China’s Patriotic Pentecostals

in Review of Religion and Chinese Society
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How do Pentecostal and charismatic churches navigate the political terrain in countries where politics can be repressive, religious freedoms are not well protected, and pentecostalized forms of Christianity are viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility, by those in power? Drawing on fieldwork in China, this article explores how unregistered Pentecostal and charismatic-leaning churches negotiate restrictive environments and attempt to make inroads into the public arena. I suggest that although these religious communities operate on the margins of the religious marketplace, they can nonetheless be considered patriotic. Such patriotism is demonstrated most readily through prayer and worship services, but also indirectly through the development of charitable and social work programs. This repertoire of patriotic action has two important implications for our understanding of religious groups in China. One is that it helps demonstrate that even unregistered religious communities are made up of patriotic and productive citizens who do not necessarily seek to challenge the authority of the party-state. The other is that religious leaders advocate patriotism, believing that it both strengthens and grows their churches, while combating negative images across the state and society.

中国的爱国的灵恩信徒 郭恺宁 摘要 在一些政治专制的国家, 宗教自由时常不能得到充分保障, 五旬节教派的各种存在方式即使不被统治者视为异己, 也总是招来戒备, 那么五旬灵恩教会是如何在这些国家的政治领域摸索发展的呢?本文通过在中国实地考察收取的数据,对未经注册的五旬灵恩教会是如何与政府交涉, 从而争取更大活动自由, 并且进入剬众舞台的过程进行深入探讨。我认为虽然这些宗教团体在宗教领域被边缘化了, 但是他们仍然被视为爱国的团体。这种爱国主义不仅直接体现在祷告与主日敬拜活动中, 也通过慈善捐款以及其他社会活动得以间接体现。这些爱国主义的体现对我们理解中国的宗教团体有两层含义:第一层, 这种现象显示未经注册的宗教团体的成员不一定会与政府唱反调;第二层, 宗教领袖们相信通过倡导爱国主义活动, 可以加强发展他们的教会, 同时减少社会上对他们的负面印象。

China’s Patriotic Pentecostals

in Review of Religion and Chinese Society

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Vala (2009) however suggests that patriotic education classes may have the opposite effect and cultivate resentment of the state.

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Cao (2012) notes a similar dynamic among some Boss Christians that he calls “spiritual nationalism” a multilayered process in which urban Chinese Christians tap into the country’s national development and rise as a global power. In contrast Wang et al. (2013:71) observe one unregistered church in Henan that preaches “We will do better than the government” (Women hui bi Zhongguo zhengfu zuo de geng hao 我们会比中国政府做的更好).

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