Did you know that the two largest Christian publishing companies, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, print such a large number of English language Bibles in China that the president of their parent company, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, believes that retail prices of God’s Word in the U.S. will go up due to increased tariffs on Chinese goods?
Yes, that would be the same China which is busy razing churches that don’t conform to the communist state’s religious registration policy. For example, China’s Golden Lampstand congregation of about 50,000 Christians had the audacity to build a church in 2009 even in the face of government opposition. By opposition, I mean one of the church leaders was sent to a re-education camp for two years and another was imprisoned for seven years by China’s communist regime. In late 2018, the Chinese government dynamited the church, making worldwide headlines. But the allure of low-cost printing is too much for Christian publishers in the United States to move their supply chain out of a country whose horrendous human rights abuses include persecuting their own Christian citizens.
In China, people can print the Holy Word for export and retail sales elsewhere, but they are prohibited from owning authentic Bibles themselves. In fact, many Chinese Christians who have been imprisoned for their faith have memorized smuggled scripture passages because they are not allowed to own uncensored copies of the printed Word even after they are released. As one Chinese Christian explained, “even though [government officials] can take the paper away, they can’t take what’s hidden in your heart.”
In fact, it is common for underground Christian churches in China to pass around small portions of the Bible, so that if one group is arrested, the rest of the Bible is preserved for study. But somehow Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s accountants are worried that a small tariff on a country that makes sport of abusing Christians might somehow cut into their margins.
A recent Christian Post article recounted a story that Wayne Cordeiro, the pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii, told his congregation about his response to a request made by a small group of Chinese Christians who travelled 13 hours to attend a secret church meeting he led in China.
The Christian Post reports:
Following the three-day training session, one Chinese Christian man asked Cordeiro, “Could you pray that one day we could just be like you?”
“I looked at him and said, ‘I will not do that,’” he replied. “You guys rode a train 13 hours to get here. In my country, if you have to drive more than an hour, people won’t come.”
“You sat on a wooden floor for three days. In my country, if people have to sit for more than 40 minutes they leave. You sat here for not only three days on a hard wooden floor, in my country if it’s not padded pews and air conditioning, people will not come back.”
“In my country, we have an average of two Bibles per family. We don’t read any of them. You hardly have any Bibles and you memorize them from pieces of paper.”
“I will not pray that you become like us, but I will pray that we become just like you,” he concluded.
The folks at Thomas Nelson and Zondervan must be so proud that they can speak up in opposition to tariffs on behalf of the Chinese government which oppresses Christians. The good news is that there are those who estimate that by 2030, China will have more professing Christians than anywhere else in the world due to their true embrace of the cross as a result of the government crackdowns.
Imagine if the Bible publishing giants worried less about U.S. economic policy and just a little more about using their presses to provide the Word of God to the millions of Chinese people desperate for the Light and starving for the Bread of Life. Hopefully they are quietly providing the living water of Jesus to those working in their factories and beyond, but their tariff complaints make them look a lot like the money changers at the Temple who so incensed Jesus.
As for me, the next time I need to get a new English language Bible, I’m buying a pre-owned one on eBay. That way, the Chinese Bible publishers don’t get paid; and sadly chances are, it will be like new anyway.
The author is president of Americans for Limited Government.