More than a dozen Chinese Communist officials and religious advisors last month discussed how to re-interpret religious texts, presumably including the Bible, “to keep pace with the times” and not offend Chinese senses, according to the country’s official government news agency.
They even talked about forming a new religion.
The Beijing meeting was headed by Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and attended by 16 advisors, experts and scholars from religious circles, according to Xinhua news.
The panel suggested “conducting a systematic study of the thoughts of various religions” and “making accurate and authoritative interpretations of classical doctrines to keep pace with the times,” so as to “effectively resist the erosion of extreme thoughts and heresy,” Xinhua reported.
Wang supported “gradually forming a religious ideological system with Chinese characteristics in line with the requirements of the times,” Xinhua said. Further, Wang labeled the re-interpretation of “religious doctrines and rules important and fundamental work.”
Xinhua is China’s official state-run news agency.
The symposium was held by the committee for ethnic and religious affairs of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which is an advisory body for the Chinese government.
Although the Xinhua report did not mention the Bible, several other publications said the Bible and Christianity were two of the targets.
A British newspaper (the Daily Mail) and a French newspaper (Le Figaro) reported that China wants to rewrite the Bible and the Quran.
The government is calling for a “comprehensive evaluation of the existing religious classics aiming at contents which do not conform to the progress of the times,” according to the Daily Mail newspaper.
Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, said religious persecution in China is worsening.
“[The plans] show how manipulative the Chinese government is, hypocritically allowing certain religions to operate in China but only strictly with what content the Chinese government allows,” he told the Daily Mail. “In many ways, the Chinese government’s control, including censorship of the Bible and the Quran, has twisted the doctrines of these religious texts and thus the religions. There is simply no genuine religious freedom.”
Churches within China’s officially recognized Christian bodies – the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association – have faced severe restrictions in recent months. Communist officials have edited sermons, ordered the removal of crosses, and replaced Ten Commandments displays with portraits of Chinese leaders. Chinese law forbids the proselytization of minors.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.