Eastern Lightning (Chinese: 东方闪电; pinyin: Dōngfāng Shǎndiàn) is a millennial Chinese Christian cult. The official name for the group is the Church of Almighty God (Chinese: 全能神教会; pinyin: Quánnéng Shén Jiàohuì). The church is reported to have millions of members. Provincial security officials in China have characterized the church as "a social cancer and a plague on humankind." The name "Eastern Lightning" comes from the New Testament, Gospel of Matthew 24:27: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be".
It is also known as Seven Spirits Sect (七灵派), Second Saviour Sect (二次救主派), New Power Lord's Church (新能力主教会), True Light Sect (真光派) and True Way Sect (真道派).
History and beliefs
The group was founded in 1990 in Henan by Zhao Weishan (赵维山 1951) who later fled to the United States from where he continues to lead the church. The followers believe that the biblical God has returned to earth as a woman named Yang Xiangbin "born to an ordinary family in the northern part of China" in order to guide mankind for the third and final time. According to the group, the first and second times of active guidance of mankind were as Yahweh of the Old Testament and as Jesus in the New Testament.
The group teaches that a woman who styles herself "Lightning Deng" (邓闪电), from Zhengzhou, Henan, is the second Christ. Her most widely distributed book, Lightning from the Orient (《东方发出的闪电》) proclaims itself the Word of God. The book claims the first coming of Christ was to redeem humanity, while the second is to conquer men's hearts and defeat Satan. It also claims that those who do not accept her words will die a terrible death or receive severe punishment.
Eastern Lightning's literature expresses the belief that the world would end on December 21, 2012, a date also referenced by other eschatological religious and spiritual groups. This doomsday apocalypse prediction had wide popular traction in China where the film 2012 was popular and a few entrepreneurs made cash building and selling "arks" to survive the putative apocalypse. The church held outdoor prayer meetings and passing out pamphlets asserting that joining up would save believers from the apocalypse.Immediately prior to the "doomsday" date of December 21, the Chinese government arrested 400 members of Eastern Lightning in central China, and as many as 1000 across China, characterizing the organization as an "evil cult". The church has also prophesied the end of the "Great Red Dragon", a term used by the group to refer to the Communist Party of China. China has a long history of revolutionary activity by heterodox religious movements such as the White Lotus sect which contested the Yuan Dynasty and the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom which fomented the Taiping Rebellion of 1850–1864.
Most of the information available on Eastern Lightning comes from human rights organizations, the Chinese government, and international Christian groups with connections to Christian communities in China. The Chinese government lists the group as a cult and has actively tried to suppress it, especially since its millenarian theology takes an explicit stance against the Chinese government. They are believed to employ extreme methods to attain converts, including kidnapping, torturing and brainwashing. In 2002, for instance, they kidnapped 34 of the leading members of the China Gospel Fellowship and held them for two months.
Christian groups tend to be among the best-informed of all Western reporters on the movement, though they, like the government, regard the group as a heretical sect that deserves the label "cult" due to the radical differences that separate Eastern Lightning teaching from orthodox Christian doctrine. The group also uses flirty fishing to attract potential converts. [verification needed]
In 2010 members killed an elementary school student leaving a lightning-like mark on one of the victim's foot. The police investigation revealed that the boy was killed because one of his relatives, a member of the church, expressed his desire to quit it.
In 2012 the church was found to be behind more than 40 riots caused by spreading doomsday rumors and distributing propaganda material. Also in 2012 Ming Yongjun, who said to be motivated by the doomsday prophecies of the church, stabbed an elderly woman and 23 students of a school in Henan province.
On May 28, 2014, six believers of the Eastern Lightening brutally attacked and beat to death a female victim at a McDonald's restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong (招远), a city in Shandong Province of China. During an interview with a CCTV journalist, Lidong Zhang (张立冬), the lead attacker, claimed that the subject rejected his daughter's request for her phone number and was called a "devil" (邪灵), which prompted the six members to attack. Zhang described in detail how they kept stamping the victim's head to the ground for about three minutes, and that "he felt great", but he deliberately avoided questions on the organization and his rank within the religious group.
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- Hidden Advent
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