Religious and Political Contestation in Chinese Contexts
Whilst religion and politics are not meant for polite dinner conversations, they have frequently been present at the table amongst scholars of world Christianity, and especially for those who research Chinese contexts. To a great extent, religion and politics have been intertwined throughout Chinese history. We see this in the three major religions or teachings of China – Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism – all of which have vied for space amongst the masses and in the political arena. This has been complicated even further with the rise of the Communist Party of China, which has since the 1980s held a position of tolerance for religion as being a ‘private matter’ with little to no public significance. Adding Christianity into the mix only complicates the picture, given its own multifaceted relationships with religion and politics. Christianity’s historical emphasis on evangelism inevitably invokes reaction in this pluralistic society. Furthermore, despite any restrictions imposed by the ruling party, strands of Chinese Christianity have always had a significant proclivity to exist as a public religion. The four articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity offer snapshots into various aspects of Christianity’s religious and political contestation in Chinese contexts.
It perhaps goes without saying that World Christianity is diverse. In large part, this diversity comes from the multiplicity of cultural, religious and socio-political concerns of the majority world, which have raised new questions to pre-existing theologies and practices. Such differences exist not only between North and South, East and West, but also within the same locale – across the progress of time and diversity in visions of mission. Furthermore, these differences have often manifested themselves institutionally, through the proliferation of new church movements, often formed independent of established denominational structures.
Studies in World Christianity has sought to bring to the attention of the academy those Christian communities and theologies that have frequently been overlooked. The four articles in this issue deal – in very different ways – with questions of marginality and minority. The first two articles use historical and social-science methods to examine Christian groups in Burma and Jordan that are socially and religiously marginal. The second two articles examine political theologies. One describes the historical development of a theology of justice in war from China that has been overlooked by more prominent Western theological traditions. The other offers a constructive theology that places marginalised people in Australia at the centre of Christology. The articles present no single understanding of marginality: it is a social fact; it is something that Christian belonging can overcome; it is Christ-like; it challenges the majority and the influential; it has caused insights to be overlooked. Nevertheless, these articles, as they inquire into people, places and ideas that have been understudied or neglected, provide new angles on conversion, identity, just war and Christology. (Continue reading Emma Wild-Wood’s introduction here.)
The Middle East’s Christian communities frequently make headlines as they emigrate rapidly from from ancient homelands to Europe and the Americas. The Centre for the Study of World Christianity and the Christian-Muslim Studies Network co-sponsored a discussion that explored the fate of those whose emigration led them to the United Kingdom.
Dr Fiona McCallum, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, presented findings from the Humanities in the European Research Area project, ‘Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Europe’.
Dr McCallum’s work found an audience of particular interest at the Centre for World Christianity at New College, where two PhD students have launched research in the fledgling field of Arab Christianity.Continue reading →