Church of Almighty God
China executes two members of Eastern Lightning cult
Hash Tag: #uwreligions
Five members of the Eastern Lightning Cult also known as the Church of Almighty God were convicted of murder after assault on a woman in the city of Zhaoyuan. The members had approached people in a McDonald’s demanding cellphone numbers. One particular woman, Wu-Shuoyan, a 37-year-old mother had refused. The group of five people began assaulting her, threatening anyone else if they tried to stop them. By the time the police arrived, they found the woman in a pool of blood.
The five adults were all convicted of murder where two, Zhang-Lidong and Zhang-Fan, were executed after the approval of the Supreme People’s Court. In a television interview, Zhang-Lidong confessed to the murder, saying “She was a demon, she was an evil spirit.” It may be possible that the attempts to gather phone numbers were a recruitment strategy.
The Eastern Lightning Cult also has a third name, Dongfang Shandian. As I learned more about this religion, the original roots seem to follow a very familiar cultic process as described in Hexham and Poewe’s book, Understanding Cults and New Religions. In essence, the cult preaches different eras: Era of the Law where men were to observe the law as described in the Bible in the Old Testament; Era of Grace when God revealed himself as Jesus; and Era of Kingdom, the reincarnated female Christ on earth doing work of preaching, judging, and condemning. She is referred to as the “great red dragon” who supposedly has God’s righteous nature. This cult has recruited and organized people but now exists in tension with the government especially with accusations of scams, deception of the public, attacking government personnel and now, murder in the name of vanquishing demons.
The description of the recruitment strategy today has a reputation of hostility. Digging further however, the Eastern Lightning’s original premise focussed on William Barrett’s notion of using intellect and reason to convince vulnerable individuals that are alone, seeking and hopeful. Once the individual joined however, personal information was collected in order to ensue threats to prevent ‘members’ from leaving and to coerce them for financial support.
In reflection as well, the use of names for churches such as the Church of Almighty God is very misleading. From learning more of different cults such as the Unification Church, The Church of Bible Understanding (from my previous blog post) and now Eastern Lightning, the name of any organization needs to be evaluated with critical assessment and that it is crucial to look at any religious organization’s head leaders, the history and the roots of the religion. This is the only critical way of understanding an organization’s motives and agenda. A prime example is Hitler’s Social Democratic Party of Germany which we now know was not democratic.
Overall, looking at the secrecy of the church, the limited information availble and their extreme hostility and violence, it seems to me that Eastern Lightning highly resembles the definitions of a cult and with its nature, should be watched closely.