Chinese Cults: Eastern Lightning Part I

“So how afraid are you and the church of the local government? Is persecution a big concern?”

“We are not very worried about that here in Longyan,” replied Tam, stabbing another chicken nugget with a toothpick. “You know many Chinese police are quite lazy,” he punctuated, popping the nugget in his mouth with a smirk.

I had just met Tam the previous week. I had only been in China about a month, and an English teaching missionary had treated him and myself to McDonald’s to introduce us because Tam was a Chinese believer about my age.

Tam’s English was good because he had spent his last two years of high school in New Zealand before returning to China for college. Having taken a liking for the New Zealand treat called “Tim Tams” but thinking that “Tim” was too common of a name, he had proudly informed me he had opted to take the other half of the chocolatey treat’s namesake as his English name. Now, a week after first meeting in McDonald’s, we were sitting in a westernized restaurant established by a Filipino man and his Chinese wife.

“How’s the kumquat tea?” interrupted the owner’s wife. She had become our server since none of the others spoke English.

“Very good!” I mustered. Little did I know kumquat green tea would become a personal favorite over the course of the next five years.

As she walked back downstairs, I proceeded with my questions. Thankfully, Tam didn’t seem to mind.

“Most Americans are under the impression that persecution is very great here in China, but you’re telling me it’s not?”

“Well, you know, the churches here are not legal. But, the police in this city rarely give us trouble.”

“Do you think that’s because they don’t know about the churches?”

“They maybe know,” continued Tam, “But they are not too worried about us.”

He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face because after a few moments he elaborated.

“You know there are other groups in China. They are like churches but not real churches. They are very evil. Sorry, I don’t know how to say that.”

Noticing Tam’s English was running low on vocabulary, I offered a suggestion. “You mean like cults?”

“What is a cult?”

“A cult is like a false church. They think they know God and believe the truth, but they don’t.”

“Yes! Cults! That is what I want to say! There is an evil cult in China. I think in English it can be called ‘Lightning of the East’.”

I nodded. I had heard of Eastern Lightning before, but I didn’t know much about them.

Now we were getting somewhere. Tam continued.

“If someone were to call the police and say there is a church here, the police would probably not do anything. In this city, the police don’t seem to care too much about this. But, if someone were to call the police and say that Lightning of the East was here, they would come so fast to arrest them.”

“Why is that?” I persisted. He had certainly piqued my curiosity.

“Because they are very bad and do very bad things to real Christians.”

“What do you mean, ‘bad things’?”

Tam then proceeded to recount a story he had heard about Eastern Lightning that supposedly had happened in another part of China. Cult members, posing as true Christians, befriend the pastor of an underground church by taking him out for a meal a handful of times. One evening they spike his drink with a kind of substance that knocks the pastor out cold within a matter of minutes. Once he is unconscious, they throw him in a bed with prostitutes, take pictures, and then anonymously send those pictures to members of his congregation. The pastor’s reputation among his flock is ruined.

My eyes must have bulged out an inch or three. “That’s horrible!”

“Yes, they are so evil.”

“Are they here in Longyan?”

“Yes, there are some. But I don’t think you will have to worry about them. There have been no serious cases like this here in this city.”

“Are you finished?” interrupted the owner’s wife yet again.

I looked down and our nuggets were finished off. Realizing it was late in the evening and probably time for the restaurant to close, Tam and I got up, went downstairs to pay, and proceeded to the bus stop.

Getting on my bus, I kept thinking about the presence of Eastern Lighting in Longyan. I could hardly believe the story Tam had recounted about them. A cult that is willing to destroy the reputations of pastors. My mind kept mulling over all that was discussed that evening, at least until the bus intercom announced that I had arrived at West Mountain Community.

Little did I know at the time that this crash course in “Eastern Lightning 101” would come in real handy in a couple of years…

This is part one in a series of posts about Eastern Lightning, also known as The Church of the Almighty God, which is a cult in China that stands in opposition to true believers there.

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