Chinese movement. Theologically, a cult of Christianity
Tony Lambert, director of Chinese research
for a large mission agency, says China's leaders are well aware of Christian meteoric growth rates, which drives their need for stricter control. ''I did a sampling and analysis of letters we are receiving from China,'' he said. ''I grouped them by province. Jiangsu [Province] letters reported the worst persecution. Anhui and Henan [Provinces] also reported very tight control in some localities.''
For Lambert and other scholars of Chinese Christianity, the growth of new religious sects
, Christian cults
, and heresies
in many ways poses a greater threat to the church than the state.
While some heresies develop from non-Christian religions, dozens of heretical groups in China that are drawing millions of followers develop from distortions of Christian theology, teaching, and practice. These include:
- Lightning from the East, which promotes the idea that Christ has come again, bodily reincarnated in a woman named Lightning, and that only those who believe in this female messiah will be saved.
- The Disciples (Mentuhui Society), started in 1989 by farmer Ji Sanbao, who has a strong end-times orientation and calls for overthrow of the government.
- The Lingling Cult, which was begun as a religious movement in 1985 by Hua Xuehe, who sees himself as a second Jesus and in 1990 prophesied the second coming of Christ.
The group's close-knit, secretive network of house churches enabled it to flourish throughout central and western China, where it claims as many as 500,000 members, the information centre reported.
The group cited local sources as saying there were about 2,000 followers of the movement in Yanting.
Angered by its preaching that the world would end in 2000, and its opposition to state-run churches and strict government birth-control policies, authorities started trying to wipe out the sect in 1995.
On 14 April 1998 in Suning County, Hebei Province, Zuo Xiangxi (47) was administratively detained as an alleged leader of a group of seven members. He was reportedly accused of preaching that MentuHui believers would not die and god would cure illness.The official newspaper, Hebei Politics and Law News of4 May 1998 stated that ''the illegal organization not only delayed agricultural production but harmed the families''. The only example given was that ''one woman became agitated after joining, quarrelling with her husband so their relationship broke down''.
As a result of the conditions
of extreme poverty in most areas of the province, it is virtually impossible for grassroots churches to support the living expenses of church workers. Hence congregations have no-one to pastor them and many fall prey to various heretical
teachings and sects. All the major sects operating throughout China are active in the province, and the ''Disciples'' sect (Mentuhui) in particular is said to have recruited 100,000 members already by donating much needed funds to churches and then tricking the believers in these churches with their false teachings.