Secular Space, Spiritual Community and the Hybrid Urbanisms of Christianity in Hong Kong and Singapore
26 December, 2017
How has Christianity grown as Singapore has urbanized?
From megachurches to community centres, the presence of Christianity is undeniable in Singapore. Protestant Christianity has grown in tandem with the urban boom, as evidenced by the imprinting of religious festivities on Singapore’s most commercial location when Orchard Road is festively decorated in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
A/P Daniel Goh (Department of Sociology) in Secular Space, Spiritual Community and the Hybrid Urbanisms of Christianity in Hong Kong and Singapore, discusses how Christians in Singapore and Hong Kong have kept their faith alive despite the hybrid nature of the modern city, where members of different urban services, ethnicities, and classes coexist.
Whereas Hong Kong has competing strands of liberal and evangelical Christianity, in Singapore there is a dominance of Pentecostalism. This is due to Singapore’s postcolonial condition of both political and economic separation from Malaysia, which then became a catalyst of sorts for the development of community-based religious practices. In the 1980s, when almost all Singaporeans had moved from slums to housing estates, unused buildings within residential communities became spaces to practice Pentecostalism. The nature of Pentecostal practices, which emphasize direct spiritual encounters with God, charged these urban spaces with spiritual meaning. In this way, Christians in Singapore found methods to embed religious belief into secular urban spaces.
Whilst in the West the resultant secularism of a hybrid urbanizing city poses a challenge to the existence of faith-based communities, the case is very different for Asia. According to Goh, because of postcolonial upheavals, Christian communities in Singapore and Hong Kong faced hybridity before they faced rapid urbanization. This predisposed these communities to be inventive in their strategies to remain relevant and expand in a new urban society.
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