The US policy towards China is framed in terms of cooperation and sometimes competition. Pursuant to this strategy, Biden administration officials have sought to curb Chinese technology theft through export controls, deter Chinese aggression, and contain Chinese expansionism in the Pacific. But what the current administration hasn’t done is highlight the ideological factors motivating China’s increasingly aggressive and hostile foreign policy. Yet, if we simply take Xi Jinping at his word, he is clearly a committed Marxist. As China expert and former Trump NSC official Matt Pottinger testified before Congress in February 2023:
Marxism is not just the means to achieving global supremacy but also the goal of that supremacy. “Marxism is not to be kept hidden in books. It was created in order to change the destiny of human history,” Xi said in 2018 while presiding over Marx’s 200th birthday celebration in Beijing—an event surrounded by weeks of propaganda and publications timed to establish Xi as the designated heir to Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. This phrasing evoked a major foreign policy initiative that Xi has embraced called “A Community of Common Destiny for Mankind,” which aims to shape the global environment in ways favorable to Beijing’s authoritarian model. (The ominous-sounding term “common destiny” is often misleadingly translated by the CCP into the more anodyne English phrase “shared future.”) Xi’s 2018 speech made clear that the initiative and Marx’s vision of a stateless, collectivized world are linked. “Just like Marx, we must struggle for communism our entire lives,” Xi said. “A collectivized world is just there, over [the horizon]. Whoever rejects that world will be rejected by the world.”
And this struggle for a collectivized world requires very specific actions to bend the loyalties towards the Party and only the Party. Xi said during the 19th Party Congress that he was directing “the Sinicization of Chinese religions and provid[ing] active guidance for religion and socialism to coexist.” As part of this project, the CCP is altering the text of the holy Bible to subvert its true teachings to comply with Chinese Communism, as Congressman Mike Gallegher (R-WI) recently wrote about.
In Chapter eight of the Gospel of John, we learn that scribes and Pharisees wanted to expose the popular Jesus as a troublemaker and lawbreaker. The law men brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus.
They said to Him, “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”Jesus responded to the accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The Biblical text tells us that they were “convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” The text continues, “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Jesus powerfully shows that true righteousness is rooted in something beyond the literal letter of the law. And He, the incarnate Son of God, has the power and knowledge of God’s righteousness, and with this knowledge the power to prick the consciousness of even those most educated in the letter of the law, and thus to prompt them to feel the weight of their wicked hypocrisy and cruelty.
But in his chastisement of the law enforcers, Jesus does not gloss over the weight of the woman’s sin, but instead commands the woman to respond to the undeserved mercy He grants her and to “sin no more.” Clearly, he is a King, but unlike earthly kings like Caesar or Mao or Putin or Xi; He is the one who rules the very hearts of men. And that is a subversive thing for wicked worldly rulers.
But in the CCP version of this text, the message of the God of the Bible’s reign over the law is inverted. Instead, in Xi’s Bible, the law is the law, the CCP is the law, and those who enforce it are undertaking a noble act. As the CCP Bible says:
The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death, saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.”
By falsifying the Word of God so overtly, Xi has earned a new title in addition to General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and the President of the People’s Republic of China; in addition to all these, Xi is also what the book of Romans calls a “hater of God.”
This is, of course, not the first time Marxism has taken on Christianity. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels famously wrote in the Communist Manifesto (1848) that “…communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality…” Given the anti-theistic nature of Marxism, Christians have unsurprisingly long grappled with how to rhetorically respond to communist ideas. Two such Protestant evangelists, though not well known for their anticommunism, used their vocations, at different times and places, to contend for the faith and help others see the wickedness of Marxism and its variants.
The first is Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), the “Prince of Preachers” and longtime pastor of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle. Although there is no evidence they ever met, Marx and Spurgeon resided in London concurrently. The atheist Marx sought converts through calls for bloody revolution to establish a classless utopia. In contrast, Spurgeon sought converts to Christianity through evangelism, preaching the gospel of redemption of individuals through faith in death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Unlike Marx’s promise of a man-made utopia, Christianity offered gradual and partial individual sanctification over the course of the Christian’s earthly life, enduring challenges, and hardship, until that final eschatological outcome when God— not man— establishes the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Though Spurgeon did not take on Marx by name, his sermons warned of the wickedness of Democratic Socialism. And, though there is no evidence Marx referenced Spurgeon by name, when asked whom he most detested, Marx’s closest comrade Engels reportedly said it was Spurgeon.
The other evangelist is Carl F.H. Henry. As church historian Caleb Morell has written, Henry taught an invite-only class for evangelical elites in Washington, DC dubbed the “Hilltoppers” between 1962 and 1964. In these classes, Henry taught the necessity of a “biblically grounded, publicly articulated evangelical worldview as the only intellectual defense against Communism.”
An example from Henry’s notes, includes the following rebuke of Marxism’s appeal towards immediate man-made Utopianism:
[T]he Marxist vision presupposes an Edenic “primal period of communal life” interrupted by the “original sin” of “private property.” Man’s plight, therefore, is located not in alienation from God but from “the material means of production.” Redemption, for the Communist, is not found in Christ but through “a proletarian rebellion, which will destroy private ownership of the means of production, by a world revolution and usher in a classless society.” Paradise, for the Communist, is not the new heavens and new earth where Christ rules, but “the vision of a classless society.” Just as the eschatological hope of Christianity fuels present perseverance through trials, the Communist concept of paradise “fuels and fires Marxist social zeal and gives it a religious character.” As Henry explained in another place, “Marx (unwittingly to be sure) borrows from the biblical view the emphasis on understanding history as a stimulus to transforming it.”
Xi seems to know, as Marx did, that Christianity poses at least two major obstacles to successful Communist rule. First, it rejects notions of man-made utopianism and instead looks hopefully to the God-initiated establishment of a new world free from the corrupting effects of sin. Second, it establishes for the disciple of Christ a devotion to the Kingdom of God. This devotion leads to a willingness to live peaceful lives in accordance with earthly laws and civil authorities as long as those laws do not cause Christians to disobey God. This is the crux of Christianity’s fundamental conflict with communism and the CCP: Xi seeking to elevate himself above God’s law but will find, as all totalitarian leaders have before him, the gates of hell will not prevail, and neither will he. Bearing this in mind, American pastors would do well to mine the resources of their own tradition by consulting the great nineteenth-century evangelists. Ministers of the Word should contend for the faith and equip their flocks to do good and resist evil in their vocations.
Lastly, American government officials must relearn the moral language of liberty and democracy under God the US has always leaned on amidst great conflicts. From Lincoln in the Civil War to FDR amidst WWII to Reagan in his “Evil Empire” speech, great American leaders have long articulated a moral vision of politics. As Xi and the CCP continue to probe America for weakness, we must be rhetorically resolute against the evil of communist ideology.