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Online and Offline Religion in China: A Protestant WeChat “Alter-Public” through the Bible Handcopying Movement

1
Department of Political Science, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21210, USA
2
Institute of Anthropology, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2019, 10(10), 561; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100561
Received: 7 August 2019 / Revised: 23 September 2019 / Accepted: 25 September 2019 / Published: 29 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Developments in Christianity in China)
Studies of digital religion frequently take democratic regime settings and developed economic contexts for granted, leaving regime and economic development levels as background factors (Campbell 2013). However, in China, the role of the authoritarian state, restrictions on religion, and rapid social change mean that online and offline religious practices will develop in distinct ways. This article analyzes the 2019 Bible handcopying movement promoted through China’s most popular social media WeChat as a way to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the publication of China’s most widely used translation of the Bible. Drawing on interviews by and communication with the movement’s founder, the co-authors participated in and collected postings from a 500-member WeChat group from March to August 2019. We argue that while offline handcopying is an innovation in religious practice due to Chinese cultural and historical traditions, the online group constitutes a micro-scale “alter-public” (Chen 2015; Warner 2002), a site for religious discussion, prayer, and devotion that strengthens an “alternative” Protestant identity alongside that of Chinese citizen of the People’s Republic of China. View Full-Text
Keywords: digital religion; WeChat; China; Protestant Christianity; “public”; “counterpublic”; “alter-public”; authoritarian state digital religion; WeChat; China; Protestant Christianity; “public”; “counterpublic”; “alter-public”; authoritarian state
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Vala, C.; Huang, J. Online and Offline Religion in China: A Protestant WeChat “Alter-Public” through the Bible Handcopying Movement. Religions 2019, 10, 561.

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