“If Jesus were alive today, do you think he would be comfortable with the Communist Party government in China?”
That’s a question BBC reporter John Sudworth asked Pastor Wu Weiqing, a Beijing based priest, who serves in an official, state-sanctioned church. The pastor replies without hesitation: “Absolutely. I think so.”
First of all, as the Easter holiday reminds us, Jesus is alive today. Second, Jesus would most definitely not be comfortable with the Communist Party government in China. And the Communist Party government in China would not be comfortable with Jesus.
To understand why we merely have to look at the stated views of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which are outlined in the Constitution of Communist Party of China. That document explicitly states the philosophical and political guides that motivates and drives the CPC:
The Communist Party of China takes Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development as its guide to action.
Let’s consider the influence of Marxism-Leninism, which the CPC constitution says, “brings to light the laws governing the development of the history of human society.” The primary “law” the Marxist-Leninist believe governs history is dialectical materialism, which as Lenin himself said, is “a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion.” But while, as Lenin adds, “Marxism is materialism” and materialism is atheistic and hostile to religion, atheism is not the primary concern of Marxism. As Lenin explains,
We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion, and in order to do so we must explain the source of faith and religion among the masses in a materialist way. The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching, and it must not be reduced to such preaching. It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion.
Atheistic propaganda can even hinder the class struggle inherent in Marxism. Lenin gives an example of how they can conflict:
The proletariat in a particular region and in a particular industry is divided, let us assume, into an advanced section of fairly class-conscious Social-Democrats, who are of course atheists, and rather backward workers who are still connected with the countryside and with the peasantry, and who believe in God, go to church, or are even under the direct influence of the local priest—who, let us suppose, is organising a Christian labour union. Let us assume furthermore that the economic struggle in this locality has resulted in a strike. It is the duty of a Marxist to place the success of the strike movement above everything else, vigorously to counteract the division of the workers in this struggle into atheists and Christians, vigorously to oppose any such division. Atheist propaganda in such circumstances may be both unnecessary and harmful—not from the philistine fear of scaring away the backward sections, of losing a seat in the elections, and so on, but out of consideration for the real progress of the class struggle, which in the conditions of modern capitalist society will convert Christian workers to Social-Democracy and to atheism a hundred times better than bald atheist propaganda. To preach atheism at such a moment and in such circumstances would only be playing into the hands of the priest and the priests, who desire nothing better than that the division of the workers according to their participation in the strike movement should be replaced by their division according to their belief in God. An anarchist who preached war against God at all costs would in effect be helping the priests and the bourgeoisie (as the anarchists always do help the bourgeoisie in practice). A Marxist must be a materialist, i. e., an enemy of religion, but a dialectical materialist, i. e., one who treats the struggle against religion not in an abstract way, not on the basis of remote, purely theoretical, never varying preaching, but in a concrete way, on the basis of the class struggle which is going on in practice and is educating the masses more and better than anything else could. [Emphasis added]
Lest you think I’m merely quoting from an obscure source, let me add that the CPC constitution says that Communist Party members “must fulfill the following duties”, including “To conscientiously study Marxism-Leninism . . .” Studying the works of Lenin is a prime duty.
They are also expected to “adhere to the principle that the interests of the Party and the people stand above everything else, subordinating their personal interests to the interests of the Party and the people, . . .” Pastor Wu Weiqing shows one way that this subordinating of personal interest affects Christians in China. “We have to remember first of all we are a citizen of this country,” he says. “And we are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That comes second.”
That is exactly backwards, according to Jesus. But it’s in keeping with the goals of the CPC: “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.”
For Chinese communists, one of those “personal sacrifices” must ultimately be giving up any belief in God and his rule. And Jesus would not be comfortable with a political system that required “good party members” to reject him and his Kingdom. So for that reason alone, he would likely prefer his followers not be members of the CPC.
But there is a more foundational reason Jesus could never be a communist: as the very King of Kings he is, broadly speaking, the ultimate monarchist.