Abstract: The ethnographic imagination links the big stories of broad historical forces and the small stories of individual lived experience. In the study of world Christianity, it links church movements with individual participants, texts with oral traditions, creeds with practices. In this article the author examines the role of migration in the Christian story of the Lisu of southwest China. The author tells the big story of how migration across borders greatly impacted the resilience of Lisu Christianity, allowing it to transcend the political turmoil of particular countries. But she also tells a small story, showing migration as a lived experience that greatly impacted one Christian family. The ethnographic imagination seeks truth in the frayed edges where big stories and small stories meet. Ultimately, the ethnographic imagination is an appropriate research posture for world Christianity because it requires that scholars approach the subject less as a corpus of texts and more as a community of souls.
Abstract: Prayers in Christianity are often considered to be a theological or pastoral topic; while social scientific studies generally tend to reduce them, like prayers in other religious contexts, to the status of psychological responses bringing comfort to the practitioner, or a collective construction connected with social and cultural institutions. However, what prayer actually is, and what it means to Christians who practise it remains an open issue for further, more intensive and thorough study. Based on fieldwork in an urban church in China, this article provides some perspectives on contemporary Chinese Christians and their prayer life, attempting to elaborate its possible significance, especially in terms of subject-formation processes within these Christians. Meanwhile, this article argues that, in working towards a better understanding of Christians, it is more efficacious to take ‘Christians’ as those who are, rather than a given or acquired identity, or a status of being, engaged in a process of becoming through a practice, or set of practices, which in this case is prayer,. Moreover, in the case of this Chinese Christian church, the practise of prayer also indicates some reflections on the cultural and religious diversity of contemporary Chinese society.
Abstract: This paper analyses the public theology of Pentecostalism in the Chinese context of Hong Kong by discussing Pentecostal Christians’ public involvement. It asks whether Pentecostal Christians actively shape society or are rather shaped by the surrounding culture and absorb and reflect dominant trends within a culture. The essay explains the different aspects of a Pentecostal public theology in the Chinese context by first giving an overview of different historical forms of Pentecostalism in the Hong Kong and Chinese context, each of them expressing a different pattern of public expression and engagement with public issues. The essay then presents some cases of how Pentecostalism engaged in public issues in Hong Kong. A third part identifies motifs of Pentecostalism that are particularly prominent in the Chinese cultural context. The article suggests that these cultural elements shape the engagement with public spheres and push Pentecostals in the Chinese context towards a public theology that is similar to that of conservative Evangelicals.
Publisher’s Description: This is the first scholarly volume on Chinese Christian Pentecostal and charismatic movements around the globe. The authors include the most active and renowned scholars of global Pentecostalism and Chinese Christianity, including Allan Anderson, Daniel Bays, Kim-twang Chan, Gordon Melton, Donald Miller, and Fenggang Yang. It covers historical linkages between Pentecostal missions and indigenous movements in greater China, contemporary charismatic congregations in China, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States, and the Catholic charismatic renewal movement in China. The volume also engages discussion and disagreement on whether it is even appropriate to refer to many of the Chinese Christian movements as Pentecostal or charismatic. If not, are they primarily following cultural traditions, or upholding beliefs and practices in the Bible?
Pentecostals and Charismatics among Chinese Christians: An Introduction
Fenggang Yang, Joy K. C. Tong, and Allan H. Anderson
Part 1. Historical, Global, and Local Contexts
Chapter 1. Contextualizing the Contemporary Pentecostal Movement in China
Donald E. Miller
Chapter 2. Chinese Ecstatic Millenarian Folk Religion with Pentecostal Christian Characteristics?
Daniel H. Bays
Chapter 3. Pentecostalism Comes to China: Laying the Foundations for a Chinese Version of Christianity
J. Gordon Melton
Chapter 4. Elitism and Poverty: Early Pentecostalism in Hong Kong (1907–1945)
Part 2. A Chinese Pentecostal Denomination: The True Jesus Church
Chapter 5. Charismatic Crossings: The Transnational, Transdenominational Friendship of Bernt Berntsen and Wei Enbo
Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye
Chapter 6. Taming the Spirit by Appropriating Indigenous Culture: An Ethnographic Study of the True Jesus Church as Confucian-Style Pentecostalism
Chapter 7. Glossolalia and Church Identity: The Role of Sound in the Making of a Chinese Pentecostal-Charismatic Church
Part 3. Pentecostal or Non-Pentecostal: Self-Identity and Scholarly Observation
Chapter 8. Spirituality and Spiritual Practice: Is the Local Church Pentecostal?
Chapter 9. Are Chinese Christians Pentecostal? A Catholic Reading of Pentecostal Influence on Chinese Christians
Chapter 10. The “Galilee of China”: Pentecostals without Pentecostalism
Part 4. New-Wave Charismatics in Chinese Societies
Chapter 11. “Christianity Fever” and Unregistered Churches in China
Selena Y. Z. Su and Allan H. Anderson
Chapter 12. China’s Patriotic Pentecostals
Karrie J. Koesel
Chapter 13. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Mainland China
Rachel Xiaohong Zhu
Chapter 14. City Harvest Church of Singapore: An Ecclesial Paradigm for Pentecostalism in the Postmodern World
Chapter 15. The Localization of Charismatic Christianity among the Chinese in Malaysia: A Study of Full Gospel Tabernacle
Weng Kit Cheong and Joy K. C. Tong
Chapter 16. The Femininity of Chinese Christianity: A Study of a Chinese Charismatic Church and Its Female Leadership
Joy K. C. Tong and Fenggang Yang
Conclusion: Challenges, Theories, and Methods in Studying Chinese “Pentecostalism”
Allan H. Anderson
Abstract: While Christianity is among the fastest growing religions in the reform era, state-led sporadic demolition campaigns have targeted unauthorized church structures and sites in order to contain massive Christian growth, especially in regions where there is a high concentration of Christian population. Such campaigns often stir heated international concerns about China’s religious freedom violations, naturally making church-state relations the recurring central theme of both public and academic discourses on the church in China. However, a heightened emphasis on church-state tensions and religious persecution may obscure the cultural and spatial dimensions of local church development. Focusing on the case of the recent campaign against rooftop crosses in Wenzhou—the most Christianized Chinese city, I go beyond the one-dimensional framework of church-state relations by offering a multifaceted analysis of the local religious scene in the political economic contexts of contested spatial modernity and of central-local relations amid the party-building process. In so doing, I methodologically place Chinese Christian studies at the center of contemporary China studies.
Abstract: This article is based on fieldwork in a Chinese Protestant house-church in Beijing—more specifically, it focuses on a form of group therapy, which took place in the vicinity of the church. It combines two phenomena usually studied separately, namely the popularity of Chinese underground churches and China’s so-called “psycho-boom.” Drawing on attachment theory, I focus on the psychic conflicts that draw certain people, in this case a young woman, Lin, to this kind of therapeutic/ritual context. Filial piety, the moral value that children should respect and honor their parents, who have sacrificed so much for them, remains a strong social norm in Chinese society. I argue that forbidden feelings such as anger directed at parents found expression in this Chinese house-church. The ritual and therapeutic context can be understood as a cultural defense mechanism, which celebrates an inversion of dominant societal norms.
Abstract: In an attempt to emulate early modern missionaries to Yunnan who engaged in the invention of writing systems for various ethnic groups, contemporary evangelical missionaries in Yunnan have become heavily involved in the realm of linguistics, focused on the preservation of endangered languages. While such activity may potentially be perceived as a challenge to the state-Chinese linguistic hegemony, I argue that the presence of missionary linguists is acceptable to the Chinese authorities as it does not threaten the paramount position of Putonghua but rather serves to integrate minority people into the state system. In addition, based on interviews conducted with a missionary working to produce texts for Kunming’s Buoyi population in their language, I aim to demonstrate how missionary linguists attempt to remold local culture by attempting to reconstruct ethnic identity around a language core. The article is based on fieldwork conducted in Yunnan in 2009–2010 and 2012.
Abstract: The Lisu of south-west China were evangelised a hundred years ago by missionaries from the China Inland Mission and adopted Christianity in a people movement that permeated nearly their entire society. The missionaries recognised that the Lisu were a singing people, and translation of a hymnbook proceeded apace together with translation of the New Testament. Further, many Western hymns were translated using Lisu poetic forms. These translated Western hymns not only became the centrepiece for worship, but were also part of the daily rhythm of life for Lisu Christians. Though the missionaries departed more than seventy years ago, the hymns, still sung a capella in four-part harmony, have remained. While the bible remains somewhat out of reach for the vast majority of Lisu peasant farmers with low reading and writing skills, the hymnbook is well-known and well-worn, its contents easy to find and many of its most familiar hymns memorised. The various functions the hymns provide for Lisu Christians overlap and intersect at various levels of meaning and experience, which can be encapsulated into one central understanding: the Lisu hymns serve as a theological mediator for Lisu Christians, bridging the gap between the text-intensive religion that is Christianity and the oral world of Lisu culture. In the everyday arena, in the practical living out of what it means to be a Christian for a communal and still largely oral-preference people such as the Lisu, the Lisu Christian hymns are the centrepiece of worship and devotion, prayer and penitence.
Abstract: Glossolalia or speaking in tongues has been one of the prominent features that characterize Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity. Some linguists, however, regard it phonologically illogical and semantically meaningless and thus invalid as a communicative tool. Orthodox Christianity frowns on it because of its uncouth ritual manifestations or disruptive effect on the church order. Against these perspectives, I argue that glossolalia plays a very crucial role in shaping the identity of a Pentecostal-charismatic community. “Tongue sound,” acoustically jarring to the outsider but soothing and harmonious to the believer, functions to confer on the glossolalists a particular mode of existence and consolidate them as a homogeneous group. For this argument, I draw on Lawrence E. Sullivan’s interpretation of sound in contrast to language, and on Alfred Schütz’s theory about “tuning in” and “inner time.” For illustration, I take the glossolalic manifestation of the True Jesus Church as a concrete example.
Abstract:The Lisu of southwest China were evangelized 100 years ago by missionaries from the China Inland Mission, and adopted Christianity in a people movement that permeated nearly their entire society. But despite the missionaries’ creation of a Lisu written language, translation of the Bible into Lisu, and elevation of Scripture as the focal point of Christian devotion, Lisu culture remained heavily oriented toward oral thought patterns. While the Lisu viewed their Bible as the authoritative Word of God, they read it only in ritualistic contexts, and not for personal Bible study or in devotional settings.
This led to the question: how can Christianity, with its long literate tradition and its focus on the written Scriptures, be sustained among a people who have the Bible, but do not read it? A people whose thought patterns and behaviors are primarily oral? How are the more abstract theological concepts—such as grace, sanctification, and forgiveness—of such a religion as Christianity that highly values the written word, translated into the oral context of the Lisu?
For the Lisu, such biblical abstractions are mediated through song. The hymnbook was the bridge between the written Word as sacred object, and the lived, spoken, and sung words of the people. If the Lisu Bible was an icon, sacred and revered, the hymnbook, the second item in this two-book set, was the religious handbook. Singing the written words of the hymns brought the two realms—oral and literate—together.
The various functions the hymns provide for Lisu Christians overlap and intersect at various levels of meaning and experience, which can be encapsulated into one central understanding: The Lisu hymns serve as a theological mediator for Lisu Christians, bridging the gap between the text-intensive religion that is Christianity, and the oral world of Lisu culture.