Worshipers reading from the Bible at a underground church in Tianjin, China. The Bible is printed in China but legally available only at certain bookstores. Credit Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As atheist government pledges to promote “Chinese-style Christianity and theology,” changes at JD.com, Taobao, and Dang Dang may revive debate over Bible access.

Last week, Chinese social media users began noticing that they couldn’t find Bibles listed on some of their nation’s most popular e-commerce platforms.

Shoppers who searched the word Bible on retailers such as Taobao, Jingdong, Dang Dang, and Amazon.cn began receiving a “no results” response, reported the South China Morning Post.

Search analytics revealed a significant spike in the keyword Bible on March 30. But by April 1, analytics showed a zero, suggesting that the word may have been censored, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Two days before the Bibles were banned from online purchase, the Chinese government released a document outlining how it intends to promote “Chinese Christianity” over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.”

Among China’s main religions—which include Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and folk beliefs—Christianity is unique for having its holy text banned from commercial brick-and-mortar bookstores. Until the internet, Bibles could only be obtained via church bookstores (because they lacked a barcode), a reality that in the past has dissuaded house church Christians wary of official Three-Self churches from purchasing the text.

This latest crackdown on China’s Christian community comes two months after the government began implementing a number of regulations on faith. Under these restrictions, religious groups must gain government approval for any sort of religious activity, including using one’s personal home for a religious practice, publishing religious materials, calling oneself a pastor, or studying theology.

The story posted by Christianity Today  www.christianitytoday.org