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Eastern Lightning


Members of the cult Eastern Lightning, who believe that Lightning Deng, a resident of New York’s Chinatown along with founder Zhao Weishan, is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, are recruiting among the uneducated and unemployed in rural China. As alleged by leaders of Christian groups there, bizarre proselytizing methods include “flirty fishing” by women in the group to convert Christian men. The cult infiltrates China’s underground house churches, gains parishioners’ trust, and then allegedly seduces, kidnaps, bribes, or blackmails them into joining Eastern Lightning. One Christian leader says they brainwash the people they kidnap. Eastern Lightning calls the Communist Party of China Satan incarnate, and says the party’s rise presages the end of the world. The government is attempting to suppress the cult, sometimes violently interrogating Christian house church members to identify Eastern Lightning followers. Pastor Dennis Balcombe, recently released from government house arrest, says Eastern Lightning is after money: They’re like the Mafia. They’ve extorted 100 million renminbi ($16,453,755) from mainly poor, rural people... It’s like a criminal element infiltrating your church. Leaders of Christian house churches have also been offered huge sums of money—like 150,000 renminbi ($24,670)—to bring their followers and themselves into the cult. The government believes they have funds coming from outside of China. He adds that the cult, by training leaders over Skype, has spread throughout Asia from a base in Hong Kong. The head of one of the largest Christian ministries in Asia told Balcome that he, like many former Lightning followers, was afraid to speak against the group, fearing it would target him. Outside of China, Eastern Lightning operations have not been so aggressive, and its representatives say critical stories about the group come from the Chinese government. (Vice, 8/2/13) [IT 5.1 2014]

Thirty-four leaders of the underground China Gospel Fellowship, abducted two months ago by Eastern Lightning — a group the Chinese government has branded an “evil cult” — have been released. Christian groups in the region, such as the Bangkok-based Christian Harvest, say that Eastern Lightning has been abducting leaders of house churches for the past ten years, beating and brainwashing captives. [csr 1.2 2002]

Although China Gospel Fellowship is an underground Protestant church, and not registered with the government, it is considered a mainstream evangelical group. Eastern Lightning, founded in 1989 by Zhao Weisan — and also known as the Church of the Everlasting Fountain and Real God — maintains that Jesus returned in 1990 in the form of a Henan Province woman some call Deng, and others call Lightning. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “The group teaches its followers to abandon their families and jobs [and] exerts control over its followers by using drugs and sexual entrapment. Absolute obedience is demanded and those who oppose the group are punished with beatings, bribery, kidnap, and murder.” (South China Morning Post, Internet, 6/22/02)[csr 1.2 2002]

Paul Hattaway, Director of Asia Harvest, says there is evidence that local officials are in the pay of Eastern Lightning, and allow the group to operate freely, even though the central government urges action against it. (Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries, ANS, Internet, 5/3/02). [csr 1.2 2002]