（編者按：王怡 Wang Yi ，作家、詩人、學者，1973年出生於四川。畢業於四川大學法學院，是中國民間維權運動中一位重要的闡釋者和介入者，著作甚豐。2003年加入獨立中文筆會，2005年成為基督徒。主持成都的家庭教會「秋雨之福」。2019被冠以「煽動顛覆國家政權罪」和「非法經營罪」獲刑9年，羈押在成都金堂監獄。）
2023年2月2日 本文是曾獲普利策新闻獎的知名作家和記者 Ian Johnson （張彥）替王怡等人著——Hannah Nation 與J. D. Tseng編輯的英文書籍《 Faithful Disobedience 信仰的抗命》——所作的序言。該書2022年出版，随即榮獲IVP讀者首選獎。
我第⼀次見王怡時， 他領我到⼀間會議室， 從那裡看出去，是市中⼼⼀片老舊而略顯破敗的寫字樓。我們在中國⻄部最重要的城市——成都。那時是2001年，他的教會當時叫秋雨之福教會，後來才改名叫秋雨聖約教會。和許多沒有在政府註冊的教會⼀樣，秋雨之福也設在寫字樓裡。這棟樓挺舊，三部電梯有時只有⼀部可以用，坑哧坑哧地開到教會所在的十九樓。我瞧了⼀眼就徑直去爬樓梯。
我向王怡解釋說，我正在寫⼀本關於中國宗教復興的書（《中國的靈魂》，The Souls of China）。我去過許多農村教會，它們遍佈於傳統的基督教核⼼地帶，比如河南省。但我覺得王怡所牧養的這種⼤型城市教會顯得越來越重要。他能讓我旁聽主⽇崇拜，採訪教會的會眾嗎？王怡牧師當即就答應了我，但他提出兩個條件：⼀、在教堂內不能拍照，⼆、我必須得到當事⼈的許可才可以引⽤他們的話。他給出的理由很簡單：秋雨之福教會沒有什麼可隱瞞的，他們是公共機構，誰來都歡迎，教會也不會限制任何人的寫作。所以如果我想參觀他們的教會，那是我的權利。如果我想寫點什麼，那也是我這位一個⾃由人的權利。他提出的這兩個條件是為了尊重到教會聚會的人的隱私，及保持主⽇崇拜的莊嚴性。
從 80 年代中期開始，我就斷斷續續地在中國⼯作。我知道我定期拜訪他的教會，會帶來⼀定的風險。我問王怡，樓下的大樓保安⼈員會不會向當局報告有個外國⼈經常進入⼤樓，⼀路爬到⼗九樓。他說，「會的。但當局沒有禁⽌外國⼈參加教會。我們是公開組織，沒有什麼可隱瞞的，你來和我們⼀起敬拜吧。」我們⼜聊了⼀會兒，我發現與秋雨教會⾯臨的諸多挑戰相比，我這件事的影響可能微不⾜道。於是我同意了他的條件，開始定期去他們的教會，參加主⽇崇拜、訪問教會的神學院、加入⼩組禱告會、與會眾交談，前前後後⽤了數百個⼩時，幾乎所有⼈都樂意和我分享他們的經歷。
那年他38歲，僅僅六年前（2005 年）他才信主。 所以他也是一名還走在路上的基督徒，⼀邊學習聖經⼀邊教導我們。這篇序言不是一篇歌頌讚美王怡的文章。和中國許多未註冊教會的牧者⼀樣，王怡是⾃學成才，他熟讀聖經，但看問題的⽅式有時候會帶點教條主義。我不認同他對女性在教會擔任職務的看法——他認為女性不能做長老，更不⽤說牧師了。他還會與意⻅相左的⼈激烈地爭論，給人不是用基督徒合宜的⽅式來解決問題的印象。我覺得其他會眾也有類似的擔憂——有些⼈會對他的做法翻白眼，有的會拿他的急躁的脾氣來開玩笑。但對我和這些會眾⽽⾔，參加王怡牧養的教會是很深刻的經歷。
我在《中國的靈魂》這本書裡也記錄了中國漢族⼈信奉的其他宗教，為此我也花了一些時間與佛教徒、道教徒和⺠間宗教信徒交流。他們也都是一些理想主義者，努⼒為⾃⼰的宗教的追隨者提供某種道德支撐——這對許多中國⼈來說仍然很重要，因為⾃1949年中國共產黨掌權之後，中國社會就成為基本上是沒有道德觀的社會，這給很多中國⼈帶來很⼤的衝擊。許多這些其他宗教的領袖也有忠實的追隨者，他們的跟隨者在他們的信息中找到了意義和價值。但王怡（以及其他未註冊的新教教會的領袖）的會眾最能與他（們）心靈相通。教會的成員給了王怡最多的幫助和建議，他們的組織形式也是最好的——包括開辦教會學校、神學院，組建青年團契，等等。這也能解釋為什麼在 2010 年代國家開始打壓之前，新教被普遍認為是中國發展得最快的宗教。
中國現在是世界上最⼤的佛教國家，它試圖把這一點當成在其他佛教國家的⼀種軟實⼒而加以利用。它對伊斯蘭教的鎮壓已經引起國際社會的譴責，中國主辦的一些⼤型活動，例如 2022 年的冬季奧運會，已經遭到部分國家的抵制。中國與梵蒂岡的談判吸引了全球⼤約 12 億天主教徒的⽬光。與此同時，中國對新教的打壓也引起了廣泛關注——部分由於社交媒體的原因。在中國，政府頒發了新的法規來控制宗教。這些法規不是用來保護⼈⺠的宗教⾃由，而是用來限制宗教自由。這反映出中國法律體系存在更廣泛的問題。
秋雨之福教會的會眾並沒有偷偷摸摸地從後門溜進來，⽽是佩戴名牌卡，穿著正式的服裝來參加主⽇崇拜。他們為來這樣的教會感到⾃豪，沒有半點遮掩。這是屬於他們⾃⼰的教會，她就好像是國家管控之海當中的⼀個有⾃決權的⼩島，由⼀位精⼒充沛的理想主義者帶領著。「這麼公開是有風險的，」那天早上他這樣告訴我， 「但我覺得如果躲在地下，風險更⼤。如果我們沒有⾃由的行動，我們就沒有⾃由的心態。基督徒最基本的態度是我們有⾃由。你如果認為⾃⼰是個罪犯，就不會⾃由地⾏動。所以，我們努⼒去走公開化的道路。」王怡真⼼誠意地走了那條路，直到他無法再走下去。現在他⾝陷囹圄，我想起他在一篇文章中談到他跟妻⼦蔣蓉的⼀段對話，在其中他提到如果他被抓了她該怎麼辦。 他是這樣寫的：「我還是傳道⼈，妳還是師⺟。昨天以福⾳為⽣，明天還是以福⾳為⽣。因為召我們的，既是昨天的神，⼜是明天的神。」
翻譯：小靈，校對：JDT Ian Johnson （張彥）是曾獲普利策獎的知名作家、記者，以及美國外交關係協會資深研究員。
Wang Yi: The Faithfully Disobedient Chinese Pastor
A new book records the reflections on church and state in China by the imprisoned pastor and other house church leaders.
When I first met Wang Yi, he ushered me into a conference room overlooking a landscape of old and slightly run-down office buildings in central Chengdu, western China’s most important metropolis. It was 2011, and his church was then called Early Rain Reformed Church, later taking the name Early Rain Covenant Church. Like many churches that weren’t registered with the government, it was housed in an office building. This one was fairly old, with one functioning elevator that groaned its way up to the 19th floor. I had taken one look and walked up.
I explained that I was working on a book about the revival of religion in China. I had been to many rural churches in traditional Christian heartlands of China, such as the province of Henan, but felt that big, urban churches like his were becoming more important. Would he let me sit in on his services and talk to congregants?
Pastor Wang immediately agreed on two conditions: First, no photography in the church; and, second, if I wanted to quote anyone, I was welcome to do so but needed their permission. His reasoning was simple: Early Rain had nothing to hide. It was a public institution. All were welcome, and no one should be restricted in what they wrote. So if I wanted to visit his church that was my right. And if I wanted to write something, that was also my right as a free person. His restrictions were simply means to respect the privacy of those who attended, and to keep the service dignified.
At that point I had worked in China off and on since the mid-1980s. I knew that for me to visit his church regularly carried inherent risks. I asked him about the building security guards downstairs and whether they would report to the authorities that a foreigner was regularly entering the building and trudging up to the 19th floor.
“Yes,” he said. “But foreigners aren’t banned from attending church. We are an open organization. We have nothing to hide. Come and worship with us.”
We talked a bit further and I realized that compared to the many challenges that Early Rain faced, I was probably insignificant. And so I agreed to his conditions and began attending the church regularly, spending hundreds of hours in services, seminaries, prayer groups, and conversations with congregants, almost all of whom were happy to share their experiences.
That began what for me was an unusual religious experience. I was raised a Christian, in Canada, as an Anglican (Episcopal in the United States) and felt pretty comfortable going to church. But to me the beauty of the service largely resided in the music and the Shakespearean language of the King James Bible or the Book of Common Prayer. Most priests I had encountered didn’t really make convincing sermons, and church seemed little more than a worthy Sunday-morning ceremony that contained important lessons about living a good life.
Sitting in on Wang Yi’s services was something else. His sermons were not homilies he squeezed into the service quickly so everyone could get to the parish hall for coffee and donuts. They were beautifully crafted, logically organized, educational experiences in Christianity. Mostly they were long. It was nothing for him to talk for half an hour and most sermons went on for 45 minutes. And yet they didn’t seem long. He didn’t present Christianity as an obligation or chore but an essential part of making sense of the society around us. At the time he was 38 years old and had only converted six years earlier, in 2005, and so he was on a journey too—learning the Bible and teaching it to us.
This isn’t a paean to Wang Yi. Like many leaders of unregistered churches in China, he was an autodidact, who had memorized the Bible but saw things in, at times, dogmatic ways. His views on women (they could not serve as presbyters, let alone be pastors) were also not mine. And he had knockdown-dragout battles with people with whom he disagreed, which didn’t seem like the most Christian approach to problem-solving. I think other congregants had similar concerns—some would roll their eyes at his battles or joke about his fiery temperament.
But for them, and me, attending Wang Yi’s church was a profound experience. Part of it was that people felt that they were participating in something completely clear and open—something they could participate in and help manage. This is a radical idea in China, where someone else, usually the Chinese Communist Party, is running one’s life.
Part of it also was his personal charisma, speaking skills, and sharp mind. His sermons were electrifying, not in the sense of rhetorical histrionics but because of the clear, insightful way he explained the Bible, so that it made sense to the daily life of someone living in China. He discussed real problems and related them back to this religion, which he didn’t see at all as “Western” or “foreign,” but a universal faith that just happened to have been founded in the part of the world that we today call the Middle East.
My book included other faiths practiced by ethnic Chinese or “Han” people in China, and so I also spent time with Buddhists, Daoists, and folk religious practitioners. These were also idealistic people who were trying to bring a moral structure to their followers. This goal remains important to many Chinese, who feel buffeted by the essentially amoral world that the Chinese Communist Party has erected since taking power in 1949. Many of these other religious leaders also had committed followers who found meaning and value in their spiritual messages.
But Wang Yi—and other unregistered Protestant churches—connected the most directly with their followers. They offered the most help and advice, and were best-organized, often setting up schools, seminaries, and youth groups. This helps explain why Protestant Christianity was widely regarded as China’s fastest-growing religion until a crackdown began in the 2010s.
Wang Yi was clear-eyed about these risks. He knew that he could be arrested at any time, but he refused to be drawn into the culture of secrecy that the Chinese Communist Party cultivated. This is why he rejected the term underground church. His was simply a church and had the same right to exist as the official churches. It was unregistered because it chose to be unregistered. I found this logic compelling and in my writing prefer the term unregistered because it is more accurate than “underground” churches, which often are not underground, or “house” churches, which imply small groups of a dozen or so people. Rather, these were churches that leased office space, ran kindergartens, seminaries, and even bookstores. They were what political scientists called “civil society”—groups that exist outside of government control.
Not all faiths around the world face these same problems. Some are fortunate to exist in open societies that allow freedom of religion. Others are state-sanctioned religions that enjoy the blessings, but also the obligations, of state support. But to some degree all people of faith have to decide how to interact with authorities. Wang Yi and the other leaders of China’s unregistered churches thought deeply about this and tried to fashion answers through statements and manifestos, many of which are documented in this book.
These essays can be seen as specific to China but are also reflections of a remarkable explosion of faith that is taking place in many countries. In China, faith was long banned but is now on the upsurge, perplexing authorities. Some faiths have been co-opted, especially Buddhism and China’s indigenous religion, Taoism, which enjoy state support but also tight state control. Others face outright repression, such as Islam, against which the government has engaged in a brutal campaign of control, especially in the western region of Xinjiang. Still others, such as Catholicism, have been part of delicate negotiations over how bishops are ordained. As for Protestants, the government’s aim has been to force all churches into the state-controlled organization. Those that refuse, like Wang Yi’s, face destruction or at least a radical reduction in size.
Many of these battles inside China have global repercussions. China is now the world’s largest Buddhist nation and tries to use it as a form of soft power in other Buddhist countries. Its suppression of Islam has met with international condemnation and caused partial boycotts of prestige events in China, such as the 2022 Winter Olympics. And its negotiations with the Vatican are closely followed by the roughly 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. Meanwhile, the crackdown on Protestantism has attracted widespread attention, in part due to social media.
Inside China, this campaign to control religion has been implemented through new laws. These do not protect religious freedom but curtail it. This reflects a broader point in China about the legal system. Ideally, laws should be above the whims of a ruler—rule of law. But in China and many other countries, the law is a tool of oppression—rule by law. It is this kind of state-controlled legal system that for the past decade has taken aim at China’s unregistered churches and resulted in Wang Yi’s arrest in 2018. Some saw in the crackdown against Wang Yi and his church as something specific, arguing that he was too outspoken. But these criticisms miss the point that the state is nervous about all religions and that all would eventually be targeted, which is what has come to pass.
All of these risks were clear to Wang Yi when I met him a decade ago. He often wrote about the potential for arrest and how to behave in the face of an oppressive state. But his conclusion was to follow a course of radical openness. He had his sermons recorded and a library of them made available to anyone who visited: worshipers or police. People at Early Rain didn’t come furtively through the back door but dressed in their Sunday best and wore name tags. They were proud of attending his church and did so openly. This was their church, a small island of self-determination in a sea of state control, led by an energetic idealist.
“There is a risk of being so public,” he told me that morning. “But I feel that the bigger risk is being underground. We won’t have a free attitude if we don’t act free. A basic attitude of being a Christian is to be free. But you can’t act free if you think you’re a criminal. So we try to walk the path of being open.”
Wang Yi walked that path in good faith until it became impassable. Now that he is in jail, I think of something else that he once wrote recounting one of his conversations with his wife, Jiang Rong, about what to do if he is arrested. This is what he said:
I am still a missionary, and you are still a minister’s wife. The gospel was our life yesterday and it will be our life tomorrow. This is because the one who called us is the God of yesterday and the God of tomorrow.
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer-winning author and journalist and a senior fellow for Chinese studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.