The formation of global Chinese Christian identities

Authored by: Joshua Dao Wei Sim

Routledge International Handbook of Religion in Global Society

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138182509
eBook ISBN: 9781315646435
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315646435-23

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Abstract

Christians have not been a major part of the mainstream debates in studies on Chinese diaspora and transnationalism. This chapter attempts to move Christianity into the centre of such conversations through the theme of identity. Specifically, it proposes that the diasporic Chinese Protestants were an integral part of the transnational Chinese communities that settled across the globe from the late nineteenth century to the present day by demonstrating how they synthesized their faith and various types of Chinese identities in order to form three dominant global Chinese Christian identities: evangelical identity, religious nationalism and religious ethnocentrism. In terms of evangelical identity, the chapter demonstrates how Protestants were motivated by their particular historical circumstances to appropriate evangelicalism as the primary means for shaping their respective diasporic cultures. For religious nationalism, I show how Protestant communities became transnational participants in China’s national salvation discourse. Such participation was seen by synthesizing their evangelical faith with nationalism and delimiting the projections of their identity within the bounds of the modern Chinese nation. Lastly, the study outlines the process of synthesis between faith and ethnic concern after World War II. It shows how different independent Chinese Protestant organizations constructed ethno-religious discourses as part of the process of forming the global Chinese Christian industry. These discourses include the unique ‘chosen’ status of Chinese Christians and their special concern for evangelizing the transnational Chinese communities. In all, the study suggests that the multiplicity of global Chinese Christianity affirms mainstream calls to examine the Chinese diaspora in all its diversity.

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