Chinese Christians live in fear of being kidnapped and brainwashed into Eastern Lightning. Vice writes:
In some ways, Eastern Lightning are hilarious. For starters, the cult’s core belief is that Jesus Christ has been reincarnated as a middle-aged Chinese woman called Lightning Deng who now lives in Chinatown in New York. Then there are the bizarre evangelizing attempts to recruit China’s rural communities—stuff like the sudden appearance of live snakes painted with scripture and mysterious glow sticks hidden in people’s homes that somehow (I’m really not sure how) signal the second coming of Christ.
To their victims, though, Eastern Lightning aren’t a joke. The cult operates by infiltrating China’s underground house churches (proper ones are banned in China) and integrating themselves into the community, before allegedly seducing, kidnapping, bribing, or blackmailing members into joining them. Highly organized and comprised of more than a million members, according to some estimates, Eastern Lightning train their leaders to build trust slowly over months before making their move.
The government has been upping its efforts to root out the cult since the December 2012 protests, sometimes subjecting Christian house church members to violent interrogations in an effort to reach Eastern Lightning members.
Outside of Chinese Christian communities, the cult’s violent activities go largely unreported. But within those circles, Eastern Lightning are highly feared. I contacted the director of one of the largest Christian ministries in Asia, but he declined to speak to me out of fear that the cult would target him.
In 2002, Eastern Lightning kidnapped 34 leading members of an underground Christian network, the China Gospel Fellowship, and held them captive for two months. I managed to speak to an American missionary, Hope Flinchbaugh, who met one of the kidnapped Fellowship leaders while in China. According to Flinchbagh, women from the cult seduced the captured pastors and took compromising photographs to blackmail them later if they resisted their conversion efforts.
One pastor, she said, was drugged and restrained while two women whispered Eastern Lightning doctrine into both of his ears throughout the night. Others had “legs broken and ears cut off.” When one of the victims finally escaped and informed the police, every single one of the cult members supposedly disappeared without leaving a trace.
Read the rest at Vice.
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