Chinese Pastor Writes on Shouwang Church Raid (Part 1)Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Translated by China Aid Association
Keeping Watch for Freedom Under Heaven
—On Shouwang Church’s second outdoor worship service.
By Pastor Liu Tongshu. April 13, 2011
On April 10, 2011, just a year and a half [since its first outdoor service], Shouwang Church of Beijing was once again forced to worship outdoors. The road ahead this time is even longer and we must place everything into the hands of God.
1. Subjective Elements in the Government’s Abuse of Shouwang Church
In the various street rumors, two untrue allegations born out of certain motives of the rumor makers have spread far and wide. These rumors produce political associations on the Shouwang Incident. One rumor claims that Shouwang Church has its own motive and says the outdoor worship held by Shouwang Church is to support a certain political dissident. The other rumor has it that the incident is caused by the government’s motive to abuse the rights of others. They think the government mistakenly takes the outdoor worship of Shouwang Church as a part of the Jasmine Revolution and that is why they are taking radical measures against it.
These two rumors have both seasoned the Shouwang Incident with a political flavor, thus providing a good excuse for the government on their liability for abusing the rights on Shouwang Church. According to the first rumor, the abuse of rights of Shouwang Church by the government is only “legitimate self-defense.” The line of reasoning for this is that, since some people want to oppose the government by revolutionary means, the government should as a matter of course crack it down by means of the coercive force of state. The second rumor places the government in the position of “having caused accidental injuries” or “self-defense with excessive force.” The line of reasoning for this rumor is that the abuse of rights of Shouwang Church by the government happened because, in misjudging the nature of the outdoor worship, it mistakenly used the defensive measures against the Jasmine Revolution on Shouwang Church.
Motive is the subjective element in committing a crime. Therefore, determining the motive of the government’s action is the premise in finding out the liabilities of the government in its abuse of rights. With the existing facts, it is not difficult to find out the motive of the government.
First of all, the government has a clear understanding that the outdoor worship held by Shouwang Church is purely a worship activity and it has never mixed outdoor worship with the Jasmine Revolution. After the government detained 169 members of Shouwang’s congregation because of their outdoor worship, each of the members was asked by many law enforcement officers to write a statement of guarantees of “not attending illegal religious activities from now on” on a uniform format prepared beforehand. In this, we can see the government was targeting the so-called “illegal religious activities,” not the non-political “Jasmine Revolution.”
Secondly, the government’s suppression on Shouwang Church is not an extreme measure it takes on a temporary basis out of its fear for Jasmine Revolution. Instead, it is the premeditated implementation of part of their “Advance the Interests of the State” campaign to squeeze out the living space of house churches by taking advantage of the current political situation. In the past two months, two pro-government and semi-independent churches in Beijing were ordered by the government to stop their gatherings. The relationship between these two churches and the government is obviously different from that between the government and Shouwang Church. Yet, they are still deprived of their rights to gather. (We can see that one is not able to keep these rights through capitulation or compromises) These two churches have one thing in common with Shouwang Church: They are all large churches that used office buildings as their sites of gathering. The government selected its prime targets beforehand and the standard they used is the sites of activities and the scale of the churches. Suppression of Shouwang Church is just part of their pre-planned all-round efforts in squeezing the activity space of churches, and they are not targeting a particular church. The action of “killing chickens” is only a rehearsal portending its action on pacifying the more important “monkeys.” This time, the government has been very aggressive on Shouwang Church and deliberately provoked it at every turn as if it wouldn’t stop until it drives Shouwang Church outdoors. In all this, there is not the slightest sign that it wants to be conciliatory and make concessions to avoid troubles because of the harsh political situation. Shouwang Church once paid RMB 27 million yuan in cash to purchase a site of worship. However, to our surprise, the government used illegal means in intervening in a civil contract and prohibited the seller from delivering the house keys in accordance with the purchase contract (In the time between, the seller tried to legally terminate its purchase contract with Shouwang Church by unreasonably raising the price and by other means. Shouwang Church agreed to all the unreasonable demands, but the seller still dared not execute the contract. Due to the threats of the government, even the realtor obsessed with profits dared not take the legally gained profits. We can see here the desire for fabulous profits succumbs to fears for tyranny.) In the meantime, the government also threatened the landlord of Shouwang church and ordered him to terminate the contract it had signed with Shouwang Church. When Shouwang Church sought to rent other sites for its gatherings, wherever they went, the government went there and forced the landlords to break their contracts. In the entire process, the basic tactics of the government is initiating attacks until its foes are all subdued without leaving them any possibility of an indoor gathering. That is, it simply wants to chase the church outdoors.
Finally, besides various types of provocations planned in advance, the way the government acted showed clear proof of designs made beforehand. The pre-arranged location of detention, the parked vehicles to be used for herding the congregation, the rehearsed means of blocking the crowd, the preplanned ways of detention and transportation, the pre-trained uniform way of talking, the pre-designed format of “statement of repentance” all show not only the subjective intention but the long premeditation.
2． The Free Soul of Shouwang
In 1955 when the Chinese government ordered all Christians that they must join the gatherings sanctioned by the official church, Mr. Wang Mingtao refused to go. In face of all the far-fetched accusations of being implicated with “imperialist forces,” Wang Mingtao solemnly declared his reason for his refusal: “It is for the faith.” In 2011, Shouwang Church of Beijing also declared before it went to worship in the open: “It is for the faith.” The only purpose of the outdoor worship is “not stopping the gathering.” Worship (i.e. gathering) is absolute because that is the requirement from the Bible and because that is the necessary ritual that binds Christians with God and because that is the necessary expression of Christians’ faith. Being outdoors is relative; “soul and truth” are the necessary condition for worship, and the location is not an absolute requirement.
However, when it is impossible to worship by not going outdoors, and “outdoors” is the only possible location, then it becomes a “must.” The key of “outdoors” is not “outdoors” itself. The key of “outdoors” is worship. When the “outdoor” location is the only possibility, then “outdoor” becomes the key question in worship. We went outdoors only for the worship and the “outdoor worship” is only for the faith.
When it was suppressing the outdoor worship, the government kept questioning the house church: “Don’t you know there are officially sanctioned churches? Doesn’t the government designate the official churches as the sites for religious activities? Why don’t you go and gather there?” Such questioning happens to show the essence of the conflicts between the two sides. The outdoor worship is for the purpose of protecting the freedom of faith. Faith is a free form of life and only voluntary worship stemming from one’s soul can be regarded as faith. Faith must be free, and can worship coerced by a gun be regarded as faith? For example, in this Shouwang Incident and the previous Wanbang Incident, the government used the coercive force of the state to force the Christians to go to the gatherings at the official churches. This more than anything else shows the nature of the pseudo-faith of the government sanctioned churches. Freedom means individuals can make his or her choices on their own. If only the government can decide what God one can believe in, is there still freedom of belief? If the government uses a gun in appointing a god for me, could my belief in this god be possibly free? If the government has already chosen the theological interpretations or form of worship for all Christians, then how can we still talk about freedom of belief? All gods appointed by political power are pseudo gods and all faiths assigned by political power are pseudo faiths. The purpose of the outdoor worship held by Shouwang Church is to prevent their faith from degenerating and is to refuse to accept the god arbitrarily designated by the government and to keep a free worship.
The realm of the faith is the realm of the soul because the level of the soul is the level of God. Without going through the soul, how can one reach the throne of God? Ths soul is one’s self, and self is the ultimate point at which one exercises his or her free decision. Once the right to free choices is destroyed, the soul is destroyed. Once the soul is destroyed, the bridge leading to God is destroyed. Who would go to God outside his or her own soul? Who could follow Christ without freedom? Without souls, there will be no place for God to live on this earth. Without a free choice, there wouldn’t be a faith. If I must have someone else to make the decision for me, can my soul still be an ultimate independent being? No! A soul decided by political power is only a pseudo soul and a pseudo soul can only produce a pseudo faith. Defending freedom is guarding the territory of the soul. Preserving one’s soul is preserving the inner space of one’s faith and preserving the path leading to God.
Soul and truth are the necessary conditions for worship. Without freedom, there would be no soul because the soul is nothing but the right to choose independently. Without freedom, there would be no truth because truth is the cognition by the subject (i.e. the free personality) of the objective reality. Therefore, worship is all free. Without freedom, there wouldn’t be worship. Can coercion twist out a soul? Can camouflage reach truth in a roundabout way? Can the so-called worship without soul or truth reach God? Freedom is the condition for reaching God. The outdoor worship is the exercise of freedom. The outdoor worship is to guard the pure land of the soul and the honesty of truth and it is to preserve soul and truth as the basic condition for true worship. The outdoor worship is refusal to be incorporated into the carcass of worship that has lost soul and truth. The outdoor worship is for safeguarding freedom, but it is not for safeguarding the freedom of freedom (i.e. the freedom as a free entity). It is for safeguarding the freedom as a condition for faith and for safeguarding the freedom as a path to God.
(to be continued when translation is complete)
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