However, this is happening not because of the Chinese state, but despite it: Christian music, like Handel’s Messiah, is forbidden to be played. Chinese authorities have started to crack down on Christian communities in recent months, confiscating bibles, and arresting religious leaders. Just one month ago, the government blew up – yes, blew up – a Christian megachurch. The Chinese state in some areas has barred anyone under 18 from attending religious services. As The Independent wrote: “the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.” All of that not even mentioning the cruelties of forced abortion.
Of course, persecution of practicing believers is nothing new in socialist regimes. This was especially true at the beginning of Maoist China, where under Mao the state abolished all belief systems different than Communism. The Economist writes: “Communist revolutionaries saw these religious traditions as an impediment to progress and a reason why the country remained poor. So they set about destroying the entwined belief system of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, and replaced it with the new trinity of Lenin, Marx and Mao. Only by doing so, they believed, could China be saved.”
The Communist’s dislike of religion was evident from the beginning, if not inherently needed for its own survival, as Ryszard Legutko writes in The Demon in Democracy:
“Marx’s attitude well reflects the feelings that the socialists and communists have always had about religion: on the one hand, a profound hostility, often accompanied by an almost sadistic longing for a world in which religion would be wiped out without a trace; on the other, a wish that socialism become a genuine form of religion in the sense that it would satisfy needs, dreams, and desires similar to the way in which religion did and which apparently inhered in human nature.”
Only one religion is allowed in a Communist paradise: Communism itself.
Meanwhile, the Church has stood as the biggest barrier between Communists and their inhumane goals. Legutko continues: “The communists felt— quite rightly — that the Church and Christianity were the strongest barriers that protected the nation against the regime and its ideology, and that their power would not be secure until the Christians were totally subdued.”
To be sure, it is true that things could be — and have been — worse. Indeed, since the opening of the markets by Deng Xiaoping, significant improvements have occurred under what was once a Soviet-style regime. But a lot still needs to happen until the Chinese people can be considered free, especially when it comes to personal freedom (where the country ranks number 136 of 159 in the world in the latest Human Freedom Index). Religion could play a crucial play in this. But not through a state, as Bishop Sánchez Sorondo thinks – rather as a belief system pitted against state socialism.