At 9 a.m. on the morning of March 8, 2017, the peace of a residential quarter was broken by firecrackers on the nice and sunny day. The residents from Yuyuan Residential Quarter told one another that a new butcher’s shop had been opened. The shop owner, Xu Gang’s wife, stood at the door, welcoming those neighbors to the shop with a smile. The 20m2 shop was neatly arranged with a freezer and refrigerator and fresh pork on a chopping board. Xu Gang and his son were busy with their work and their elderly neighbours wasted no time in buying pork because of the favorable price on that special day. Inside the butcher’s shop were lots of customers, talking and laughing. It reminded the local residents of the scene when the butcher’s shop had been opened five years before. In fact, this community convenience store assumed the same appearance as five years before. Those who were familiar with Xu Gang all knew something about his experience. Because he was cheated by cult practitioners, he went astray and caused his profitable business to go bankrupt. His wife left home angrily and his son, who was not properly disciplined by his parents, was expelled from school after he was involved in a fight. Let me share the whole story here.
I. Started business in Beijing and won praise after becoming better off through hard work
Soon after the Spring Festival five years ago, Xu Gang, together with his elder brother, younger brother and elder sister, came to start their business in the Yuyan Residential Quarter from their hometown in Henan Province, China. His elder sister ran a delicatessen, his elder brother a fruit store and his younger brother a vegetable store. Xu Gang, along with his wife and son, ran a butcher’s shop just as before. He was a good-natured, warm-hearted and generous man. If a customer forgot to take enough money, he still sold meat to them after dismissing the small shortfall. The small shop was engaged in selling a whole variety of meat, including pork, beef, mutton, chicken, home-made preserved meat, as well as fresh fish and loaches. Because it was cheaper than the supermarkets, the butcher’s shop had lots of local customers from the residential quarter. The shop even offered to process meat for busy office workers, such as cutting big chunks of meat into diced meat or minced meat, and processing meat into sausages at no extra cost. What’s more, the shop also helped young people receive and send mail on behalf of customers, thus facilitating the local residents very much. Thanks to the dense population in the residential quarter and a poor shopping environment, the shop’s business boomed after only being open for two years. His wife, shy and wordless, was jolly all day long. His elder sister and younger brother admired him very much. If neighbors cooked something tasty, they would give a bowl of delicious food to him. Sometimes, Aunt Zhang might give Xu’s son some chocolates that her child brought back home from abroad, or Aunt Li might give his wife a new skirt that her daughter bought. All the neighbors said that “they’re a nice family, and they take special care of their neighbors. We should treat them well. Xu Gang makes hard money. He wants to build a house back in his hometown.” Due to the neighbors’ patronage of his butcher’s shop, his business got better and better.
II. Made friends with strangers and his good life slowly changed
On one afternoon, one corpulent, well-clothed and talkative woman came to buy meat in the shop. When noticing there were a few customers nearby, the woman said in a low voice that “your business is really good, and this is the result of your kindness, just as Jesus Christ. You may not know that Jesus Christ always loves you. No matter how busy you are, you should read these books.” With these words, she took out of her embroidered bag several booklets like Lightning from the East and Comments on Physical Incarnation, and handed them to Xu Gang. As she said, “they’re God’s blessing and gospels of life. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you should take part in our activities. You can directly pray to God. I’m sure that you’ll benefit a lot from it. My surname is Yan, so just call me Sister Yan.” After her words, she turned around and departed. In the evening, when he noticed the small booklets on the chopping board, he picked them up, opened them and read for a while. In the roughly printed booklet, the yellow pages were circled and marked in ink. He remembered some words from his mother, a devout Christian. “Jesus Christ is the ‘leader’ according to the Bible. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. He will save his people from their sins after He comes to the earth as a man.” On the first page of the booklet, he read some words that said, “Please love your soul and life. Believe in Jesus Christ and accept his salvation. Those believers in Jesus Christ will live forever. Who doesn’t want to live forever?”
Due to his good business over several days, he hesitated but finally decided to go to the meeting site after business hours.
Walking in the dim road light, he got to a street “water bar.” After he explained the purpose of his visit, one young fellow took him to the backyard. Inside a warehouse-like house, more than ten people were sitting and listening to a woman talking. He saw that she was none other than Sister Yan, who had gone to buy meat in his butcher’s shop. She introduced him to everyone else and arranged for him to listen to the “true law”. With the booklet Comments on Physical Incarnation, she said affectionately that “those who refuse to abandon the world, their parents and their physical enjoyments all betray God, and should be destroyed.” Somewhat surprised, he asked an old man beside him if this was Christianity. The man said it’s a new religion called “The Church of Almighty God”. Some said that the belief in the living Jesus proved more efficacious than in Jesus as mentioned in Bible. It’s the “rebirth” of Jesus Christ. He came to understand that the new Jesus was born. He must sincerely pray to bless his family. In his meditation, he heard someone say something about singing the “new song”. Confused, he mumbled something like “sing the ‘new song’”. The old man added that “singing a new song by following lambs” is to sing a hymn. The tunes were based on past or present songs in China. For instance, the tune of Great Excitement of All the People was based on Knitting Flower Basket; the tune of God’s Here to Rule was based on I Dedicate the Oil to My Motherland; the tune of It’s Great to Have God Here was based on Friends Forever. Having hummed several songs, everyone looked much more relieved. After a short rest, someone suggested they should do something lively and have a “spiritual dance”. They hummed songs noisily and hopped and skipped happily. The old man told him that a new song “My Sincere Heart is Dedicated to You” was specially prepared to encourage the followers to practice the “spiritual dance”. According to the song’s lyrics, “brothers and sisters, let’s start dancing now. We needn’t feel shy. God never cares about our behavior. God will be happy as long as our dance shows our heartfelt love. If you want to express all your praise, let’s start dancing right now.” With these lyrics in his ears, he felt both funny and irritated. Time was fleeing. Unconsciously, he realized it was early in the morning. Before he departed, Sister Yan said that he shouldn’t have any other belief once he believed in the Church of Almighty God; otherwise, he would be punished by God. She also asserted that those books of the Church of Almighty God alone could represent God’s latest opinions. She walked over to him and said piously that the followers of the Church of Almighty God must read books and say prayers every day, and take every chance to “preach gospel” and donate money. “In this way, you can get God’s blessing; otherwise, you’ll have a tragic death.”
On the way back home, he seemed to see the scene in which a group of followers were listening to the “true law”, singing new songs and having a “spiritual dance”. All of them loved dancing, reading and praying. Didn’t this show that the Church of Almighty God was better than Christianity? He didn’t know that Sister Yan was walking along with him. She smiled and said proudly that “reading the Bible is no longer something popular, and Jesus’s words no longer work. Based on the Bible, we compiled Lightning from the East and Comments on Physical Incarnation. They’re the latest doctrines. More belief will contribute to a more efficacious result.”
III. Suffered family poverty and breakup due to the Church of Almighty God
After Xu Gang occasionally attended the family gatherings, he became absent-minded, languid, depressed and irritable. In the daytime, he wasn’t in the mood to deal with the business in the butcher’s shop, but turned all his attention to reading books, saying prayers and preaching the gospel. The customers often noticed several books like Detailed Rules of Eastern Lightning and Comments on Physical Incarnation in the corner of the shop. There were some fundamental changes in his life.
He wasn’t a hard-working, friendly and modest man any more. He secretly went to attend the gatherings at night. Because he went to bed late and got up early, he was late to buy meat at the wholesale market every morning. As a result, the meat wasn’t fresh enough. Customers often complained about the problem. His wife, who rarely talked, kept complaining. Once, when he heard his wife complaining, he was so angry that he hit her on the face with a pig trotter. Instantly, a purple bruise appeared at the corner of her eye. He refused to say sorry and went further to hack at her with a bush-knife. His wife was too scared to utter any sound. From then on, his wife dared to say nothing annoying to him. She had to deal with the business even when all her negative emotions were concealed inwardly. Because little attention was paid to their son, the boy, as a pupil in the primary school, often failed to complete homework on time and listen attentively in class. The boy fought a lot after class. When Xu Gang’s son made trouble on campus and he was asked by the teacher to deal with the troubles at school, he would give his son a good beating. The teacher didn’t dare to ask him to come to school any more. His wife, son and family were all in the back of his mind. His top concern was how to get the blessings from God and how to be saved from his sins.
After he became a follower of the Church of Almighty God and the “leader” of the church staff, he started to care little about his business in the shop. He told lies to his family members and took part in all the activities without their knowledge. He followed Sister Yan to the mountains in the suburbs, where they preached their gospel and taught “true law”. He even made donations to show his loyalty. His donations would be several thousand yuan or even more. In less than half a year, his hard-earned money, which was about 200,000 Yuan, was all used as his donations. But his wife knew nothing about his donations. What’s worse, for his wife’s monthly allowance of 2000 Yuan, he put aside 500 Yuan as the living cost for his wife and son, and then donated the rest to “God”. In the end, he couldn’t afford the medical expense that should be paid for the child injured by his son, so his son had to quit school. His elder brother and younger brother tried to persuade him to give up the cult and be an honest man. But telling lies and acting quirkily weren’t sins at all. He could do everything for God’s sake. He also cheated his fellow countrymen and seduced them into the activities of the Church of Almighty God. Their hard-earned money was donated by him to God. His silly behavior faced strong opposition from his wife and other family members. He argued that “we can’t get God’s blessing unless we donate all our money to God. So we can have a chance to ascend to Heaven”. In spite of his wife’s patient persuasion, he expressed no sympathy whatsoever. Instead, he had an impression that he wasn’t a good practitioner. When he went out to preach gospel with Sister Yan, they walked hand in hand as if they were a couple. Sister Yan persuaded him by saying that “it’s time for you to break away from you family, wife and child, and you’ll have the right to enter the spiritual world. If a person has a strong attachment to human affection, this person can’t get blessed by God or reach Heaven.”
No secrets can be kept forever. He and Sister Yan were found to have an adulterous relationship. One of the fellow countrymen who came to buy meat in the butcher’s shop told his wife this bad news. Indifferent, desperate and helpless, she stood there, motionless and tearful. In her mind, everything in her life was in a total mess. Her family didn’t exist in a real sense. Her once prosperous business was nowhere to be found. Her son, who didn’t graduate from primary school, stayed at home to do nothing but smoke and play games. Her savings for years, which totaled several hundred thousand yuan, were squandered by her husband. Once an affectionate husband, he became a cold and cruel man who had affairs with some disreputable women. How could she tolerate the life of this sort? The more she thought about it, the angrier and more agrieved she got. She tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrist with a sharp knife. Her blood trickled away and she fell onto the ground, unconscious. When she regained consciousness, she was lying in a bed of an emergency room. Her son was sitting beside her, playing games on his mobile phone. Her son had wanted to get some money from her to buy the game equipment. When he found his mother bleeding from the wrist, he ran over and asked his aunt and uncle to send his dying mother to the hospital nearby. Her son called his father without delay, but his father didn’t come back. In fact, Xu Gang was enjoying a dissolute life with Sister Yan and several other women. He said shamelessly that “the messy sexual behaviors are our ways to complete God’s plan and to strive for a stronger belief, but have nothing to do with sins”. He told his son “your mother won’t die, and let her stay in the hospital”.
After his wife returned home, she, together with her son, went back to her parents’ home in the countryside. She decided to leave this heart-broken place.
Xu Gang was in no mood to deal with the business in the butcher’s shop, so the butcher’s shop, once booming, had to be closed down. Some said that “Xu Gang, along with a group of women involved in group licentiousness, was detained by the police.” His family members who sold vegetables, fruits and delicatessen in the same residential quarter gnashed their teeth in hatred at the thought of him. His sister said that “Xu Gang has wrecked his home for the last two years. Now he should mend his ways and become a new man.”
IV. A nice life started again in Xu Gang’s family
How time flies! Two years has passed. Today the butcher’s shop has reopened.The Xu Gang who appeared in front of people was different from two years before. He was a kind and smiling man once more. As the saying goes, “a happy man tends to grow fat”. His plump shape seemed to suggest that he must be broad-minded and have devoted himself to a new life. His son was much taller and stouter. With a big apron around his waist, he used a sharp knife to carefully work on a chunk of meat. Xu Gang’s wife warmly greeted the customers outside. The whole family was busy working for their happy life.
Someone shouted “look, here comes a pennant”. At this time, a young man walked into the butcher’ shop with a pennant. He bowed deeply in front of Xu Gang. He said “Uncle Xu, my dad asked me to present this to you.”He opened the pennant and several golden words “return money to its owner and have outstanding character”came into sight. The young man said that “my father went to buy meat in the wholesaler market the day before yesterday and left behind a black plastic bag with 50,000 Yuan and some certificates inside. His father was so anxious as to beat his own head. At night, they didn’t expect that Uncle Xu sent the money and certificates to their home. His father, with knitted eyebrows, and his mother who kept complaining were so deeply moved as to shed tears. When learning that Xu Gang’s shop would be opened the day after next, the old couple arranged a pennant to be created in time. They asked their son to give it to Xu Gang to express their gratitude. Having heard this story, all the customers present couldn’t help applauding. Everyone announced that “Xu Gang is still a good man.”
(Executive editor: Wang Na)