Taming the Spirit by Appropriating Indigenous Culture: An Ethnographic Study of the True Jesus Church as Confucian-Style Pentecostalism

In: Global Chinese Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity
Author: Ke-hsien Huang

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This article illustrates how the indigenous culture of Confucianism is appropriated in ways that tame the otherwise freewheeling Spirit among Chinese Pentecostal laity. Based on an eight-month ethnographic study across seventeen Chinese provinces on the networks of the True Jesus Church—the largest Pentecostal church in China—I suggest that performances of Spirit-led practices among Chinese Pentecostal laypersons have been strictly regulated and their importance downplayed in three ways: (1) worship services are shaped as Confucian-style educational venues; (2) the base of religious legitimacy is shifting from God-given spiritual capability to the literati-style ability of memorizing canons; and (3) spiritual practices are deliberately assigned to female partners and compartmentalized within specific temporal-spatial areas. The article proposes a theoretical contribution to Pentecostal studies by describing a type of “Confucian-style Pentecostalism,” a faith that values orderliness and learning, possibly found across East Asia, which challenges the stereotype of Pentecostal worship as filled with an abundance of emotions and spontaneity.

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