Five-year Chinese blueprint aims to remove religion's 'foreign nature' and promote socialist values
A Chinese Christian in prayer during Easter celebrations in Beijing on March 31. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP)
The Protestant five-year plan for Chinese Christianity is underpinned by a commitment to promote the ruling Communist Party's socialist values.
There are also references to the importance of freedom and democracy along with church independence. However, overall the plan supports the party.
Religious practice would become more patriotic and reflective of China's history and culture, according to the blueprint compiled by the national committees of the government-sanctioned China Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement.
The plan, which we publish in full today, is in keeping with an official requirement for the so-called Sinicization of Christianity and other religions. Sinicization refers to Chinese adaptation and assimilation of outside influences.
According to the Protestant national committees, a historical failure of Christianity in China to overcome its "foreign nature" has inhibited propagation of the faith.
Protestant churches will remove the "tether" of the West to express Christian faith through local rituals, music, clothing, architecture and calligraphy, the document says.
The committees emphasize unity, progress, peace and tolerance. Churches will support the nation's leadership while insisting on autonomy and self-administration.
Since the launch of the Patriotic Movement in the 1950s, there was an initiative in the 1990s to develop theological ideas with so-called Chinese characteristics.
From 2013-17, a Christian congress and several seminars were conducted to further this goal with the involvement of politicians and academics, including some from Hong Kong and Macau.
Provincial churches held concerts of original Chinese music and sponsored other cultural performances.
However, the national committees stated that some grassroots Protestant organizations and churches had not yet enthusiastically backed Sinicization. And "anti-China" overseas forces sought to deceive people over the policy's aims.
On the issue of social responsibility, Protestant churches have committed to assisting people such as poor students and the elderly.
Christians will also provide disaster relief, environmental protection, health care and public facilities. Further, Protestants will promote democracy, harmony, freedom, equality and justice.
Patriotism, industriousness, honesty and friendliness should be hallmarks of Christian life and churches had to comply with the law.
Commissioning of new and popular books will spread church influence, the document says.
Socialist values need to be taught in classrooms, seminary schools and higher educational institutions, including theological colleges.
And an appropriate "campus" culture should embrace outstanding Christians as role models.
New religious affairs regulations that came into force this year will be widely circulated to help Christians integrate into society.
The Bible must be researched and "reinterpreted" through annotations and explanations in academic journals to ensure theological "indigenization" and "contextualization."
The document calls for revisions of church doctrine to guard against extreme ideas, heresy, cults and what it termed as infiltration.
Inter-generational Sinicization necessitates the training of church personnel to become religiously accomplished as well as to cooperate with government departments.
There should be tutorials and original text books on patriotism as well as Chinese history, literature, philosophy and the arts.
Christians must respect the professional ethics of their careers along with adopting family virtues.
The document lays down year-by-year measures to promote Sinicization, not least through training and recruitment.
Under the guidance of the State Religious Affairs Bureau, the two Protestant national committees are primarily responsible for implementation of the five-year plan.
Protestant organizations, colleges of theology and churches will use social media, publications and video to win over public opinion on the Sinicization of religion.
In summary, the document said Protestant churches in China would make a positive contribution to a "magnificent" new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
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