Churches across China's central province of Henan have been forced to replace the Ten Commandments with President Xi Jinping's quotes amid pressure from the government, a human rights magazine has revealed.
Bitter Winter reports that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the president's quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to "sinicize" Christianity.
The Biblical commandments given to Moses, which include "You shall have no other gods before Me" and "You shall not make for yourself a carved image," have been replaced with quotes from Xi, including excerpts from his speech at a Central United Front Work Department working meeting in 2015:
"The core socialist values and Chinese culture will help to immerse various religions of China," he said. "Support religious community in interpreting religious thought, doctrines, and teachings in a way that conforms with the needs of the progress of the times. Resolutely guard against the infiltration of Western ideology, and consciously resist the influence of extremist thought."
Because disobeying the orders is seen as opposing the Communist Party, some Three-Self churches have been shut down for not implementing the rule, while other congregations have been threatened to be blacklisted by the government, an anonymous source told the magazine.
A pastor from a state-run Protestant church told Bitter Winter that the CCP is methodically destroying Three-Self churches by eroding the Christian doctrine.
"The government's first step is to prohibit religious couplets. Then it dismantles crosses and starts to implement the 'four requirements' by ordering the national flag and 'core socialist values' to be placed in churches," the pastor said. "Surveillance cameras to monitor believers and religious activities are then installed. The last step is to replace the Ten Commandments with Xi Jinping's speeches."
"The Communist Party's ultimate goal is to 'become God.' This is what the devil has always done," he added.
Another believer told Bitter Winter that Christians have "no freedom at all," adding: "China is a one-party dictatorship. People are only allowed to obey the Communist Party and be controlled by it."
This is not the first time the CCP has demanded the removal of the Ten Commandments: In November, officials ordered a Three-Self church in Luoyang county to take down the Biblical script because Xi "opposes the statement," referring to the first commandment.
"Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn't agree, they are fighting against the country," the official warned. "This is a national policy. You should have a clear understanding of the situation. Don't go against the government."
In efforts to free religion from perceived foreign influence, Communist officials have shut down churches, arrested congregations, and attempted to rewrite the Bible following the implementation of revised religious regulation rules in February of 2018.
China's campaign to sinicize religion originated in a speech by Xi at the National Religious Work Conference in April 2016. At the time, Xi stated that in order to "actively guide the adaptation of religions to socialist society, an important task is supporting China's religions' persistence in the direction of sinicization."
Earlier in September, it was reported that Chinese government officials demanded that clergy affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Yuzhou city base their sermons on a new book that blends biblical teachings with the teachings of Confucius.
In June, multiple Three-Self churches in Qingdao city in the Shandong province were ordered by the Religious Affairs Bureau to sing new patriotic hymns written by the state-sanctioned Christian councils instead of traditional worship songs.
In 2017, thousands of Christians in Yugan county in Jiangxi province were ordered to take down displays of Jesus, crosses, and gospel passages from their homes and replace them with portraits of Xi.
The move was part of a government poverty-relief program that sought to "transform believers in religion into believers in the party," since some government members believe families' faith is to blame for their financial struggles.
"Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses," the head of the government campaign said at the time. "But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing, and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi."
Watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked China No. 27 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.
Open Doors warned in its report that "the increased power of the government and the rule of President Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country."