Communist Crusade And Christian Challenge
“Welcome”! The voices were those of three tall soldiers of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army who, with red-star fronted caps and wearing brass-embossed Mao badges on their olive-green tunics, smilingly examined our passports. They greeted us with their total English vocabulary as we passed over the wooden planks of the Lo Wu bridge to stand literally in the shadow of China’s blood-red banner flying above us.
Fulfiling a long-standing (and we believe God-given) desire to enter China, we applied, as Christians, for an entry visa, and just after Christmas were permitted to enter the Peoples’ Republic of China.
Our immediate attentions were caught by the glut of brilliant coloured propaganda posters and slogans appearing on all available wall spaces, and the almost clinical cleanliness apparent everywhere. Spotlessly clean waiting rooms, dining halls, city and village streets, and market places even, contrasted sharply with the proliferation of dirt, garbage, flies, and human expectoration we were accustomed to in Hong Kong.
Dominating the station dining room where we ate prior to entraining for Canton, was a larger-than-life photo of Mao Tse-Tung, China’s national leader, surrounded by people from many countries smiling up at him. The caption below, written in bold Chinese calligraphy, said, “Mao TseTung’s thoughts are the light of the world.”
The staff of the station restaurant paraded in front of us bearing two red banners and a hammer and sickle. They sang revolutionary songs and shouted slogans reminiscent of text-shouting Christians at an open-air meeting: “Struggle is happiness,” “Serve the People,” “Long live Chairman Mao,” and “All reactionaries are paper-tigers.” We were witnessing with our own eves China’s political convulsions sparked off by Mao Tse-Tung’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which has violently de-culturized a whole nation and shocked a watching world.
With a huge picture of Mao fastened in front and a slogan painted on the boiler reading, “We must truly master Mao Tse-Tung’s thoughts,” our steam train flashed across the Kwongtung countryside. We passed by neatly laid out villages with clean white-washed walls on which were slogans in large red characters. On board, groups of young revolutionaries went from carriage to carriage leading community singing in praise of Mao’s “thoughts,” and preaching Marxist doctrine to the mainly peasant travellers.
They offered us tea and presented us with red lapel tabs on which were written ngoi haak (foreign guest). Several fine girls with radiant faces sang, “We love Mao Tse-Tung more than we love our father and mother. All who do not agree with Mao TseTung are our aggressors.” One girl then danced along the carriage while another girl held a picture of Mao before her, turning the dance into a ritualistic adoration of this Scion of Socialism.
On our arrival in Canton we found the city in a chaos of celebration over China’s 5th nuclear explosion, the news of which had reached the city that morning. Processions of adults and children paraded through the streets carrying pictures of Mao, red flags, and square placards with slogans and the news of the latest “triumph.”
Street processions are a regular feature of Chinese city life. These bring traffic to a halt as they parade through the main roads singing and waving banners covered with Mao thoughts. Most processions are accompanied by drum-beating red guards. These create a background pulse-throb of noise as the city reverberates to the rhythmic thud of “Long-live-Chairman-Mao.”
A carnival atmosphere is generated by the constant cacophany of sound and vivid colourings of China’s revolution-wracked cities. Mao-thought strikes the eyes from every building, fence, lorry, and post, and bombards the ears from a million loudspeakers. From postage stamps to slogan-carrying bicycles, the “thoughts” of Chairman Mao are constantly before the people’s eyes.
Crimson banners line the main streets turning the city literally “red,” while a picture of Mao adorns every doorway in the main thoroughfares. There are no public advertisements in Red China. No sex symbols cunningly sell “bourgeois” commodities, no Coco-Cola signs, no ads for liquor, cigarette, car, or luxury goods appear anywhere. Nothing is permitted to compete with Mao’s sayings in the present crusade to intensify “revolutionary thinking” among the masses.
The last traces of ancestral worship were eliminated during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution when Red Guards supervised the public burning of ancestral tablets. A portrait of Mao now hangs in homes where once joss sticks burned in honour of the ancestral spirits, emphasizing the bid for immortality made by the peasant-philosopher from Hunan. In a city once marked by a plethora of shops and stalls peddling all the trappings of idolatry, it is impossible now to purchase a single stick of incense.
This is the climate created by the new world-famous Red Guards. With evangelistic fervour these militant teenagers carry their “gospel according to Mao” to the 700 million citizens of this Red Republic seeking mass conversion to the man they call “Our great leader, teacher, supreme commander, and helmsman.”
While the more sensational side of Mao’s Cultural Revolution has been well publicized, little is known outside China of the deep fervour blazing in these young peoples’ hearts, which gives impetus to the present movement.
In Canton’s Peasants’ Institute, founded by Sun Yat-Sen and where Mao Tse-Tung himself once taught, Red Guards thronged us. They proudly showed their copies of Mao’s quotations which were freshly stamped with a much-loved saying of Mao to commemorate their visit to the Institute. “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”
That a major conflagration has been started in their hearts is evident from the fiery zeal of these youthful revolutionaries. One articulate boy, about 18 years old, said his only ambition was to “serve the masses.” “Chairman Mao is the red sun in our hearts,” an enthusiastic girl Red Guard cried; “We love our great Party and great leader Chairman Mao.” An estimated 30 million Red Guards carry this “party purism” to the masses.
Asked if they knew who Jesus was, someone shouted back, “There are no Jews here!” The Name of Jesus merely had a religious connotation for most of them; they knew nothing of His mission or saving work. “There is no God, we do not believe in Him; we are Marxist - Leninist atheists,” one scornful young Guard said.
My wife asked what they will do when Mao Tse-Tung dies. Several replied that if he died his “thoughts” would live on in their hearts, but the majority, dissatisfied with this reply, ran up to us as we were boarding our bus and said, “Chairman Mao will not die — he will live for ever”!!
The faith of “Youth for Mao” revolutionaries in their National Chairman is impressive. There is no doubt they adore this Marxist messiah. Knowing no other freedom than that of a proletarian dictatorship, and no other god than the party leaders, they have “given their hearts” to Mao and are convinced he will lead them into the “promised land” of ultimate world communism.
Not content with merely superficial conformity, Party publications exhort young people, saying “Make revolution in your souls.” This highlights the “religious” overtones of Chinese Communist dogma. In fact, the paranoic adulation afforded Mao by these young “apostles of atheism” can be understood only in religious terms.
Their bible is a red covered book the size of a pocket Testament called “Quotations from Mao Tse-Tung.” Daily they gather in groups all over the country to read, memorize, and preach from this Marxist “bible.” They underline passages and mark it exactly the same way a Christian does his Bible.
Room boys in our hotels gathered on the landing every morning at 6.30 a.m. to conduct “morning devotions,” chanting together from this book of Mao’s Quotations.
Mao is god, the Party is the church and the “crusade” evangelists are these youthful Red Guards. “Quotations” stands as their inspired writings, and the glory of world-revolution and world-communism, “heaven.” Unbelievers are “revisionists” and “class enemies” normally termed “monsters and ghosts.”
Propaganda methods closely resemble Christian “campaigns” with street meetings, cottage services, tract distribution, testimonies, and even tonic-so-fa chorus sheets!
A whole generation yields the worship and adoration of its heart to one man. Told there is no God, they still must satisfy the heart’s inner longing to worship and embrace a greater than itself, so they pour out to a creature the devotion and dedication that should be given to the Creator.