The Cult Who Kidnaps Christians and Is at War with the Chinese Government
Above: The female Jesus, Lightning Deng (left) and Eastern Lightning founder, Zhao Weishan.
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, 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.
Leaders of Christian groups warn their members against the “flirty fishing” methods supposedly adopted by Eastern Lightning ladies to convert Christian men to the path of their female Christ. Lastly, of course, there’s the name, which sounds more like an energy drink or AC/DC cover band than a cult. Perhaps that’s why, these days, they often use the alias “Church of the Almighty God.”
To their victims, though, Eastern Lightning aren’t a joke. In fact, to some they must seem kind of terrifying. 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 over a million members, according to some estimates, Eastern Lightning train their leaders to build trust slowly over months before making their move.
Their activities have not gone unnoticed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the two sides are currently engaged in a low-key fight to the death.