Acting as greedy colonialists and corporate imperialists indifferent to human suffering in China, the Southern Baptist Convention put Lifeway’s corporate profits above the poor Christian martyrs suffering persecution.
China is a lead persecutor of Christians and one of the greatest violators of human rights throughout the world. China currently makes professed Christians report to the Three Self (government-established and government-monitored) churches, and as of 2004, there were at least 18 million reporting in those organizations.
However, millions upon millions of Christians meet in “underground” churches throughout China, which are not sanctioned by the Communist government. Those Christians are subject to persecution, imprisonment, and death. Some figure that the number of Protestant Christians in China is as high as 234 million, which is higher than the number of Protestants in the United States. The lowest figures claim that number is just under 100 million, which still rivals the number of church-going Protestants in America.
According to Open Doors USA…
Fifteen days before Christmas, one of China’s largest house churches in Chengdu was raided by Chinese police. The raid continued for days, resulting in arrests and detainments of more than 100 Christians, including Early Rain Covenant Church pastor Wang Yi. He is one of China’s most well-known pastors.
A week later, another large underground congregation, the Rongguili Church, was closed by local authorities. A few months before, 1,500-member Zion Church in Beijing was also closed because leaders refused to install security cameras.
In late 2018, the religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reported that police stations in a city in northeast China are being evaluated based on the number of Christians they arrest.
The Trump tariffs against China were meant to be more than a trade war against Beijing but designed to send a message to China that they should be a more cooperative international player, and become more progressive on issues that promote international cooperation. These measures include everything from outlawing rampant information or entertainment piracy to easing up on human rights violations.
After all, Trump has been repeatedly asked to do something about China’s persecution of Christians and recently met with victims of religious persecution at the White House.
However, as Reformation Charlotte reported, Lifeway balked immediately at the notion of tariffs on China because its wide array of products are mostly manufactured in Chinese sweatshops, where people are paid on average 1/6th that of U.S. wages. Where the majority of Lifeway material is printed, the Chinese minimum wage is $322 per month. The average Chinese workweek is more than 60 hours if you want to do the math to see their poverty level (their minimum wage is set by month, and not by the hour, making it far less than even you might at once think).
Calling the behavior-modifying tariffs a “Bible tax,” Lifeway employed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) president, Russell Moore, to wail and moan about how this will supposedly hurt the supply of Bibles in America. In reality, this has little to do with Bibles, as Bible sales are only a tiny fraction of Lifeway’s profit. The rest is self-help books from various pseudo-Christian sects and curriculum.
One would think that with the hundreds of millions of dollars taken in by the Southern Baptist Convention each year, it could supplement American Bible manufacturers to supply the Good Books. Or, Lifeway could invest its many millions into actual paper publishing so that China wouldn’t have a monopoly on the shiny-pages industry.
Currently, there are more than 168,000 Bibles that are sold in the United States every single day. In total, more than 20 million Bibles per year are circulated in the U.S. The Gideon’s International distributed 59 million Bibles (which is more than 100 Bibles per minute). Ninety-two percent of Americans own a Bible, with the average American owning nine Bibles. See these stats and others here.
And yet, Lifeway claimed the Chinese tariffs would hurt American Bible supplies. Russell Moore was out celebrating today.
This is sheer corporate greed that puts Lifeway’s profit above the Chinese laborer who can’t own a Bible of their own.
One Twitter user put it best…
If Southern Baptists really care about ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation within the church, they should take seriously the Great Commission and start caring about the well-being of non-Caucasians who don’t work for Lifeway corporate headquarters.
If Lifeway cared about the plight of the Chinese people, they would pledge to reinvest 100% of Lifeway Bible sales profits to advocating for human rights in China and to help the persecuted Christian minority.