So last week a woman minding her own business in a McDonalds in Shandong was beaten to death by a hills-have-eyes type family of cult members after she refused to give them her phone number.
They turned out to be members of The Church of Almighty God, a cult formerly known as Eastern Lightning, which recruits among China's more orthodox House Church sects by unorthodox means:
In 2002, Eastern Lightning kidnapped 34 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."
Back in 2006, Eastern Lightning were involved in a turf war with another cult, the Three Grades of Servants, which left 16 people dead.
Anyway, Global Times takes up the story:
The female "Jesus" refers to a woman surnamed Deng from Henan, who suffered a mental disorder after failing the national college exams around 1990. Zhao declared Deng as reincarnated female "Jesus" and himself as her high priest.
Change the gender here and you have a close match to Hong Xiuquan, “God's Chinese son” who flipped after failing his imperial exams and discovered himself to be Jesus younger brother, sent by dad to have another crack at creating the heavenly kingdom. Maybe 20 million people died in the Taiping war that followed by the time it ended in 1864
Obviously, nothing like that's on the horizon now. But with June 4 rolling around again and everybody asking the what's going to change China question, you still can't write off millennial cults at least as a radically destabilising influence.