Christian pastors across China are being forced to incorporate the teachings of Confucius in their sermons, and some churches even have been ordered to hold classes to study the ancient philosopher’s ideas.
Confucius (551-479 B.C) is considered the most famous teacher and philosopher in East Asian culture. His teachings are compiled in a book, the Analects.
The government’s Religious Affairs Bureau in the province of Henan ordered all Three-Self pastors in Yuzhou city in July to prepare their sermons based on a book, The Analects Encounter the Bible, that compares Christianity to the teachings of Confucius, according to the religious liberty watchdog Bitter Winter. Three-Self churches are Protestant congregations registered with the government.
In other regions, Three-Self churches hold classes comparing the Bible to the Analects. The goal is to find similarities.
“An Analects study class takes all day long,” a house church member in Shandong province told Bitter Winter. “The participants even had to take photos holding the Bible in one hand and the Analects in the other, and post the images online.”
The teachings of the Bible and the Analects cannot be harmonized, one pastor from the Yuzhou area complained. The Analects Encounter the Bible book compares the Confucian saying, “All men within the four seas are brothers” to the passage in Matthew 12:50: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
“The preacher calls such comparison absurd,” Bitter Winter reported, “because the Confucius’ message means that if a person treats others with respect, according to a set of morals, then everybody else will treat that person the same way, like a brother, which has nothing to do with ‘doing the will of my Father.’”
Some Three-Self churches even have been forced to hang wallcharts comparing the Bible to the Analects.
“The CCP is subtly changing our faith,” a Three-Self church pastor said. “Since reading the Bible is now the same as reading the Analects, doesn’t it mean it suffices to read the Analects and to believe in Confucius? This is the erosion of Christianity.”
Photo courtesy: Chuttersnap/Unsplash
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.