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“Eastern Lightning” Sect Continues To Do Damage

(ANS) Due to the relatively low educational level and low understanding of faith among many rural believers, sects and heresies are able to spread fairly quickly in some areas of China. In the past couple of years, the "Eastern Lightning" sect has spread like a scar across the whole of China (for an account of the beliefs of this sect, see ANS 97.12.3). In May's issue of Tian Feng, the magazine of the Chinese church, Hong Wen describes the damage this sect brought to her small rural community in Shandong Province after it arrived there in Winter 1997.

After arriving in Hong Wen's home town, the sect managed to claim 300 believers and completely take over four churches within the space of only one year. The sect is unique in that it only tries to recruit members among already established Christian congregations, converting people who are already believers. The group does not try to evangelize among unbelievers, saying that "Heaven's doors are already closed", and so only those who already believe in God can be saved by re-aligning their beliefs toward those of the sect and believing in the "right" way. In order to win over new converts, the sect infiltrates church groups and tries to locate those whose faith is particularly weak and not grounded in solid teaching. Group members often lie about their names and addresses while evangelizing, and even send single women to young single males' homes to seduce them into embracing the sect. Sect members only operate at night or behind closed doors during the day.

The sect does not believe in Jesus Christ or a trinitarian God. Its central belief is the "second coming in the body" of a so-called "female Christ". The sect preaches reincarnation instead of heaven or hell. Sect members reject the Bible, saying it is only written by humans and not divinely inspired. Many churches in China like to display the character "Love" and the word "Emmanuel" at the front of the sanctuary. After taking over four churches in Hong Wen's locality, the sect members forced their congregations to erase all such signs.

Once someone enters the "Eastern Lightning" sect, they are forbidden to breath a word of this to family members or anyone else. The sect distributes three "sacred" texts to members, and anyone who has received all three books cannot then back out of the group. If sect members try to leave the group after receiving the third book, they are attacked physically, often violently. Therefore, many wish to leave the group but are afraid to do so, and in this way the sect resembles certain underground mafia societies.

After being trapped by the sect, many members give up their jobs and livelihoods. In Hong Wen's locality, the sect members sold their orchards and vegetable plots, land and livestock, tractors and farm machinery, even their land and houses. One woman wanted to donate her family's RMB3,000 (=US$ 360 approx.) life savings to the sect. When her husband tried to stop her, she separated from him. Another woman tried to sell her husband's tractor while he was out, but fortunately the family's grandfather stopped her. Sect members give all the proceeds from such sales toward the "female Christ", saying that they are just waiting for the year 2,000 to usher in the "End Times". In Hong Wen's locality, many people have heard of mass suicides in other places due to so-called "millenial" movements, and they are afraid of what the sect members might do next year.

Hong Wen reports that it has been particularly bad for families in the local area where some become members of the sect and others do not. Hong Wen tells stories of women who used to stay at home to look after young children and old relatives but who, after joining the sect, abandon the home entirely, going out for days on end without telling anyone. After his wife suddenly left home without telling him, one husband feared for the worst and informed the police. After a long period of time, the wife suddenly returned. When she tried to leave again, the husband stopped her, whereupon the wife bit a huge chunk out of his hand before leaving again. The husband was so distraught that he had to be hospitalized for a time. Another couple Hong knows entered the sect at the same time. Since they were instructed that the "End Times" would soon come, they have since withdrawn their child from school and refuse to let him go back.

Th struggle with the "Eastern Lightning" sect continues in Hong Wen's home town. Hong Wen describes the havoc which the sect continues to wreak as an example to others of what can happen when they are not watchful.

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