Church of the Illicit

Church of the Illicit April 18, 2011

“I am fully prepared to go to jail for my church,” said Mr. Jin. ” I belong to the Lord, and if this is what God intended, so be it.”

Christians all over the world are ramping up for Holy Week.

Easter, better known in America as Obligation Sunday, is the one day a year when even people, who don’t particularly like God, drop by his house for a brief visit.

For many people, God’s house has all the allure of a nursing home. It’s a place where a person can visit their mama, spend a couple of hours swapping niceties and a story or two with a bunch of strangers.

According to all the educated people who get paid to track these things, church is dying business here in America. Twentysomethings are don’t attend church with any regularity. People who had been active as teens, bottom out in their late 20s. They just don’t see the relevancy of church in their lives. They whine about how lame church is, how bad the music is, how the pastor is pathetic. Yada. Yada. Yada. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Two-thirds of China’s estimated 60 million Protestants worship at unregistered churches. Just as noteworthy, at least from the government’s viewpoint, is that a growing number are young, educated urbanites

Well, not to be a crank, but do you suppose that Americans in general, of any age, whine way too much about everything and nothing?

Because that’s what I was thinking when I read this story about the illicit church that’s bucking the trend in Beijing.

You gotta hand it to those Chinese, just calling a church illicit is a great marketing tool.

Who doesn’t want to go to the Church of the Illicit?

In a country where churches have to be government sanctioned, Bejing’s Shouwang (Lighthouse) has managed to buck the system. At least until the guys toting firearms show up.

Shouwang’s 1,000 members raised $4 million. They raised the money in order to buy a house of worship. Yeah, one of those churches we have such apathy towards here in the Land of the free and Home of the why bother?

On Sunday, for the second week in a row, the police rounded up scores of parishioners who tried to pray outdoors at a public plaza. Most of the church’s leadership is now in custody or under house arrest. Its Web site has been blocked.

They take everything seriously in China, especially their faith.

Seems the Communist Party isn’t keen on Shouwang. They feel threatened by the church. Imagine that. Big ole Pinko Commies “running skeered” by a handful of praying people.

Heck, we can’t even get people out to Wednesday night prayer meeting here in this country. America had to cancel church on Sunday and Wednesday nights because everybody was too busy watching Sixty Minutes and Survivor.

Talk about your Survivors. Those people at Shouwang, they sure enuff know a thing or two about the challenges of living faith isolated.

Evicted yet again from its meeting place by the authorities, Shouwang announced this month that its congregants would worship outside rather than disband or go back underground.

No matter where they decide to meet for worship, it seems those Guvernment men keep showing up and ruining things.

In recent weeks the pastors of two large unofficial churches in the southern city of Guangzhou have been detained and their congregations rendered homeless. In Shanxi Province, a house church organizer said the police attacked him with electric batons..

You got to be one hard-core bible-thumper to put up with being beaten with an electric baton.

For what?

So you can gather together for worship?

Good grief. Buy yourself an iPhone, Mister, and download sermons. Ask anybody here in America, they’ll tell you — you don’t need church to worship God. You can be spiritual any place, any time. You ever try one of them Pole Dancing Classes for Jesus?

Going to church ain’t worth getting thrown in the pokey over.

Not here in America, at any rate.

I don’t know about China.

Is it?

Beyond the appeal of spirituality and the promise of redemption, many converts say they are drawn by the intimacy and sense of community fostered by unofficial churches. Others, in turn, say they are repelled by certain aspects of government-run congregations: the overcrowded services, the rules against evangelizing and the sermons salted with political propaganda.

“Sunday worship is the most basic necessity for Christians in their life of faith,” Shouwang’s leaders said.

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