This book offers a unique historical documentation of the development of the ambitious religious entrepreneurism by leaders of the Early Rain church (and later Western China Presbytery leadership), in an effort to gain social influence in China through local institution-building and global public image management. It unravels the social processes of how this Christian community with a public image of defending religious freedom in China was undermined by an internal loss of moral authority.
Based on publicly available texts from Chinese social media that aren’t readily available in the West as well as in-depth interviews, it is framed by existing scholarship in social theories of the public sphere, charismatic domination in social transition, and the role of power in organizational behaviour. These churches’ stories show how Christianity, which has long been politically marginalized in communist China, has not only adapted and challenged the socio-political status quo, but how it was also ironically shaped by the political culture.
This is an insightful and critical ethnographic study of one of modern China’s most famous house churches. As such, it will be of great interest to scholars of Religion in China as well as those working in Religious Studies, Asian studies, Chinese studies, and Mission Studies more generally.
Table of Contents
Introduction; Part I Consolidation; 1 Dissidents and liberals; 2 Redeeming the public sphere; 3 City to city; Part II Expansionism; 4 Second Reformation; 5 Covenant Reformed School; 6 "Splitting-Style Church-Planting"; Part III Radicalization; 7 Challenging Caesar; 8 Global networks; Conclusion
Li Ma is currently a research fellow at the Henry Institute of Christianity and Public Life at Calvin College, USA. She is the author of three books, including Surviving the State, Remaking the Church (with Jin Li) and The Chinese Exodus, and Towards Aslan’s Kingdom: A Guide to The Chronicles of Narnia (with Jin Li). She holds a PhD in sociology from Cornell University.