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Jesus Meets “The Great Firewall of China”


Beijing, China on a smoggy day Credit: Jesse Varnier/Flickr/Creative Commons

Beijing, China on a smoggy day Credit: Jesse Varnier/Flickr/Creative Commons

Very recently, the government of China has restricted the sale of Christian Bibles online, to its own citizens.

The Communist government of China wants to control rapidly growing religions, including Christianity and Islam, although the Islamic Koran is still available online. Religion was supposed to die in China, after the Communists came to power in 1949, but recently there are signs that Chinese people are becoming more religious, and the major religions are surging in popularity.

Also, China is becoming a world leader in online marketing, or e-commerce. The growth in online sales is also surging in China, and this is a very recent trend.

In this mix, Bible sales have suddenly been restricted.

Bibles are still available from church book stores, but not online. Strangely, China produces millions of Bibles for export, in many languages, including Chinese. There are no restrictions on this business.

So, what does the restriction of Bible sales mean for Christians? Probably not much.

The world is changing in ways we can’t even imagine, and China is a big part of those changes. Religion is surging, e-commerce is exploding, people are using hand-held devices, cell phones, instead of computers, and a new generation of millennials is emerging. Some members of this emerging generation are already approaching 30 and taking more control in society.

I am a Christian and I don’t agree with the Chinese government’s restrictions on Bible sales, but I think I understand. They are trying to stay in control of a social explosion, and I respect any honest attempt to govern. All modern societies are moving beyond the control of governments, and the humble Android smartphone is the tool of this revolution.

Do you remember dial phones, with land lines? Do you remember Nokia? A few years ago, Nokia was looking for new markets and they found a way to make the cell phone the affordable computer of Africa, and that entire continent has never been the same. Nokia’s revolution exploded and prospered more than the company that lit the fire. That cheap cell phone movement morphed into Android smart phones and went around the world, and found a home in China, which is now flooding the world with cheap Android smart phones. And Chinese citizens are going online with their phones, which is driving a massive surge in e-commerce.

Now back to the Bible. What are all those Christians in China going to do? They are probably going to read the Bible on Android smart phones. That’s what I do. When I’m in church and the preacher refers to a passage in the Bible, I pull my phone out of my pocket. I have two Bible apps on my phone, and I can’t remember the last time I bought a paper Bible.

The Bible apps are also free, so I have trouble remembering the last time I bought any Bible. The Bible society had a shop in my city, for many years, but they have closed and their building is now a vegetarian restaurant.

Restricting sales of a paper document is a meaningless gesture. Any millennial can tell you that.

One of my favorite quotations from Jesus is “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

That was the original explosive social trend, two thousand years ago. Since then, the followers of Jesus keep turning up, even where they are not wanted. Jesus is still building His church, and now other trends are exploding in the world. The combination of all these trends is beyond the control of any government; it’s impossible to control such a massive surge.

I believe we are living in a time when everything we know is being swept away and a new generation is taking control. I also believe Jesus meant what He said, and He will continue to build His church.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7: 9 to 12)

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