Underground Church

Underground Church in China

Underground Church

Underground Church

Underground Church in China"Underground church" conjures up images of Christians gathering in caves and other hideouts.

Is this true for the underground church in China?

China's underground church actually did gather in caves and other hideouts during Mao's Cultural Revolution and even afterwards, and then began to rise to the surface as China's Christian persecution eased during the 1990s, with regional variance. In regions with hardline Communist Party bosses, the underground church remained "underground" in people's homes. But in areas governed by Party bosses more favorably disposed to Christians, the underground church worshipped fairly openly with tacit approval from the local government.

The persecution continued to ease during Hu Jintao's rule (2003-2013), when the term "underground church" almost became obsolete as "unregistered church" or "house church" became more popular. Many of them rented commercial spaces and held church services openly while others built church buildings with full knowledge of and even official approval from the local government.

How about during Xi Jinping's rule (2013-present)?

The Chinese Communist Party reversed course and embarked on a 3-phase, 14-year plan to "suffocate" Three Self churches and "annihilate" underground churches.

During the first 2-year phase, it further eased persecution of the underground church, enticing more of them to surface and be identified. During the second 2-year phase, it invited and then pressured the identified underground churches to register and become Three Self churches.

In the current third, 10-year phase, the gloves have come off as both the remaining underground churches and even Three Self churches are being persecuted using Mao-era brute-force, as well as mass surveillance, artificial intelligence, and big data (see Christian persecution in China).

Prohibitive Fines

In September of 2017, the Chinese government also announced that anyone who organizes an unapproved religious event will be fined 100,000 to 300,000 Yuan ($16,000 to $48,000), and anyone who rents or provides the venue for such an event will be fined 20,000 to 200,000 Yuan ($3,200 to $32,000).

To justify the new regulation, the head of the Chinese government's religious affairs bureau asserted in the official newspaper of the Communist Party that while Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution guarantees "freedom of religious belief, at the same time, freedom of religious faith is not equal to religious activities taking place without legal restrictions. These rules will help maintain the Sinicisation* of religion in our country ... and keep to the correct path of adapting religion to a socialist society." - Wang Zuoan, Director of State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), People's Daily, September 12, 2017.

"Legal restrictions" precludes "freedom of religious faith," and while "Sinicisation" literally means adapting to Chinese culture, what he meant is something quite different. See Sinicization of Christianity.

On another note, a common misperception in the West is that in contrast to the Three Self churches, all underground churches in China are biblical. This is untrue. While many underground churches in China are biblically sound, there are also many that are not, including those influenced by charismania, prosperity false gospel (see Four Spiritual Laws), and cults like Eastern Lightning, New Testament Church, and Shouters.

The greatest need of the underground church in China today isn't free Bibles or even protection from persecution, which tends to purify, spread and grow the church, but Biblical teachers, including missionaries, who can exegete the Bible and share the True Gospel.