To whom should Christian worshippers' allegiance be pledged?

This picture shows a worshipper in a church in the Yunnan province of China arranging flowers to celebrate Christmas.

In his traditional Christmas Day message from the Vatican this year, Pope Benedict XVI singled out the plight of persecuted Christians in China. He urged the Roman Catholics in China to remain hopeful in spite of limitations and to face with courage the limits on their freedom.

The Communist administration in China has been forcing Catholic Bishops to attend events organised by the state-backed "patriotic church". To me, this thing called the "patriotic church" is a classic example of the administration's brutal and naive distortion of truth. Whereas the relationship between Christianity and worldly authority was best summed up by Jesus when he said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s" (Matthew 22:21), this "patriotic church" thing is a shameless attempt to not only link the two together but also put the church at the service of the state.

Christmas is a good time to remind us to pray for an improvement in relations between the Vatican and China as well as the situations of Christians in the Communist country.

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