This past weekend at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, we had the inaugural session of the new Chinese Christianities program unit. I have since created a mailing list for the group and related matters on Chinese Christianities.
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When I was doing my PhD, I often described my research as dealing with Chinese Christianity. Then, when I was pitching my book to a publisher, I was asked to qualify – Chinese American Christianity or Christianity in China? The latter, of course. But what I have begin to realise is the ambiguity of the term ‘Chinese Christianity’ makes for a more fruitful discussion of ‘Chinese Christianities’ – in the plural. We must think about Chinese Christianities across geographies (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, North America, United Kingdom, etc.) and across groupings (Catholic, Protestant house churches, emerging urban churches, migrant worker churches, etc.).
There was this whole debate in the 1980s in China about where the essence of Chineseness comes from. It couldn’t be Confucianism, per se (even though it is what most Westerners would say about China), because the May Fourth movement and the Cultural Revolution were quite lethal against the school of thought. But it couldn’t be Communism either (although some would argue it is). The Confucian scholar Tu Weiming argued that the problem we had was we focused on the geography of contemporary China to understand Chineseness rather than the diaspora – the periphery, he said, was the centre of cultural China.1 Perhaps it is a mixture of contexts that is important. Continue reading “Chinese Christianities”