China’s efforts to mold Christianity in its own image face resistance

By Matt Moir for the Religion News Service

BEIJING (RNS) On a hazy Sunday morning, the fourth floor of a dingy gray office building in a far-flung region of this city is bursting with prayer.

In the Chinese capital, it’s not uncommon for church services to be held in Soviet-era office buildings. But the poorly lit, cracked-concrete dankness of this particular location cannot dampen the enthusiasm of this evangelical congregation.

Several hundred Chinese Christians pack the cavernous, L-shaped suite, clapping their hands and stomping their feet while a quartet at the front of the room lustily belts out songs praising “Yesu” (“Jesus” in Mandarin).

The men and women in attendance at the government-sanctioned Yizhuang Church are young, under 40, though several elderly Chinese women with their grandchildren in tow pack the venue.

When the band is finished, the bespectacled pastor, Du Jian Jun, takes the podium to deliver his sermon and the crowd settles into row upon row of blue, folding chairs.

Du, who speaks in Mandarin only — the only English heard in the service is a smattering of worshippers’ “amens” — delivers his message with the soothing cadence of a polished orator.

His sermon is simple: The lives we lead can be difficult, but with the guidance of Yesu we have the tools to carry on.

The pastor’s message is concise and straightforward; the relationship between Christianity and the Chinese government, however, is more complex.

In August 2014, a top-ranking official in the Chinese government informed the world that China was planning on nationalizing Christianity.

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