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.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited