communist Party slogans on the walls.

Having seen that process unfold at other churches, the pastor refused to register. Police began standing outside the church daily and following and harassing attendees.

In August, his church left its makeshift sanctuary in an office building, breaking into small groups that met in houses instead.

“Church is not a location,” the pastor said. “Church is a group of people.”

His congregation has been preparing for his arrest, hiring lawyers and training members to lead smaller fellowship groups if he and the elders disappear.

The pastor of Early Rain, an outspoken former human rights lawyer named Wang Yi, has been detained since his church was shut down on Dec. 9, 2018. One of the church elders, Qin Defu, is also imprisoned, sentenced in November to four years for “illegal business operations.”

In contrast to many traditional house churches, which focus on eternal salvation, their church harbored Puritan visions of changing China by being a “city on a hill.” Members supported families of detained activists, worked with abandoned children and the disabled and prayed each year on the anniversaries of the Sichuan earthquake and Tiananmen Square massacre.

Its message of social and cultural renewal through Christianity resonated deeply with Li, who grew up in a mud house in mountainous Yunnan province and became a Christian while working as a real estate agent in Shenzhen in 2008.

Though she was baptized in a Three-Self church, her faith began to blossom only after she joined Early Rain in 2017. She and her husband had moved to Chengdu because they wanted their daughter to go to a church-run school. They’d heard that Early Rain had one and decided to go after watching one of Wang’s sermons online.

“I used to feel marginalized as a Christian,” said Li, now 34. “Here, I understood that we are really the mainstream people of society.”

Early Rain members continue to meet in small groups or gather online. But many are under house arrest or have been forced to leave Chengdu after landlords evicted them or police changed the locks on their doors.

Others have fled China, prompting authorities to confiscate passports to prevent a larger exodus.

Li, who has moved to a suburb where there is less surveillance, said the church would persevere.

“Every day, we’re in a battle with fear,” she said. “But we can pray, and God will be faithful.”

21 thoughts on “As White Evangelicals Believe They are Being Persecuted in the United States, a Story About Evangelical Christians and a House Church in Chengdu, China Reveals What Persecution Really Is

    • Don’t.
      It’s typical Christianese. A lot like bad fanfic. (I’m good for a half-hour rant on the subject.)

      I had an encounter with God’s Not Dead a couple years ago, in my opthamologist’s waiting room. The year before, he had Mrs Doubtfire on the waiting room screens; this time he had a movie I didn’t recognize. Pegged it as Christianese in the first couple minutes; positive ID as GND from the ending scene (Witnessing to someone dying in a car crash, followed by some sort of concert footage); confirmed by closing credits. Then it looped back to the beginning; fortunately I got called in for the exam around the scene that introed the Muslim girl and her father (and I could see why that scene caused a stir; Muslim father looked like he should be wearing a suicide bomb vest and/or ramming an airliner into the WTC).

      Liked by 2 people

  1. A friend of mine is of JAPANESE origin, NOT WHITE, and he is a BAPTIST PREACHER (not Southern Baptist). We were in the Navy together, when he was stationed abour the USS John C Stennis as a CIVILIAN NCIS Agent.

    So, why do you ISOLATE the WHITE people here? RACIST?

    Persecution comes in MANY FORMS, and this blog persecutes Christians. Just because we don’t get our heads sliced off, does not mean that we are not being persecuted. Badmouthing Christians for their beliefs is a form of persecution.

    Belittling us, mocking us is a form of persecution. DO NOT LIMIT YOUR DEFINITION.

    Persecution defined:
    hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.

    The government is restricted from punishing people for their beliefs, and, as James 2:26 states, FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD, but we get persectued all the time by our works, all because our works does not conform to those who have no faith.

    Acts 5:17-42 King James Version (KJV)

    17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,

    18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

    19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

    20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

    21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

    22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned and told,

    23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.

    24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.

    25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.

    26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

    27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,

    28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

    29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

    30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

    31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

    32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

    33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

    34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

    35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

    36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

    37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

    38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

    39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

    40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

    41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

    42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.


      • Japanese are a LIGHT-skinned Asian people.
        I could never understand why they appear so dark-skinned in century-old photographs. Every Japanese (national or ethnic American) I’ve run across was as light-skinned as I am. (And where I live – major city on the Pacific Rim – we have ethnic neighborhoods like New York. Including lotsa Asian ethnics – Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese/SE Asians…)


  2. One of my comments from the earlier Wondering Eagle post on the subject:

    I think one dynamic at work is trying to self-fulfill the Verses “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer Persecution” and “Blessed are ye who are Perscuted for Righteousness’ Sake”. If I can claim Persecution, then I must be a Real True Christian — another take on “Holier Than Thou” one-upmanship.

    Even if you have to redefine Persecution as being on the receiving end of “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. First World Problems and all that. This can come back to bite you HARD; what happens if the surrounding culture DOES become murderously hostile to Christians and you’ve been crying “WOLF!” for years and years?

    And there’s historical precedent. When Christianity was legalized in the Empire, classic/official persecution pretty much ended (at least in civilized areas). How then can you fulfill the above Verses? One tack was to go outside the Empire to the Barbarians as a Missionary; another was to Persecute Yourself through ascetic monasticism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Another observation of mine from that same thread:

      Inside the Evangelical Bubble, “Persecution” has been so broadened in definition and application by activists that it’s becoming so broad as to be meaningless.

      Similar to how the word “Rape” has been broadened into near-meaninglessness by activists. (i.e. defining looking at a woman askance as “Mental Rape”.)

      When “Persecution” or “Rape” has been broadened into a vast spectrum to mean just about any slight whatsoever, what word is left to label the original REAL thing?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Are you saying rape is legit “he looked at my person wrong”, or are you saying rape is actual rape, and those that claim “he looked at my person wrong” delegitimize it to the point of making the word rape meaningless?


      • The second.
        Broadening the definition to that point delegitimatizes the meaning at the original top end. It’s a form of sin-levelling, along the lines of “hiding a dead leaf in a pile of dead leaves”. The broader the definition, the bigger the pile and the easier it is to hide what fit its original, inconvenient(TM) meaning.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A couple of quick personal thoughts on this whole issue of persecution that so many conservative Christians talk about these days.

    First, no, I do not think that facing criticism or pushback — or even insults — in a pluralistic society constitutes persecution in most cases. But even if it did rise to that level, I find it highly ironic that so many of those crying foul and claiming persecution over such matters so often speak and act the same way or worse towards those who reside on the other side of the political divide, or towards those who have a different religious faith or no faith at all. That is simply hypocrisy. You can’t denigrate and insult and speak ill of others and then expect to be taken seriously when you say that others doing so to you is somehow out of bounds. People would do well to consider their words and actions in light of Matthew 7:2: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

    But what if one does truly encounter persecution for doing right? Well, we are told how to think about and respond to that as well, and it certainly isn’t how so many Christians are responding to real or perceived persecution today (namely, by striking back twice as hard as we have been struck, and by throwing our unconditional carte blanche support behind an earthly political strongman who hates and attacks those people who opposed or criticized us). Instead, if one truly suffers in the name of Christ for doing what is right, we are told (1) that is exactly what we should have expected, and (2) we should rejoice in it. It is to be expected because we share the name of Christ who Himself suffered for us; Jesus told us (in John 15 and other places) that if the world persecuted Him, it would persecute us as well if we truly follow Him. And we should rejoice in it because “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12). I’m sorry, but I just can’t reconcile that guidance by Jesus to His followers with the attitude and actions being displayed today by so many of those who claim to be His followers.


    • So if we transport you and your family on over to Sudan or Somolia where they’ll burn your son and rape your daughter, cut off your limbs, etc, just for being Christian, you’ll just take that with a hearty heart and rejoice in it? Sorry man, I don’t feel like bending over for idiots the world over. You live a privileged life here in America where you can spout dumbass comments like this without persecution. But the other side doesn’t care. And you take that other side and give them unyielding power like they have in the middle east or any number of communist countries, and people like you are the first to be culled from the herd…and rightly so. Stand up for your faith and stop acting like siding with people that loathe you makes you a better man. It doesn’t. Your heart may be in the right place, but you were given balls for a reason…stop shying away and trying to high five the enemy. These idiots are all over the place, and people like you keep rolling out the red carpet for them.


      • I appreciate Dave isn’t a bashful Christian. I just think you gotta fight fire with fire sometimes…but certainly to each their own. If I’ve offended anyone that matters (HAI EAGLE!), apologies.

        And maybe to throw a bone here, I get the point of this post and agree Christian folks need not be so thin skinned. But my response to people that “persecute” my beliefs is to throw shade back 10-fold, not just accept it “in love”. But again, that’s just how I roll.


      • Ronery, I’m speaking more directly to the situation we face as Christians in America, in a pluralistic democratic society where we live our lives and share our faith in the public sphere among many who do not share that faith, some of whom will push back or criticize us. You make the leap to the worst-case scenario of living in fear for one’s life in an oppressive theocratic state where there are no human rights, basically saying there is no difference between our situation and that one, and using that extreme example to justify why I should aggressively hammer anybody and everybody around me who sees fit to disagree with me over matters of faith. C’mon, I don’t have to “side with the people that loathe me” to be a basically civil person who engages in honest open communication of my faith and convictions without resorting to aggressive posturing and belittling.

        But I recognize fully that I am wasting my words here. From the way you so predictably jumped on my comments, it seems that you enjoy confrontation for confrontation’s sake, and so I will simply apologize for having offended you so mightily with my “dumbass comments,” and suggest that perhaps you just avoid reading them in the future since you find them so intolerable.


      • Eh, I don’t really like agressive confrontation. I was just riled up by the other thread where the guy started out calling people names and when pushed back, kept claiming I was not a good guy Christian. I hate the perception that people like him have where Christians need to be weak and silent to be Christ-like. I get what you’re saying, my reaction to your comment was over the top. Carry on.

        Liked by 1 person

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