Why You Don’t Need to Be a Communist to Serve the People

Can Christians join the Communist Party? Should Christians join the Communist Party? These questions were posted online recently by a Chinese Christian on Zhihu, China’s version of Quora (a question and answer website). The questions sparked chatter among the online Christian community and also prompted a response from the official social media account of the Communist Youth League of China.

The answer is more nuanced than you might imagine. In decades past, it was a foregone conclusion that Party membership demanded atheist convictions. Although still true on paper, Party membership of today is less tied to political ideology than in the past. Aspiring Party members are more motivated along patriotism-nationalism lines and career advancement than they are by stereotypical Marxist-Leninist dogma.

The article below highlights difficult choices Chinese Christians need to make in regards to how their faith influences their role in civil service.

Can Christians Join the Communist Party?

Original 2017-02-10 Jian Zhen—Christian Student Union

Recently, on a Chinese internet Q&A forum, a netizen asked the following question: "I graduated with a master’s degree in 2016. I've been a Christian for six months and now my work requires me to join the Communist Party. But, if the Party and religion are at odds with each other, what do I do?"

A few days ago, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League responded through its official social media account with the following answer:

We can give a clear answer in response to the question asking if Party members can believe in a religion: Communist Party members absolutely cannot believe in a religion.

According to Chapter One, Article Two of the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, concerning the qualifications for party members: “'Members of the Communist Party of China must serve the people wholeheartedly, dedicate their whole lives to the realization of communism, and be ready to make any personal sacrifices.”

According to Chapter One, Article Three of the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, concerning the duties of party members: “To conscientiously study Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development, study the Party's line, principles, policies and resolutions, acquire essential knowledge concerning the Party, obtain general, scientific, legal and professional knowledge and work diligently to enhance their ability to serve the people.”

The CPC Central Committee and State Council Decision on Strengthening Religious Work clearly states: “Communist Party Members cannot be religious believers. They must teach party members and cadres to firmly believe in communism and to resist religion's corrosiveness.”

A Christian has theistic beliefs. This is in conflict with the atheism of Marxism and inconsistent with the entry requirements of the Party. In addition, the Youth League members also have the duty to study Marxism-Leninism. Religious groups cannot join the CYL.

I believe there are many young, patriotic Christians who aspire to enter into the mainstream of society and make a positive impact with their faith. Many Christians are motivated by their faith to join the Party. Unfortunately, under the China's current situation these two cannot exist together. It's true that not being able to join the Party means one loses out on some opportunities. But, at the same time one also avoids a lot of temptation.

You can openly profess your own faith. Some Christians apply to join the Party. However, they hide their Christian identity and hope to not completely abandon the faith, which puts them in an awkward dilemma. This situation inevitably leads to the break up and separation of our religious and social lives which can't be sustained. Either one needs to give up one’s faith or give up Party identity. There's no way to give a good witness by trying to balance these two together.

Many Christian students struggle when faced with the issue of joining the Party. They try to talk with Party organizations. When they realize they cannot balance the two together, choosing to persevere in the faith and "walk the walk" is in itself a beautiful witness.

Of course, people will weigh the pros and cons when making this decision. For students, the Party means superior assessment and better job prospects after graduation. Also, having Party membership helps to exert beneficial influence on a number of public interest projects. Moreover, having Party membership is advantageous when looking for jobs in state-owned enterprises and other government employment.

To sum up, people only want to enter the Party because they believe doing so will help them realize the value of their life, including their self-worth in vocational development and for the social value in serving the public. They may not go so far as to really believe in Marxism, nor actually give serious thought to striving for the realization of communism.

Communism advocates for the elimination of private means of production. Communism also advocates for the establishment of a classless system with no exploitation and no oppression, resulting in a self-liberated society. Communism advocates for a society to transform into a collective society of large-scale production, which, in the end, each person receives according to his ability, and each according to his needs. This certainly is a nice ideal. But according to the Christian view of human nature, the disparity between rich and poor and exploitation in society is caused by deeply rooted sin in humanity. Even if there is an overabundance of material production, the hunger of human greed is never satisfied. Throughout time humanity has faced this problem and challenge. Without solving this fundamental problem of human nature, it is difficult to bring about communities of equality and mutual benefit. So, in human history have there ever been communities like this?

The Bible actually does have an account of this. "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people" (Acts 2: 44-47a).

Medieval Catholic religious orders required anyone who wished to join the order to renounce their private property and share all things together in communal life. There are clear regulations in these religious orders.

Early religious immigrants to the New World faced harsh environments and established similar faith communities.

In China there has been something similar with the "Jesus Family," a group that put communal living into practice. In the 1920s in Mazhuang in Shandong Province, Jing Dianying established the Jesus Family. They imitated the practices of the early church as recorded in Acts 2. All things were for public use, they eliminated private property, all followers of the Jesus Family had to sell everything and give all their property, know-how, and even their bodies over to the Family. They all participated in productive labor. Men would plow the fields and women would knit. Members of the Jesus Family practiced complete egalitarianism. They ate the same food. They handed over donated clothes to a sewing room, along with other cloth given by families to make new clothes. Then they distributed clothes equally: two changes of short clothes and one change of long clothes for summer and fall. Two long and one short change for winter and spring. New and old clothes were included. At Christmas they exchanged for new clothes. For weddings they wore new clothes. But, they made sure that everyone had clothes to wear and a blanket. All believers without exception lived side-by-side according to sex in communal brick dormitories. They would sleep ten or more people lined up in a row on a brick kang. For Chinese society at the time, the lives of the members surpassed the ordinary level of rural living.

Without exception, these communities could practice sharing everything in common because they were unified in terms of their faith. They all were aware of the corruption and selfishness of human nature. Without depending on Jesus's forgiveness and salvation, there is no way out. Only a group that is willing to put themselves into God's hands because of their faith in God and because of their trust in each other is able, on the basis of common faith, to give up their own selfish privileges and voluntarily honor the requirements of living in a group. According to the biblical view of human nature, such groups are not perfect and not without flaws. There are still historical phases. But, only when Jesus returns will a true kingdom without death, sickness, exploitation, and suffering be established. Therefore, according to the biblical point of view, it's not communism that will finally be realized in human history, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Throughout history, we see how the Christian faith itself gives people the power to transcend class differences in communities. If we have not yet experienced this sort of sharing in the fellowship of the body of Christ, that means our faith has not been completely put into practice. Or, it means that in the face of widening disparity between rich and poor in society, while social hierarchies are solidifying, our faith lacks an effective response.

God often uses external circumstances to deepen our trust in him and to live out the practice of faith. Some Christians have left their former civil service jobs because of their faith. Some have even taken the road to full-time ministry. It's true that there is more work to it, that there are more challenges and hardship than in the "system." But, those ambitious types who really want to "serve the people" will discover that service in Christ can bring true benefit to people. A Christian teacher felt full of gratitude when he reflected on leaving his job.

It may seem like Christians lose out on a lot of opportunities when they don't join the Party. But, how do we know that God isn't opening up more opportunities for them? Chinese people have a nice saying: "The old man lost his horse, but it all turned out for the best" (塞翁失马焉知非福). The Bible says it even more clearly: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt 6:33).

Original article: 基督徒不能入党怎么办?   (基督徒学生联会 - Christian Student Union)

Image credit: by parhessiastes, via Flickr.