Beyond Sing Hallelujah to the Lord: Diffused Religion and Religious Co-Optations in Hong Kong

Forthcoming, JAAR. Author’s copy:

Most discussions on the religious role in Hong Kong protests focus on Christianity. Building on C. K. Yang’s classic theory of diffused religion, this article distinguishes institutional Chinese religions including Buddhism and Daoism from less institutional folk religions and argues beyond this popular assumption and representation of Christianity by first demonstrating elements of Buddhism, Daoism, and Chinese folk religions in recent protests to reveal a more complex religious ecology. Second, this paper introduces a longer historical trajectory where colonial forces attempted to co-opt Christianity to legitimize their power, which explains why such assumption and representation of Christian domination exist in the first place. Furthermore, colonial policies, Cold War politics, and Chinese regimes have all co-opted institutional religious elites in Hong Kong for ideological purposes, resulting in institutional Chinese religions in Hong Kong such as Buddhism and Daoism to be known as Chinese Communist Party-related, while the linkage between Christianity and liberty is reinforced. At the same time, without secularizing forces from Mainland China, religions in Hong Kong, including Christianity, institutional Chinese religions and less institutional folk religions have all diffused into secular institutions and with each other, contributing to the foundation of the Chinese community in the past and the pursuit of democracy, justice, and freedom today on the grassroots, noninstitutional level. In this way, this article not only offers critical insight into the religious role in Hong Kong protests and the often neglected history of religious cooptations under British colonialism and in the Cold War, but also provides theoretical contribution in terms of the relationship among religious institutions, state apparatuses, and diffused religion on the ground.


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from SHANGHAI to the WORLD

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