A number of times I saw signs saying "Merry Christmas". Remember this was March when I was there, but yet there were still signs of Merry Christmas.
The first of these signs was in the Cloisonne factory and outlet and was on the door to the employees area. This is a large outlet store and restaurant and happened to be the first lunch I had in China. Notice though it said "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays".
In addition in the same store they were selling Christmas tree ornaments, although not necessarily religious ones depending on how you view Santa Claus and other symbols.
I also saw a Merry Christmas sign in the entrance to a theatre and buffet restaurant. This happened to be the only buffet I ate in China for lunch or dinner.
On Ash Wednesday in Beijing at lunch we had 6 or 8 Catholic priests pass our table at lunch. A couple topped and talked and invited us to their church down the street. It was no guess on whether they were priests, they wee wearing their clerical collars and a large metallic cross (3-4 inches high) on their shirt/jacket. We had a enjoyable visit with them, unfortunately we were in the process of leaving Beijing.
Traveling through the countryside I saw two clearly identifiable Christian churches with large crosses above them. I may have seen more churches that had a name on them, but I cannot read Chinese.
We visited one very active Buddhist temple, the Great Goose Pagoda. The religious leaders were fully visible and practicing their religion. They were burning incense in the front of the temple and clearly worshiping.
We visited a Moslem center that had been there hundreds of years. It survived through Mao and the Cultural Revolution but is not in good repair. It had a worship center and housing and cooking and education areas for the believers. It is actively being used, but the believers were not as visible. It was walled off from the surrounding city.
The newspapers and TV very clearly followed two stories at that time related to beliefs and reported on a Christian holiday. The first story was Pope John Paul's health decline and death. Very clearly he was recognized as a major leader and they spoke ok of him being a Christian leader.
The second was an issue that was covered in the USA as often a religious issue and that was the disconnecting of the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo. Everyday there were stories on the battles and her condition. leading to her death and usually a link from the front page. In some ways it seemed there was more coverage that was in the USA.
The newspapers also reported about Easter. Most of the stories were on the traditions that are celebrated with Easter such as the Easter bunny, eggs, etc. However they also reported the true meaning of Easter being the celebration by Christians of the arising of their Lord over death.
I heard comments several ties to the effect of "if I believed in God, I would thank God". I am the optimist that tells you, if you can say this then you are very close to believing. As communism continues to liberalize or become more open (now that should be a scary thought for USA conservatives, country liberalizing is what they want). I believe we will find vast fields of new believers and people to lead Christianity in China. This may arrive sooner than you expect. Capitalism is already alive and well in China, visit Mao's mausoleum and out the back door there are the official souvenirs and then street vendors selling anything with Mao's picture on it.
This is a little article I am doing across the Internet. I try to write several times a month on a variety of subjects. It may be religious at times, political at times, and at other times just my reactions on something happening out there. It will often be like an op-ed article. If I do what I intend, you will at times want to shout I agree, other times you will want to say Dwight has really lost it now, but most importantly I want to challenge you to think. Feel free to forward this to others. If you don't want to get this e-mail let me know. Feel free to use what you read from me, but I request you give me credit and send a tear sheet. Thanks.
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