My favourite line from the God Father (part 3) is:- ‘Power wears out those who don’t have it’ words whispered into Don Lucchesi’s ear seconds before he was assassinated with his own spectacles. Earthly power is an intoxicating and often rather brief illusion; made savage when it’s in the hands of frightened men who cling to it.
As President Xi Jinping has now ascended to China’s throne as dictator for life we can expect trouble. Already China’s Christians are feeling the pressure as he declares war on religion and Christianity in particular. In some areas of the country it’s a soft approach, instructing Christian villagers to replace holy pictures with those of Xi accompanied by financial inducements as his cult of personality spreads. Mostly though, he is following in the footsteps of the old guard earning him the nick-name ‘Xi Zedong’ after his ruthless predecessor.
With churches initially being forced to remove crosses from their spires now being torn down altogether, it’s starting to look a lot like the cultural revolution all over again. Even state approved churches, once willing collaborators of the communist party, are now finding themselves under scrutiny and their key members even disappear into labour camps and the infamous ‘black prisons’ from which there is no return.
The unofficial churches, already familiar with persecution, are going underground again, back to the catacombs but it will be more difficult this time as the state has made its plans and is employing Hi-Tec means in its latest assault. Facial recognition software (like on Facebook) coupled with massive use of CCTV cameras (even in rural areas) can easily identify those attending churches or meetings and track all movement now. Underground Christians can only meet casually in two’s and three’s.
Whilst we certainly need to pray for the protection of our brothers and sisters in China and that those destined for Martyrdom will be given the grace to die well, there is great hope too. Since Mao’s time Christians are a 100-million strong. He failed, as did Stalin, Nero, Herod and Ramses and all the others who stood against their God and saviour throughout the ages.
God never tires, and He holds the lives of dictators in His hands too. Every beat of their hearts has been counted, the day of their departure known and their fate as they too will kneel at his feet to give an account of their lives. It’s President Xi we need to pity the most and pray for, perhaps the inexhaustible and relentless Divine mercy of God can reach him as it did Saul of Tarsus and so many others throughout the ages.