Over the past few years, the authorities in Beijing have given churches across the country orders to “Sinicize” their faith. According to detailed five-year plans formulated by both Catholic and Protestant organizations, much of this process involves the predictable palaver of state control: “to actively practice core values of socialism, love the motherland passionately, support the leadership of the Communist Party, obey the law and serve society.”
But the authorities want more than just political control; they want a say over Christianity’s spirit, too. According to one document, “Chinese styles” are to be promoted in the religion’s “building, painting, music, and art,” and also in Christian liturgy and theology. Other documents speak of reflecting Chinese traditions, but what this means isn’t exactly clear—perhaps filial piety, ancestor worship, and explicitly rejecting foreign influence.