Bob Fu was a student leader during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. He later became a “double agent,” teaching Communist Party officials during the day and operating illegal house churches at night.
After he and his wife were imprisoned for “illegal evangelism,” they eventually fled to the United States as religious refugees. Since then, Bob has helped rescue persecuted Christians around the world and has earned the moniker of “the operator of the Chinese Underground Railroad.”
On this week’s Good Faith podcast, guest host Nancy French interviews Bob who explains China’s human rights violations, the importance of religious freedom and rule of law, and how the Western church can pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters in China.
This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity.
NANCY FRENCH: Are the Chinese Communist officials correct to view the Gospel as a threat to the stability of their nation?
BOB FU: Well, Nancy, as a fellow Christian, we both understand this persecution is not a war against the blood and flesh. It is ultimately a spiritual warfare. Christ, in the Gospel of John declared that when the light comes, the darkness does not simply sit idly or indifferent. Darkness hates the light, so that’s the reaction. I think, in the spiritual sense, they were right to view the gospel as a threat to their regime.
You have this enormous injustice of the murder of over 300 million babies from their mother’s womb, including full-term pregnancies. I know many parents who have lost their children and my good friend – he’s a blind, self-taught lawyer who’s not a Christian – single-handedly documented over 150,000 cases of forced abortion and forced sterilization in his own little hometown area. He was imprisoned for five years for that until he fled to the US embassy, causing a major diplomatic crisis.
So that’s true darkness, right? When Christians choose to stand up for love, for mercy, for justice, for hope, for forgiveness…the communist ideology represents the opposite of these things. They’re constantly propagating hatred among each other.
In Guangzhou, one of the most open cities in China next to Hong Kong, they passed a law creating a monetary incentive for anyone, including children, to betray their parents if they find anyone engaging in illegal religious activities. They could be awarded up to the equivalent of $50,000 US dollars for reporting their parents for owning a Bible.
The nature of communism really represents true darkness, the manifestation of Satan. I mean that without any exaggeration. And you can even tell on the surface of the political struggle right now. The Chinese Foreign Minister can suddenly disappear for a month with no explanation. I mean, until recently, he was removed with no explanation, no cause. And so I think the Chinese public may never see. All President Xi’s enemies, perceived enemies, or even potential enemies have been forced into suicide. All the top military generals and security chiefs are being arrested, sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. It’s dark, it’s death, it’s destruction. This is a manifestation of Satanism.
NANCY FRENCH: Well, you’ve given me a great perspective on this. The last time we saw each other, we were here in middle Tennessee. You were speaking at a college and I went to their chapel service because I would go anywhere to hear you speak. And you recognized me in the audience. And as I stood up to leave, someone accosted me on the way out of the chapel and screamed at me. They were saying, “F–k you and your husband. You’re what’s wrong with America.” To this day, I don’t know if he was a conservative or liberal. The campus police got involved. I was crying because I was so shocked that someone was screaming at me in a chapel.
But seeing you there – because we don’t suffer persecution in chapel services or in churches like what you’ve seen – gave me perspective. The experience was significant for me because this gigantic guy was yelling at me, but it wasn’t like what you’ve seen. You’ve seen death. You’ve been imprisoned.
And on Twitter last night, Christie Stats asked me to ask you, “The Chinese church has suffered much. The American church suffers little, but is often very afraid of suffering. How can you give us perspective, encourage perseverance to Christians who have a lot of fear, but very little persecution?” Does that resonate with you at all?
BOB FU: Oh, absolutely. The “prison theology” of the persecuted Chinese church is not a prison – it’s not a theology of resentment, a theology of bitterness, a theology of psychological complaint about the unfairness of life. It’s a theology of joy in the midst of suffering. This is not a Chinese Christian invention. This is not a persecuted Nigerian church invention. It is a biblical teaching, right?
It is what Paul and Silas experience in prison, remember? Being bonded, and at midnight they were singing and dancing like any good charismatic. And their chains fell off, right? That was a powerful moment. It shows we are serving a living God.
And I remember when I was in my intensive course on prison theology – two months of imprisonment in Beijing – by the end of the first month, most of the inmates in my prison cell had already talked to me thoroughly about their lives. And they treated me like their spiritual counselor.
This wasn’t because of how good or how attractive I am. I was actually so nervous in the same prison, especially when I was being beaten. And it shows that, when Christ is in us and He is shining through us, we just need to obey.
And I think in western churches today, there is a very major shortage of biblical teaching about suffering. We want to create a pain-free society. Painkillers have become the number one drug, right? The church wants to create a user-friendly church. You don’t want to offend the seekers. And so we watered down the Gospel to only a partial message of the Bible.
I remember there was a vivid illustration you might like to hear. Some years ago a church in New York was robbed. The police found that the thief only unscrewed Jesus, but left the cross. So the police officer was quoted saying, “Maybe the thief was only interested in Jesus, but not the cross.” I think that’s very telling. Without the cross, there is no complete salvation. Without the suffering of Golgotha, without the beatings, without the persecution, without the torture of His life, there is no victory of resurrection. So we, in the West, are used to the comfort-zone-thinking. We want to have the message of the Gospel instead of the full Gospel. Like Paul said, we are granted not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for Him. I think that the second part is neglected in our teaching, in our practicing.
In reality, the persecuted part of the body of Christ in China, North Korea, and many parts of the world can testify the same truth as Paul and Peter and Silas in their prison theology: That if you are willing to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, you will be persecuted. And throughout the persecution you will experience not only God’s faithfulness, but also a kind of unspeakable joy. Experiencing the full faithfulness of God is just enormous.
I’ll give you another quote from a pastor’s wife who was recently arrested and tortured simply for going to the police station and asking about her husband’s whereabouts. The pastor had been arrested, missing, and now she was also arrested. And after she was tortured, the policeman during the interrogation asked her a very pointed question since she sang during that time. He said, “When did you realize you love your Lord more?” And you know what she said? She said, “I started loving my Lord more when you put the handcuff on my hand and on my feet. And when this handcuff cut deeply into my flesh, that was when I realized how privileged I am to suffer, and experience the same suffering as my Lord.” That made her love the Lord more.
Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, coined the term “sufferology,” right? I think Western Christians need perspective, a new life theological course for sufferology.
Subscribers to Redeeming Babel will receive a discount on all Redeeming Babel courses, a monthly newsletter, and exclusive access to member only forums.