Bible Ban Lifted

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) received confirmation from Olympic officials Wednesday, November 7th, 2008 that there will be no restrictions on Bibles being brought into the Olympic village in Beijing next year.

We have heard from the IOC and there will be no restriction on athletes bringing the Bible or any other religious book into the village for their personal use.

— Darryl Seibel
U.S. Olympic Committee Spokesman

Organizers of the Beijing Olympics claim the ban was never in place and that religious texts and symbols were intended to be allowed “for personal use” – i.e. you won’t be arrested unless you give a Bible, Qur’an or similar text to a Chinese person.

I have my doubts about the truth of this claim by the Chinese officials. They did not refute the allegations until confronted by the USOC, and until a US Senator demanded an explanation for this wrong-headed behavior from the Chines Ambassador to the US. China’s atheist government does not have a an even marginally good record for maintaining religious freedom.

China’s officially atheist government grudgingly permits religious observance, but allows worship only in Communist Party-controlled churches, temples and mosques. Worship outside that official structure, such as at Tibetan Buddhist retreats or home churches, is banned, and organizers face harassment, arrest and terms in labor camps or prison.

Beijing has also reportedly expelled more than 100 foreign missionaries in what critics say is an effort to tighten control on non State-controlled Christian home churches prior to the 2008 Olympics.

Because of all this it would not surprise me if they had tried to ban the religious symbols and texts, but hastily recanted when called on it.

Related Reading:

Lonely Planet China (Travel Guide)
Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
REALIZING THE DREAM 2008 Beijing Olympics Commemorative Stamp Collection China
Olympic Media: Inside the Biggest Show on Television (Routledge Critical Studies in Sport) by Andrew C Billings (2008-04-02)
Institutes of the Christian Religion

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19 Responses to “Bible Ban Lifted”

  1. Christy Says:

    Thanks for the informative post, Jonalan!

  2. Eric Says:

    Interesting to see they’ve taken back this rule now that it’s met controversy. No matter what the intentions were, it seemed completely unjustified. There was no real reasonable support for this institution.

  3. jonolan Says:

    Eric,

    Yeah, you go that right! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Sara Says:

    This is really interesting. I have a friend who lived in China for a few months as a missionary over the summer and can tell you from experience how dangerous it is to be a Christian (especially an American) under the Communist government. A question I have, though, and it may be an ignorant one, but what about the Tibetan Buddhists? And the Dalai Lama? Surely the Communist government is aware of the Dalai Lama and they haven’t excommunicated him from the country. Although, technically (and here I’m stepping even further out of what I know, so do correct me if I’m wrong) the Buddhists don’t believe in a god, it’s more of a spirituality. That said (kind of playing the devil’s advocate here, I don’t know that I would agree with what I’m saying), couldn’t they technically be considered atheists? And in that case, what can an atheist government say about an atheist religion or spirituality, unless the problem they have with it is just its organization (outside of party control)? Now this is just a technicality, I don’t think I would personally call a Buddhist an atheist, although I don’t know enough about it to say. But what do you think about that?

  5. Brian Says:

    Sara, Don’t get hung up in terminology. I have lived within a large population of Buddhists for years and, regardless of their belief or non-belief in an “omnipetent supreme being” they are by far the most spiritually content and at peace people on the planet. Christians worship Christ, as Buddhists worship Buddha. But Buddhists also worship the harmony of all life and truly believe in peace through that harmony. When was the last time you heard of Buddhists starting a war! They don’t. They leave that up to Christians who, throughout history have been the most warmongering, bloodthirsty and fanatical “believers” there are.

    The Dalai Lama does not live in China so they cannont “excommunicate” him. He is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet which China claims as part of their territory. He lives in exile.

    Lastly, while communist China is certainly a dangerous place due to the regime, do not equate that with the Chinese people. They are an extremely tolerant, hard working people who, unlike Americans, believe that personal honor is more important than keeping up with the Jones’. Sadly, along with the creeping capitalism in China, comes consumerism, and the young people are becoming the victims of its associated greed.

  6. jonolan Says:

    Sara,
    The Chinese government has no control over the Dali Lama – at least as long as he never sets foot in Tibet. The moment he does that, they’ll round him up and imprison him. Extreme violence in Tibet would follow immediately.

    By Chinese law however, he is not allowed to reincarnate with the government’s express written permission! China enacted this law to make sure that the current Dali Lama is the last one they have to recognize. Now that’s religious oppression taken to a whole new level.

    Brian,
    I disagree with with you on some points of the Chinese people’s behaviors, attitudes and tendencies. They are everything you said, except tolerant. They only tolerate each other and those foreigners they can dismiss or utilize. The Chinese people are insular to the point of xenophobia and while “tolerant” of foreigners they are dismissive of them and have no real respect for them. Or at least this is what I observed.

  7. Sara Says:

    Consider the questions in my comment – there are clearly many things about this that I don’t understand (and would like to) so first, I thank you for answering them.

    You see, that’s part of where I was confused. I know that Tibet is a part of China (or the PRC, whichever you prefer to refer to it as) and so I didn’t understand how the Dalai Lama could be there, even in exile, without being found and persecuted. And I don’t mean this to say that he should be, exactly the opposite, I just know that the a Communist government does not tolerate any sort of religion and that they are an atheistic party. Now, and this is specifically to Brian here, I don’t for one minute discredit Buddhism as a belief or Buddhists as spiritual. But do they consider the Dalai Lama a god? As I said, I (wasn’t sure and am thinking I) wouldn’t call them atheists, however, I wonder about what China’s government would call them? If they don’t worship a god, regardless of the other things they do worship, a very technical, denotation-happy person may say that they are in line with the word atheist, that they are without a god. And so, on those grounds, I’m asking what could the Communist government even be allowed to say or do? Surely they must be against any sort of religion in general, and all this (and my previous comment) is more ways of coming to things in my own head, sort of musing, as I admit to my limited knowledge in these areas.

    And last, I never said the Buddhist weren’t peaceful. From my limited knowledge, I believe they are as you said. As far as Christians, well, if any Christian claims to be perfect, they shouldn’t. Not that I’m writing off the Crusades or anything. I’m conceding to the fact that we’ve done some pretty horrible things under the name of Christianity which never at all belonged under that name, and there are still people today who claim the name of Christ and at the same time do nothing but hate, and it is to me one of the most frustrating and infuriating things I encounter (almost weekly, with false ‘preachers’ that appear on our campus) and I feel the need to apologize for people like that.

    Also, one more question to wrap it up: to jonolan, I’m wondering what you mean by the extreme violence in Tibet that would follow if the Dalai Lama were imprisoned. By the Tibetan people? The Communists?

  8. jonolan Says:

    Sara,

    The Dali Lama is believed to be the continuing reincarnation of the bodhisattva – Enlightened One – of compassion known as Chenrezig (Tibetan) or Gu?n Shì Y?n (Chinese) and to hold within himself the compassion of all the Buddhas. Buddhism actually recognizes many Buddhas beyond The Buddha, Siddh?rtha Gautama. Buddhists revere all the Buddhas as being who could have transcended and reached Nirvana (Heaven) but who chose to stay in the world to help others reach that state. So they are not thought of as deities or as mortal men and women.

    I would expect strident but initially nonviolent protests in Tibet following the current Dali Lama’s death, if they weren’t allowed to seek out and confirm his next incarnation. I would also expect those protests to be met by the Chinese with extreme brutality and violence.

  9. Brian Says:

    The Chinese tend to be suspicious of foreigners because they have been taught to be for their whole life. And what they see in the typical tourist behaviour just confirms it. But if you live among these people, assimilate into their culture and give them a chance to know and trust you, it is a completely different story.

    As far as tolerance, Americans are hardly in a position to talk. They assume superiority over all other peoples and though they give lots of lip service otherwise, they have been “tolerating” blatant racism since the civil war.

  10. jonolan Says:

    Brian,

    Actually the Chinese people have been taught to be suspicious towards foreigners since before the time of Emperor Chin I, so multiple thousands of years.

    All societies will eventually develop a certain amount of trust for specific foreign individuals if those individuals assimilate into their culture. Despite your beliefs in the evils of America, we welcome just about anyone who will assimilate into our culture. I’ll concede the point that they have to assimilate into the dominant culture, which is often referred to as “White” society, if the foreigner in the US wants to be accepted.

  11. Nabiha Meher Shaikh Says:

    By Chinese law however, he is not allowed to reincarnate with the government’s express written permission!- WTF? How can they control that? And if the Dalai Lama dies, the Tibetan people won’t be able to find his incarnation? Only in Tibet I’m assuming…

  12. jonolan Says:

    Any Tibetan who is claimed to be a reincarnated living Buddha, who are called tulkus would be arrested. Also nobody outside of China is allowed to legally participate in the search for tulkus – so much for the Dali Lama!

    The PRC now has the power to ensure that no new tulkus can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to Tibetan Buddhism which dates back at least as far as the 12th century.

  13. Nabiha Meher Shaikh Says:

    That’s really sad.

  14. jonolan Says:

    Nabiha,

    Yes it is. It’s what happens when secular extremists get into power. But, given what you have to live in fear of, Nabitha, I’m absolutely sure you understand that extremism can be found amongst any idealogical group, and that it’s extremism that is the danger not necessarily the underlying belief.

  15. Saifuddin Says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum, I’m glad the Chinese government will be allowing people to bring their religious books. In the spirit of the Olympics, I guess it would not be very sportsman-like to ban them.

  16. Nabiha Meher Shaikh Says:

    Jonolan,

    I live surrounded by fear of extremism. Yes, it’s true that secularism can be extreme. I’ve always maintained that it’s the extremism which is dangerous- not the belief, the religion, the philosophy etc. What’s scary is how quickly it can spread and take root like it has in Pakistan.

  17. jonolan Says:

    Saifuddin,

    Welcome! I’m glad you came over. It would have been very foolish for China to have persisted in the ban. They’re not meeting their human rights obligations to the Olympic Committee as it is, so maintaining at least a sham effort would make sense. Surprisingly it took international pressure for them to realize this.

    Nabiha,

    Stay in touch, please. I know Lahore is “unsettled” right now and I worry about you. Yes, extremism is the real danger – not what ideology is being corrupted and it spreads like wildfire.

  18. angie Says:

    Very interesting comments. I also enjoyed your post.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, The comments were very informative.

  19. jonolan Says:

    Welcome and thanks, Angie. I’m glad you decided to stop by. This particular post garnered a very diverse set of commentators – we’ve at least three separate continents represented!

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