China: Still waiting for the green light on Christian magazines

“We sell these in our church!” The enthusiastic response of the bubbly young Chinese woman when asked where she had gotten the Christian t-shirt she sported. She spent over two hours in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association booth at the Beijing Book Fair, looking at books and talking with the Americans manning the booth. The incident took place over 10 years ago and only a few hours after an encounter with another Christian young woman who, frightened as a young rabbit on the side of a freeway, refused to even set foot in the booth. Standing in the hallway she faced straight ahead as her eyes flicked to the left, where shelves of Bibles and Bible reference materials were displayed. “Especially those,” she said.

Trying to get a handle on…fill in the blank…in China? It’s like trying to grab a hold of a greased pig. You think you have the right foreleg in your grasp and suddenly it’s gone.  “You can say anything about China and it will be true somewhere in China, ” goes the saying. The other side of the coin is that whatever you claim about China will also be false somewhere in China. Nevertheless, there is evidence that despite reports of persecution of Christians in various places, Christian literature is making an inroad in China.

In a January article in Christianity Today titled “Discipling the Dragon: Christian Publishing Finds Success in China” author John W. Kennedy cites “a surge across China in the availability of popular Christian titles by authors Rick Warren, Gary Chapman, and Beth Moore, as well as classic titles by C.S. Lewis and others.”  He says that although statistics on Christian book sales are unreliable, it is evident that more books are available from more sources, recently including on-line booksellers.

Kennedy’s very useful article on Christian publishing did not mention magazines, which are still strictly controlled by the government. Nevertheless, with the growth of huge networks of house churches, the number of Christian magazines, while published “under the radar” is mushrooming. Compared to the densely printed—white space is a waste—black and white approach to underground publishing in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the communist years, some of these Chinese underground publications are peacocks, colorfully illustrated, slick publications. When will Christian magazines be legally available in the same venues as Christian books? When that day comes, watch out! Aspiring Christian magazine publishers are waiting in the wings.

“Discipling the Dragon: Christian Publishing Finds Success in China”

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