All sorts of religious movements have flourished in rural China during the last few decades. We can get some insights about the Communist Party’s approach to religion from a document apparently prepared to instruct village party leaders on how to stamp out religious movements in their communities.
The article discusses Xinzhai Village in Pingtang County, an “autonomous” region populated by the Miao minority (known as Hmong in southeast Asia) in Guizhou Province, south of Guiyang. The Miao have their own traditional religions, but Christian belief has spread widely among the Miao in China in recent years (as it did among Hmong in Laos in earlier decades).
The article reports that a Christian Church has been active in Xiuzhai Village since 1993. There were 23 people (in a village of over 2000 people) who joined the church activities--16 men and 7 women, ranging in age from 34 to 64. They not only believed themselves, but also brought family members to religious activities. After joining religious activities they relied on Jesus for sustenance, praying day and night. The article warns that “religious masses” neglect agricultural production, don’t see a doctor when they were ill, stopped participating in village undertakings, and didn’t get along with other villagers, causing discord in the village. The article says the more Christian families believed, the poorer they got. These people “were used by unscrupulous elements, becoming a hidden source of instability for the community.” “Instability” is the party’s main fear, so the party’s branch in the village went to work to stamp this out.
“The party branch enthusiastically put into play the effects of its basic fighting force to help religious people get free from the shackles of religious thought to concentrate on poverty alleviation.” The party branch organized a party member support system in which each party member was responsible for one religious household. The party member was to help them solve production problems where “each person has a helper, each household has a manager.”
The article describes Yang Shaogui, who believed in religion, hoping it would give his family peace. Two of his three sons had died in accidents. When his third son was killed by a wasp sting while gathering firewood in 2007, Yang and his wife lost their last means of support and became disheartened. They spent all day praying, neglected production and became poor.
The village set up a “party member support system,” and the village party secretary Yang Rongfu took them under his wing. At the end of 2007 they were offered rural welfare support to solve their poverty problem. They were resistant to receiving welfare, but village leaders did not give up. Party secretary Yang frequently brought comrades from the party branch to greet them in their home and brought gifts at holidays. His task was to help them gain confidence in their life, and guide them to see that old peoples’ religion can’t give them peace, nor can it solve food and clothing problems. The key is relying on their own hands to get a richer, better life. Through the patient education and guidance of the party branch, special care for their lives, the two old people’s concept gradually changed. Now the two have “come out of the shadows,” enthusiastically undertake production, and their life has stabilized. They get along with their neighbors.
The article concludes that religion appeals to the old, weak, sick, and uneducated. When they join the church, they are under the influence of other people and they hope for blessings, peace, and safety in the Lord. They lack common sense and discernment. It’s easy for them to be organized and cheated by cults and lawless elements. This presents a security risk and a threat to grassroots social harmony and stability.
The article argues that they are not actually true Christians because they don’t understand the doctrines and beliefs and have not gone through any official ceremony to join the church. It complains that they don’t understand or participate in officially recognized church organizations.
The article stresses that the communist party can’t just let this activity go unhindered. Each level of party organization must pay close attention to these movements and undertake propaganda work. “We have to address their poverty issues so religious people feel the warmth and care of party organizations, so we can guide them to develop production.”
The implied message is that religion is OK as long as it is under the party’s control. The supernatural doesn’t have credibility with a party devoted to “scientific development.” Religion has to be a materialistic, focused on giving people more material goods and promoting “harmony” in society.