Last week I reported the escalating persecution of believers in Belarus. This week the AP has a story about several pastors and other congregation leaders being arrested in China. All under the justification of state control.
In addition to hauling several to jail, others are being put under house arrest. Some church members have lost their homes or jobs amid an official campaign to shut down the church.
Why does the State fear these independent churches so much? After all, they are not plotting against the government. They are not rebels or criminals. Indeed, they are composed of citizens whose moralistic lifestyles make them peaceful, pleasant and very productive members of the society.
The answer is that the Secular State cannot allow any Lord besides itself. For it insists on a citizen's complete allegiance and submission. It demands control of a citizen's wages, personal freedoms, and social relationships. It must eradicate any independent thinking, values or action. It brings religious institutions into play only as another means of control. The Russian Orthodox Church under the Soviets is a prime example.
Today's requirements in Russia, Belarus, China, Vietnam and North Korea that churches need official registration to operate without violent persecution is the first stage in building just such a monopoly on religion. The courageous Christian believers in these countries who refuse registration are those who know where the State is headed; namely, total domination of the citizenry. And so the believers' opposition represents both their allegiance to God and, ironically, a loving concern for the freedoms of even their non-believing neighbors.
Prayers for such brave and principled people are very much in order. So too are efforts to encourage them (we offered a great new opportunity yesterday -- see the number four item in this post) as well as the advocacy of greater religious freedom throughout the world.